How to Research and Preserve Your Family’s History and Stories

I’ve been researching my family’s history and discovering new characters in stories that I didn’t know existed.

Scroll to the end for links to free resources to help you find information on those stories that are often amazing, sometimes amusing, and often perplexing.

Let’s start with this question.

Why research your family history?

Do you have a collection of old photos and videos? And have you looked at the pictures, seen the people in them, and thought, “So what?”

The above photo is my grandmother from 1910 when she was four years old, I’d like my grandchildren to be able to access her story as they grow.

Digging into the past and sharing the stories of the photos brings them alive and what you have is something akin to a history collection that’s worth sharing.

I started as a photo coach in 1995 and I helped clients journal their photos so they could tell their stories. And in the days before cloud storage, I showed them ways to store and preserve their photos and other meaningful memories.

You’ve got fun stories just waiting for you to put on your sleuthing hat and go find them.

Tips for researching family history

There are lots of ways to find useful information when researching your family line. I recommend you have a way to organize the information as you find it.

I’ve always advised my clients to use basic journalist questions.

Who: is in the photo, video, slide show, or other file?

What: are they doing?

Where: is the location of the file?

When: was the photo (or other file) taken?

Why: is this important?

How: did this come about?

If you can answer these questions about a photo, video, letter, or other file then you’ll be able to preserve it with confidence and make sure future generations will know why this is meaningful.

I’m passionate that families write and safeguard their histories. Let’s get started.

If you still have parents alive, and grandparents, I recommend interviewing them before it’s too late. They can certainly help you get to know the stories behind those old photos.

In the mid-90s, I met with my grandmother weekly and created two beautiful albums. Since then, I’ve had those albums digitized.

Now, with my parents, I’ve saved their photos digitally using FOREVER®. Here’s a screenshot of their album.

Digitized photos
Digitizing my parents’ many photos was worth it and convenient using FOREVER.

Why use FOREVER® to research family history

FOREVER® is the best permanent storage solution I’ve used. Here’s a list of reasons why:

  1. You can own your account, your content, and your digital rights.
  2. Digitizing old photos, home movies, and other files is convenient and easy using FOREVER®’s state-of-the-art digitization center.
  3. Your storage is guaranteed for a lifetime plus 100 years and beyond.
  4. Turn your digitized photos into attractive photo books and other gifts.
  5. FOREVER® is a great tool for documenting your family’s history.

Files in your account have a space on the right for naming the file and then offering a description. You can make it brief or quite lengthy and use the journalist questions I shared earlier.

Plus, FOREVER® has professional family researchers who know how to track down hard-to-find records and get around obstacles like missing files.

Chart of family ancestry

We’ve traced my mother’s line back to the Civil War times and I’ve become enthralled with the stories of farmers, railroad workers, blacksmiths, and those who were well-to-do.

It’s fun to find out where people came from, discover what they did, what their hobbies were, and what ships they sailed on as immigrants.

Records with Integrity

In tracing family lines, FOREVER uses sources to prove documentation and true findings. If they cannot prove it, even though the information might be in other ancestry sources, then it doesn’t get recorded as a true finding.

Baptismal records and gravestones are helpful tools. Learning about occupations and what ships they sailed on as immigrants brings the photos, letters, and other records to life.

Need help getting started?

I’ll gladly help you get your family research project underway.

Woman wearing glasses looking at computer monitor
Contact Melody for a photo consultation

Click on Book a Session and let me know your questions and how I can help you get started with any part of preserving your most meaningful memories.

You can also try FOREVER® hands-on with 2 free GB of storage space.

Would you like to know how I built a successful career as a photo coach and how you can, too?

I’m looking for people who are interested in a business that’s low investment but that has high-income potential.

Let me know.

Your family’s story is unique and worth safeguarding for future generations to learn from. I’ll be glad to help you in any way I can.


Check the National Archives for family and personal records.

Here’s an amazing link on Wikipedia to a listing of historical societies in the U.S. and internationally, including Canada.

List of Historical Societies

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