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Guide for private family papers

Family papers usually consist of some or all of the following:

  • Official documents such as certificates and identity cards
  • Material to do with education and/or working life
  • Bills and other financial papers
  • Family letters
  • Things to do with hobbies
  • Photographs

You may have some of the above for different members of the family. Organising these can be a challenge. In most cases the easiest thing to do is:

  • sort the material by person – inevitably you will end up with some documents or photographs that relate to more than one family member but hopefully the bulk of the material is about a single family member.
  • Taking one person at a time sort the material into groups such as those suggested above; sort each group for that person into date order.
  • Sort material that is about more than one person into the same groups e.g. family group photographs
  • Sketch out a family tree and highlight the people on the tree that you have material for.
  • Starting from the generation at the top of the tree give a number to each person you have material for to represent them in the list or catalogue.
  • Make your list of things to offer to the archives numbering each item with the number of the person it is about, the number allocated to each type of record and finally a number that represents the document in the date order of that person’s documents of that type. E.g. Uncle Ben = 1, Photographs = 6 so the fourth photograph of Uncle Ben = 1/6/4


For examples of family collections see