Twenty years ago when I began my genealogy journey, I created file folders with surname labels. I still use them for photocopies of originals, research notes, and assorted stuff that doesn't need special protection. One half of my file drawer is devoted to folders for "his family" and one half is devoted to folders for "my family."
I organize my folders according to family groupings. This means husband-wife surnames with separate folders are together inside one big accordion hanging file. For instance, my father-in-law Wood and mother-in-law McClure have separate folders inside a single hanging file for that family unit. In the same accordion file I have another file folder for Wood siblings. Yes, this accordion folder holds a lot of folders and papers!
But archival boxes are my preference for everything that's original and precious, important enough to protect for the long term. Why?
First, take a look at the photo at top. Which looks more valuable to the next generation, a bunch of stuff in a torn envelope with a scribbled label or a stack of neat archival boxes with proper labels? This alone might save family artifacts from a fate too horrible to contemplate (after I join my ancestors).
- Archival boxes come in various sizes and shapes. I bought one especially for my father-in-law's college photo album, another for the big family wedding portrait from 1925.
- My father's WWII dog tags, insignia, etc. are in an archival box because they are odd-sized and enclosed in his old leather pouch, which I wanted to preserve as is.
- Old movies and CDs can go into one archival box, marked by surname. (Remember to separate negatives from prints and store separately, to avoid deterioration.)
- Documents and photos lay flat for storage, in individual sleeves for extra protection, inside each box.
- Archival boxes with metal corners can be stacked several high without crushing the contents.
- Boxes are easy to label by surname and number. You can't see in the above photo, but I have a pencil-mark #1 and #2 next to the WOOD label on those two boxes. Other WOOD boxes have more descriptive labels like "WOOD negatives 1940s-1960s" so I can keep track of what's where.
- Some day, when I join my ancestors, my heirs will know exactly which box has which family's materials. Everything is neat and ready to be transported to a new home. For now, I can easily shift boxes around and find what I need without a lot of fuss.
For more on preservation and storage ideas, see the links at Cyndi's List and the National Archives. And please take a look at my Amazon best-selling genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, with details about keeping your genealogy collection safe for future generations to enjoy. Thank you!
* Whether you love folders, binders, or archival boxes, gotta have a label maker for easy-to-read labels that jump out at a glance!