I met a kind, elderly gentleman many years ago. He came to the library where I worked with a box of papers and explained that he was the last person in his family line. His collection of family records had grown from generation to generation, handed down for almost one hundred and fifty years. He thought these materials might be of interest to others since they documented changes to his hometown over time.
“I don’t know if you want these, but my family has deep roots in this area,” he said to me.
His box included letters written home by a great uncle who served in the Civil War, and there was another great uncle writing home from the Gold Rush. He also had the papers of an aunt—a prominent educated business woman at the turn of the twentieth-century, when society discouraged women from being such things.
“It’s okay if you don’t want really want these—they’re just my family stories.”
As an archivist, I hear these words often. “No one wants my stuff,” they say. “My kids don’t want it and no one outside of my family has any interest in it.”
Just like this older gentleman, each of us has had family members who served in the military, started their own businesses, or earned college degrees in newly emerging fields. These may seem mundane and ordinary tasks to us, but it’s these stories that help us understanding how we got where we are today.
My personal family story includes diverse individuals whose lives have taught me about courage, persistence, and the pursuit of dreams. I had great uncles who stormed the beaches of Normandy, great grandparents who came to a new country looking for a better life, and generations of city dwellers who worked in small shops wringing out livings to put food on their tables.
I cherish the family stories my parents passed down to me—they bring me closer to my family while also allowing me to be a part of a bigger community. When Mom and Dad pulled out old pictures or records from their childhoods, the people they described came to life for me. I want to do the same for future generations.
I organize and box my materials using preservation-safe supplies, and I digitize my irreplaceable records. Taking care of my family papers is a duty to the memories of those who came before me and to future generations who can learn from their lives. They’re not “just my family stories.” They’re a part of who I am as a person, and a part of how my family has helped shape the world around me.
Melissa Mannon is a high school library and information specialist, an archivist, and published writer. She has a BA in Art History from the University of New Hampshire, and an MSLS in Archives Management and Library Science from Simmons College. For more info visit www.archivesinfo.com
The Acronis True Image 2017 team asked Melissa to write a series of blog articles and share her experience in preservation and archive management, which exemplifies our belief in the importance of personal data backup. Protecting your digital information with backups is vital in preserving cherished memories, and Melissa’s work is a testament to that fact.