How to Preserve and Pass Down Your Family History

Here are a few fun ways I have found to preserve and pass down your family history. One day your family will thank you!

A spiral-bound book titled "Granny's Treasures: Preserving Granny Grace's Legacy," resting on a table with decorative leaves and candlesticks.

My family calls me a packrat, and I guess that is probably an accurate description. (I still have an old newspaper from the day Elvis died!)

This packrat trait is especially true when it comes to family heirlooms, family history, family treasures, 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 to future generations.

A vintage pocket watch displayed under a glass dome, positioned in front of a blurred background featuring a larger clock and assorted objects, symbolizing a family history legacy.
Jay’s Great-Great Grandfather’s Pocket Watch

As I mentioned, everyone in my family knows I can’t let go of family heirlooms, regardless of how important or insignificant they happen to be. There just seems to be an emotional attachment, especially when I know the back story. Fortunately, I know most of the stories on the items in my house, but that is where it stops.

Just 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.

Ways to Document Family 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 masking tape label 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 a Colorado vacation many years ago, and she gave this to me out of her family collection. (Now the history has been recorded!)

Label and Store Family Photos and Home Videos

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 a few boxes of old photos 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 old family photos now that everything can be done digitally. Here are just a few ways to store your family photos:

  • Google Drive – Digital Files
  • Photo Storage Sticks (Like a Thumb Drive)
  • Digital Scrapbooks
  • Photo Books from places like Shutterfly, Walmart, Walgreens, etc.
  • Convert old home movies into DVDs or even digital files.
A collection of photo albums and personalized books on a table, showcasing how to preserve and pass down your family history, including wedding, family, and travel themes. Decorative leaves and a candle holder are around them.

Jennifer Wise has great information on this very topic. You can see her site, Photo and Story Treasures here.

Of course, there are old photos that you will never want to part with, so in those cases, here are a few ideas to preserve them:

  • Keep them in a photo album (Be sure to use acid-free paper.)
  • Keep a photo box or even a shoebox of old snapshots (acid-free boxes).
  • Document people, places, events, and dates on the back of an old photo.
  • Add old photos to a family shadowbox.
  • Use old family photos to decorate your home.

Preserve Family Records in Scrapbooks

The first picture 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 – the 2nd picture!

My mom just recently gave me my baby book. 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 treasured items that cannot be saved in digital files. Either way, documenting these things is a way of preserving and passing down your family history for the next generation.

Genealogy Records and Family Trees

I was lucky enough to have a great-aunt who did so much family research; she was our own family curator. She spent so much time researching the lives of our ancestors and put all of the information into the books above.

Both of these heirloom 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! I am very thankful for Aunt Mildred, our family historian!

An open book of family history on a wooden table surrounded by green leaves and a white fringed textile, displaying densely packed text on "how to preserve and pass down your family history" on two visible pages.
Family Archive Book of History

Record Family History and Life Stories in Family 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 handwritten notes!

My daughter, Shea gave my mom a similar book last year, Grandma, Tell Me Your Story. She told her that she wanted it filled with her stories 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.

They are out of both of the pictured books. However, if you are looking for another book like these, here is the link to Grandma’s Story.

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 special family members. 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. Little did I know that this would be the biggest blessing!

A Funny Story of Preserving Family History

I had a little hand-held recorder, and she shared stories with me 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.

A book titled "Granny's Treasures: Stories of Granny Grace's Life Written by Granny Grace" rests on a wooden table, surrounded by a decorative eucalyptus garland and two
Granny’s Handwritten Stories in Her Words

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 Lynn’s 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. You may also have family Bibles with a wealth of information as well.

This fingerprint family 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.

A family tree canvas illustrating how to preserve and pass down your family history, featuring a brown tree with multiple colorful handprints as leaves, labeled with names. Two swings hang from the branches, and

Family recipes are another way to preserve your family history. There are usually stories that go along with family mealtimes and special recipes. There are many ways to preserve Recipes with Sentiment. The link shares a variety of ways to pass down your family history through recipes.


Other Items to Pass Down and Share Your Family History

  • Special Childhood Toys
  • Stuffed Animals
  • Dishes
  • Cooking/Baking Utensils
  • Wedding Dress
  • Musical Instruments
  • Family Jewelry
  • Handwritten Letter
  • Military Memorabilia
  • Old Family Documents

These are just a few ways I have found to preserve and pass down your family history. Our family artifacts may or may not be valuable items, however, they may have such a deep sentimental value that you can’t put a price on them. They are definitely worth sharing with our family members so they know the value as well.

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.



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Related Posts

Family Heirlooms: How to Care for the Most Common Types
How to Preserve the Stories Behind Your Family Heirlooms

Until next week…

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“God, You have heard my vows; You have given a heritage to those who fear Your name.”
Psalm 61:5

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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.

  6. These are great ideas! My grandfather traced his family’s ancestry back to the Mayflower and put a whole book together making sure to make multiple copies for all of us.

  7. These are such great and creative ways to preserve family history. I use Shutterfly books for my little family (a 4 and 1 year old), but I want to start gathering stories of my parents and in-laws and working on a family tree to help my kids as they grow older to understand their heritage, especially since they are half American and half Romanian, so there is lots of history to discover!

    1. I love that! I think the more they know about their heritage, the more they understand their family. They can have a sense of pride in who they are (in a good way).

  8. I’ve been wanting to start a family tree for my kids for years, but I never knew where to start. Your tips on interviewing family members and gathering photos and documents have given me the motivation I needed to finally start working on this project. Thank you for sharing your expertise!

    1. Thank you so much! I wish you all the best. It is so much fun! I am about to get my parents in the car to do a tour with them. I want to get more of each of their stories.

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