A Mid-Summer Thought | Three “I” Words of Genealogy



A section of the author’s family genealogy chart. (Please click on the image to see our entire American Family Archive series of full-illustrated – and often humorous – blogs.)



A Mid-Summer Thought: Three “I” Words of Genealogy

Author’s Note: The following short blog is based, to a large extent, on the philosophy of genealogy and maintaining family archives. I mention this as just after Memorial Day I wrote a blog that focused on practical summer archiving projects. As you probably already know, folks, it is the combination of philosophy and practical applications that makes the world of genealogy go around, so I hope you’ll please take a look at our other summertime blog here: Summer (Archival) Projects: Time to Preserve Your Life.






(Please click on this image to see our blog on Preserving Family Photo Albums.)



Genealogy. It’s all about family and relations.

Some are still with us (take advantage of that any way you can, and click here for the reasons why – even though it’s a bit early for the holidays).

Yet more often it’s about those who have come before us.

While pondering this truism on a hot July morning I started to think about MY role in my own genealogy, and came up with a number of “I” thoughts (please click on each link for more information):





I am the one doing this, because …

I am the one in charge of old family photos / family letters / 8mm home movies / 35mm slides / old toys / old postcards / even traditional family recipes(!) in the family archive, etc.

I am the direct beneficiary of the fruits of my labor, yet it has always been my plan to share what I learn with the rest of the family, and eventually past it on.

I need to know what’s what in terms of “best practices” with regard to archival materials and procedures.

I really like working on my family archive because, in this hectic world of multiple responsibilities and distractions, if I didn’t like doing it – I simply wouldn’t!





Now, having said all this, the five facts listed above actually DO NOT include the three central “I” concepts I was thinking about as I got up this morning to start my day.

What I DO want to briefly share, in fact, are the following three single words that each start with the letter “I”, and if you are at all familiar with the ins and outs of genealogy you will certainly identify with them, too.

Am I telling you something you already know? Well, perhaps.

Yet seeing these ideas – represented in single words – will hopefully reinforce these concepts, reinvigorate your efforts, and reward your drive toward completion. (Hmmmm, seems like an “R” blog is in the making!)

So, with that (and knowing that there are in fact probably a zillion more), here are my three mid-summer genealogy words that start with the letter “I”:






Work on the family genealogy? Heck no, I’m going swimming! I’ll do it “later.” (Please click on this image to see our fully-illustrated blog on Preserving Family Photo Albums.)


Three “I” Words of Genealogy: 1. Inertia


inertia – noun \ in·er·tia \ i-ˈnər-shə, -shē-ə \

lack of movement or activity especially when movement or activity is wanted or needed
a feeling of not having the energy or desire that is needed to move, change, etc.



This is the big one, folks, as inertia has stopped more genealogy projects than any sort of “brick walls” that are out there. Now, most genealogist know what I’m referring to in terms of “brick walls” – birth or death records that can’t be found or no longer exist / the shoebox full of photographs of unidentified people that one inherited from a relative, and no one else in the family knows who anybody is in the pix / the letter from the “old country” from an emigrating relative who fell off the face of the earth once they got here / the list goes on and on.

Inertia, though, is the big one! It probably stops or interferes with more well-meaning genealogy projects than anything else.



Yes, folks, find an empty corner someplace and pull everything out to get started. You’ll be AMAZED at the treasures you find! (Please click on this image to see our blog on Setting Up a Great Work Space.)



To combat this inertia, clear out a space in the living room, guest room or someplace else in the house, set up a table or two (or commandeer the dining room table), grab all your old family photos, letters and archives, and tell the rest of your family that this is what’s what: you’re starting this project and you’re gonna see it through to the end!!!

Yes folks, by far the hardest thing about starting a new project is … actually getting STARTED! Yet since “there’s no time like the present,” go for it!

For more information on getting started and setting up a workspace, please see the following fully illustrated blogs on the topics. And if you’re one of the lucky ones who is NOT suffering from inertia, send a link to this blog to someone you know who is:

American Family Archives: Overall Philosophy

American Family Archives: Setting Up a Great Work Space






genealogy genealogy
(Please click on each image for more information.)


Three “I” Words of Genealogy: 2. Immensity


immensitynoun \ im·men·si·ty \ i-ˈmen(t)-sə-tē \

the quality or state of being immense, large, overwhelming
something that is immense



This one follows closely on the heels of “Inertia,” as many folks are initially intimidated (yes, folks, you guessed it, I’m trying to cram in even MORE “I” words) by the sheer scope and inherent mysteries that come from piecing together one’s genealogy and family photo archives (see pix above). This immensity can lead directly to inertia, as in “yeah, it’s too big of a project, so I’ll do it later” – and “later” never arrives!

The solution? Break things down into smaller parts.



genealogy genealogy
Yeah, not trying to be anachronistic, folks, but “pink” is for Mom’s side of the family and “blue” is for Dad’s side. Hey, don’t knock it till ya tried it!
(Please click on these images for more information.)



This can mean starting with one side of the family or the other (Mom’s family / Dad’s family, etc.), followed by the different types of “media” in your family archive – old loose photographs go in this pile / family letters go over here / family photo albums go over there / 35mm slides are their own category of things, with the same idea applied to heirloom fabrics (grandma’s wedding dress, etc.) / toys (something great-grandad made for your father, etc.), the list goes on and on.

Important Note: Please BE SURE that when moving stuff around you don’t loose valuable “context” that can be important to your sorting and preserving family records as to who’s who and what’s what. As an example, if both Mom’s and Dad’s families made 35mm slides back in the day, and Mom’s slides are with Mom’s family’s stuff / Dad’s with his, DON’T co-mingle everything into a huge pile of slides in the middle. Keep Dad’s family’s slides with “Dad’s Family Stuff,” and keep Mom’s family’s slides with “Mom’s Family Stuff” (see pix below). This goes for EVERYTHING in your family archive, as this way contexts (and the keys to who’s who) are better preserved!



These 35mm slides are from Mom’s side of the family. Gonna keep ’em separate from the slides from Dad’s side of the family until everything is identified and labeled. Then they’re all going into 35mm archival slide pages and into an acid-free 3-ring binder. (Please click on this image for more information on Preserving 35mm Slides.)





Three “I” Words of Genealogy: 3. Impermanence


impermanencenoun \ im·per·ma·nence \ im-ˈpərm-nən(t)s, -ˈpər-mə- \

not lasting forever
not permanent / transient



So, I’m writing this short piece as part of Archival Methods’ series of informative blogs. Now, the goals of the 90+ blogs I have written thus far are based on educating / explaining / illustrating EVERYTHING that goes into the archival storage and presentation of family artifacts, photographs, artworks, collectibles, and everything else worth safely saving / storing / displaying.

Well, right now I’ll wager that you think I’m using the word “impermanence” as it applies to the physical “stuff” you’re looking to preserve. By this I mean to say that “acid-free” storage and presentation materials exist to help preserve physical “stuff” that might otherwise be “impermanent” – as such stuff might suffer and deteriorate over time because it is not being archivally preserved correctly. (BTW, please click here to see our blog that explains everything you need to know about “acid-free.”)

Yet I’m actually NOT talking about the impermanence of physical “stuff” right now, rather I’m talking about the impermance of “memory.”



(Please click on this image for more information.)



In my holiday blogs from last year (see pix above) I wrote about the importance of pulling out one’s old photo albums and snapshots to share with the gathered family. Of key importance in this exercise was the idea of asking different family members the fundemental who / what / where / when questions as they apply to family history / family photos. Quite often the very BEST genealogy resource for your particular family is sitting right next to you at the holiday dinner table! Since memories are fleeting things (and thus impermanent), and nobody lives forever (ditto), take every chance you get to show your photos and photo albums to family members, and take notes! Someday you’ll be VERY glad you did!





So, I’ve got another dozen or so words that start with the letter “I” that apply to genealogy that I would like to share with you (Important / Irreplaceable / Intrinsically Interesting / etc.), but I’ll have to save those for another blog.

In the meantime, please remember that focusing on “I” when it comes to genealogy is about more than just “you,” the genealogist who’s reading this right now. It’s about MUCH LARGER family histories and lore, and while “you” (the “I” who looks back at you in the mirror) might be the one doing all the work, it’s the “family” that will appreciate you for it – beyond any personal satisfaction you get from the ongoing effort, and there’s is A LOT of personal satisfaction to be had! – now, and for generations to come!



Old family letters, identified and safely stored in acid-free archival file folders. (Please click on this image to see our fully-illustrated blog on Preserving Old Letters in the Digital Age – our most popular blog EVER!)



In closing, I hope you’ll take a look at our complete series of American Family Archives blogs here, if you haven’t already.

Also please visit our blog homepage for an even greater range of helpful, informative and fully-illustrated blogs.

Lastly, please consider forwarding a link to this short mid-summer blog to your family and genealogy friends, as everyone has a part to play in preserving family history. This includes Archival Methods, of course, through our continuing series of blogs and videos, our museum-quality archival supplies, and our friendly advice – should you have any additional questions – over the phone or via email.



(Please click on the image to see our fully-illustrated – and quite humorous – blog on Postcards: Family History and Archival Care.)



So from all of us at Archival Methods, we hope you enjoy the rest of your summer!





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