Family history: Why organize it if you don’t care about genealogy?

Did you know that not everyone cares about genealogy? Gasp! It is the #2 hobby in America, though. (Do you know what the #1 hobby is? Keep reading to find out!)

Sometimes when I talk about family history I am, indeed, referring to genealogy. But not always. So, what else falls under the umbrella term family history? Think about your own things as you read this list. Some items will belong to more than one category.

Organizing your family history is not just about doing genealogy research. Click To Tweet

Family history includes…

  • Keepsake: A small item kept in memory of the person who gave it or owned it.
  • Memorabilia: Objects kept or collected because of their historical interest. Especially those associated with memorable people or events.
  • Photos: If we collect nothing else, consider this: we all take more photos per day with our digital phone cameras than our ancestors took in their entire lifetimes!
  • Genealogy research materials: These range from vital records (birth, marriage and death certificates) and census records, to research notes, historical and biographical documents and books, maps, photos (paper and digital), and family bibles.
  • Medical history: This is important to know when faced with certain illnesses and conditions.
  • Pedigree chart, a.k.a. family tree: This is the most common way to organize the information gleaned from genealogy research materials. If you think pedigrees are just for royalty, dogs, and horses, think again!
If you think pedigrees are just for royalty, dogs, and horses, think again! Click To Tweet

Why organize your family history?

  • So you can easily find what you are looking for when you want to read it, use it, admire it, display it, share it with others, or reminisce.
  • To be prepared in the case of a death (think obituary, tribute slide show, etc.) or illness (medical history).
  • To be prepared in the case of a natural disaster (think backing up your files and grab and go).
  • So someone else (in the event you are no longer available) can make sense of your memorabilia and your research. Don’t let your treasures and hard work go to waste!
  • So your space, and your mind, and your computer hard drive don’t get cluttered with so many important things that none of them ends up being important.
  • So you don’t miss valuable genealogy puzzle pieces hidden in your mystery piles of paper.
  • So your work area isn’t a mess that distracts you from being productive and enjoying your genealogy research.

When is the best time to organize your family history?

As you can probably guess, the best time is NOW. But there are some other good times, such as:

  • The New Year. Why? Because get organized is always one of the top 5 resolutions.
  • When a child or grandchild is born, graduates, or gets married.
  • When a parent reaches a milestone birthday or retirement.
  • When someone – you, or a loved one – falls ill or dies, but hopefully long before that happens, so you’re prepared.

Which of your family history categories have you already organized? Which ones need some work?

Don’t forget to ask for help if you need it!

Please share your family history organizing tips and plans in the comments below.

Next time: How to organize your genealogy research materials.

Oh, and by the way – did you guess? — the #1 hobby in America is gardening.

Copyright 2018 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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  1. Linda Samuels on May 21, 2018 at 7:51 am

    Hazel- I love how you always give so much interesting information in your posts. I didn’t know the number 1 or 2 favorite hobbies and now, thanks to you, I do. I also love how you’ve expanded the idea of what genealogy means. I used to think that it only encompassed the family tree aspect (who belonged to who.) But now I realize that it’s so much more. You’ve expanded my thoughts about this. As having just finished emptying our family home of 57 years, you can only imagine all of the history I discovered which included photos, important documents, and keepsakes. There’s more work to do on them, but at least they are organized in a retrievable way for now.

  2. Janet Barclay on May 21, 2018 at 8:36 am

    I was surprised to learn that genealogy is the second most popular hobby, but I also couldn’t guess the first! I guess I need to get out more. 😉

  3. Seana Turner on May 21, 2018 at 11:36 am

    I love both organizing and gardening:) I think the area which feels least complete for me is family medical history. I have a vague sense of my side’s history, and my husband’s side is largely unknown to me. I hadn’t thought of gathering this information in a concrete way, but it would actually be a great gift to my children!

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