How to Preserve and Pass Down Your Family History

legacy of grandmother's stories and family history to pass down

How to Preserve and Pass Down Your Family History

My family calls me a packrat, and I guess that is probably an accurate description. This is especially true when it comes to family heirlooms, history, and items that have been passed down to me. I love the history behind all of it! Let me show you a few fun ways I have found to preserve and pass down your family history.

As I mentioned, everyone in my family knows I can’t let go of a family heirloom, regardless of how important or insignificant it happens to be. I know the back story on most of the items in my house, but that is probably where it stops.

Just like all of the times I go to estate sales, people only see the monetary value of the items. When you put a sentimental price on things, they become priceless. When I am no longer here, I want my family to know the story behind things, the history, and the true value of the family treasures. If they know the history, they may preserve it and pass it down as well.

Document History

One of the most obvious rules of preserving and passing down your family history is to document things. This may be documenting information on items or just making sure information is recorded and shared in some way.

Label Family Heirlooms

My Aunt Joy gave me this dish a few years ago. Just a simple piece of masking tape gives the history.

The second picture of the salt dip has an amazing story, but most likely no one would remember it because there is no documentation. The short history is that it belonged to Dr. Samuel Mudd, who may or may not have been involved in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. I met one of his distant relatives while on vacation many years ago, and she gave me this out of her collection. (Now the history has been recorded!)

Label and Store Family Photos

I have to admit that my family photos are a mess! Many of them do not have names or dates on the back of them. I have several photo albums full of pictures, but then there is the huge bin under the bed! I am not sure when I will be up for that challenge.

Luckily there are more efficient ways of labeling and storing pictures now that everything can be done digitally. Here are just a few ways to store your family photos:

Preserve Family Records in Scrapbooks

This is an old-school scrapbook. This one is actually Jay’s, and besides awards and newspaper clippings, he has his most important documentation – when he became a Christian!

My mom just gave me my baby book this week. Do people still keep a baby book? I know it is so easy to keep everything digitally, but this book has cards, a lock of hair, and other mementos. Either way, documenting these things is a way of preserving and passing down your family history.

Genealogy Records and Family Trees

I was lucky enough to have a great-aunt who did so much family research. Both of these books are very thick and full of great family information. The pictures on the right are of my great-grandparents, Jess and Lola Petty and my grandmother, Lela Grace Petty Chapman. What a wonderful resource these have been!

Record Family History and Life Stories in Heirloom Books

Some of you may remember the story I told about trying to get my grandmother to record her life stories. The heirloom book on the left is where it all started. She was so afraid of messing up the book that she started writing her responses to the questions down on paper. I treasure these.

*I found that book many years ago at a sale at school and fell in love with it. I just found it on Amazon. It is the 30th Anniversary Edition. Click the link here to get the information.

My daughter, Shea gave my mom one of these books last year and told her that was what she wanted for Christmas. My mom worked really hard to get it completed, and Shea absolutely loved it!

Shea also bought me two books like the one on the right for the girls. They are still blank at this time. I guess I better get started soon.

Preserve Family History By Recording Stories

Aren’t these fancy? You do not have to have anything special or expensive to preserve and pass down your family history. I highly encourage you to try recording live stories with someone in your family. It may actually be you who should be sharing the stories.

With all of the advances in technology, there are many other ways to do this. However, when I started recording my grandmother, we didn’t even have Internet. I really wanted more of her life stories than she could fit in the heirloom book, so my plan was to pick a day and just record her as we talked.

She wanted to get them all written down before we made the recording. This turned out to be the biggest blessing! I had a little hand-held recorder, and she shared stories for about 4 hours one morning. Her phone would ring, she would pause the recording, talk to them, get off the phone and tell me about the conversation, and then start recording again.

We were both thrilled about the recording but didn’t listen to it at that time. Later, when I had a chance to listen to it, I found that she had recorded all of our talks and her phone conversations, but she had accidently paused it on all of the stories – Very few stories were recorded.

We never did have another chance to redo the recording. However, after she passed away, I was not only able to type up the stories she had hand written, but I also had an audio recording of the conversations she had accidentally recorded that day. I believe this blessed the family, almost as much as it blessed me.

Fun Documenting Activities

  • Video Sessions
  • Drive Around – One of my favorite memories is when the kids and I took my grandmother on a walk down Memory Lane. I had the little red notebook and a pen, and off we went. Each time we stopped at a place, I would write down the details of what she was telling me with information about where we were. I am planning this with my parents soon.
  • Start a Blog – A lady who’s posts I follow started a segment in her blog so that she could document her life stories. This was intended for her children, but I truly enjoy reading them each week. If you want to see more of her stories, click here to see one of her posts.

Other Ways to Preserve and Pass Down Your Family History

Keeping the Bible a loved one used on a regular basis could also give a little history. You may find pictures, funeral programs, Church bulletins with notes on them, and notes written in the Bible.

This fingerprint tree was a gift for my parents one year. As the family grew, we added fingerprints. This is a fun way to keep the family history alive.




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Related Post

Here is a link to a much earlier post, Recipes With Sentiment. There are a few other ideas in this post.

These are just a few ways I have found to preserve and pass down family history. I know all of you probably have many more ideas you could add to the list. Please share in the comments other thoughts and ideas we can use.

Have a Grace & Joy-Filled Day!


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“When I am filled with cares, Your comfort brings me joy.” Psalms 94:19

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  1. These are all such great ideas and totally doable too, Susan! One of my aunts is our family’s historian and I’m so excited to send this post to her. She’ll be tickled pink! Hugs, CoCo

  2. This is inspiring! I have boxes of old photos and a few heirlooms. I want to organize them some way not only for myself, but for my kids. They are not so much interested in them now–but I wasn’t, either, til I got older. If I leave them in boxes, they’ll probably just stay stored but never looked into. Or, sadly, get thrown away. But if I can get them in albums with some explanations of who the people are, I hope they’ll be preserved for suture generations.

    My mother’s mother died when I was four, and I only have hazy memories of her. My other was no longer living by the time I had questions about my grandmother. After asking my aunt about her, my aunt sent me a few of her things. One was an “autograph book” that she must have had in high school. Her name was Harriet, but I didn’t know she went by Hattie until then!

    1. I agree, one day they will be more interested and really appreciate the family history. I find that I become more interested the older I get. 😊

      I’m glad you got a little more information on your grandmother. I bet your aunt has some stories to tell. It is all so interesting!

  3. Great tips Susan! I used to scrapbook but don’t seem to find the time for it anymore. My Grandmother filled out the book you showed above and I cherish it!! We’re fortunate to have a friend that did our genealogy on Ancestry, it is so interesting!!

    1. Yes it is! Seeing how happy my daughter was to get the book from my mom makes me a little more motivated to do the ones for my granddaughters.

  4. I think we may just be two peas in a pod Susan. I also cannot throw away items given and passed down to me, and I love family photos. My grandmother will be 101 in a few short months, and I still have so many questions for her. She is a wealth of information about our family, I even recently traced our history back to England. I enjoy learning about our family and some of the history never told! Love this, keep recording and sharing your history.

    1. What’s a blessing to still have your grandmother! I can only imagine the stories she could tell from all of those years! Talk about family treasures!!! I’m sure we will both keep recording and sharing the stories! I love it all!!

  5. Great ideas, I love how simple you have made this project. Often times we don’t start a project because it is daunting, but you have made is so easy to get started. Thank you for sharing with SSPS, you are one of my features for SSPS #267.

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