Protect family valuables

July 28, 2010 at 2:28 a.m.

By Martha Jones

The Gulf Coast area of Texas is well into hurricane season. Each day we are reminded of the danger they are capable of doing to our homes, our families, and our collections of photographs, portraits, genealogies, letters, memorabilia, and family heirlooms, some more than 100 years old.

Genealogists are constantly reminded to back up their files in case of fire, flood or a computer crash. My heart aches for researchers who have lost years of genealogical research from a natural disaster or computer malfunction.

From time to time, I remind our readers to share their genealogy with family members, especially those who live in other towns, states and even other countries. Not only is this a generous gesture, it assures compilers that copies of their research are stored in more than one area or computer program.

Many of us possess family heirlooms. They may be old family photographs, marriage certificates, or a handmade quilt that belonged to grandmother. Whatever the objects, they are handed down from generation to generation and are cherished by each new recipient.

What happens if your home is flooded or experiences a tornado, hurricane or other disaster? Even a simple burst water pipe or a few roof shingles blown off in a thunderstorm can result in damage to all sorts of documents and heirlooms.

By thinking ahead and preparing, together with knowledge about first steps flowing a disaster, you can save family treasures from ruin. The Library of Congress has a very good webpage offering simple instructions and links to more in-depth information regarding preserving family treasures. "Preparing, Protecting and Preserving Family Treasures" may be found at

Information provided is often simple, but contains a lot of common sense. For instance, the section on where to store heirlooms states: "The single most important decision you can make to mitigate damage from a future disaster is selecting an appropriate location for your most valued family treasures. Avoid basements and attics when possible. Consider the safest location based on the most likely threat: if flooding, avoid the basement; if tornados, avoid attics, and outside walls. Are there certain times of the year when you are most vulnerable? Can you store some things offsite during these periods? Another consideration is small disasters and their prevention. Do not store valuable materials on the floor. Do not put materials against outside walls that may let in dampness. Small leaks that go undetected for a period of time can cause irretrievable damage. Be sure to check your storage at least twice a year to be sure there are no problems."

This website offers links to more comprehensive information for many topics. It also contains information about handling damage after a disaster such as water, smoke, and soot damage occurs. Your heirlooms and genealogical research deserve protection. Please don't let them be destroyed.

Happy researching and may you protect your heirlooms!

Send e-mail queries to Researcher in the Victoria County Genealogical Society will do simple genealogy look-ups. E-mail genealogy queries to VCGS members will research queries requiring extensive study.



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