Women & Preservation: A Chat with Stephanie Huffman about Saving Family History

Part of a Series

There are many types of historic preservation, beyond saving battlefields. One preservation effort is researching and keeping artifacts and documents. Many times this is done professionally by museums and archives. Other times private collectors save and research historic items and primary sources.

What about the more personal side of preserving items from ancestors? In an unofficial tradition that goes back to the Civil War (and further back in history!), women have had an important role in saving letters, effects, and other pieces of their family history. Who was saving soldier letters which we now find in archives? Oftentimes, the ladies.

Stephanie Huffman, a friend of mine in Nashville, Tennessee, has been exploring more of her family’s antebellum and Civil War history over the last few months. I wanted to hear her perspective on this process of learning about and preserving her family’s artifacts, and we had delightful chat about women preserving this type of family history and looking at some of her Civil War era treasures.

Whether you use genealogy sites and tools or develop your own family history research methods, there is so much to explore! I asked Stephanie about her starting experience on this journey and what she had learned about this type of preservation. She shared:

Be sure that you collect it [family history]. Do your homework, and pass it on. Don’t let it stop with you, because if it stops with you, the future doesn’t know.

Here’s to documenting and preserving family history. Those artifacts, old letters, and other items tell a story and preservation often starts on the “homefront” when we take the time to explore the history and options for saving and sharing it.

Next: concluding thoughts about what I’ve learned this Women’s History Month while working on this series…

2 Responses to Women & Preservation: A Chat with Stephanie Huffman about Saving Family History

  1. EXCELLENT reminder that Family History and proper care of associated records and archives are YOUR responsibility. And despite many of your living relatives being disinterested in the subject, a child or grandchild in the Future will have an interest; as will many cousins and extended family today. Having gone through the process of tracking ancestors a few years ago, here are my additions to the recommendations:
    1) Store artifacts in watertight (plastic) containers with tight sealing lids;
    2) Make a list of every item you have stored (and keep that list in a safe deposit box; and/or on file with trusted relative or friend)
    3) Make a copy of every photograph and document and keep that “collection of copies” elsewhere (my sister and my daughter have complete copy collections.)
    4) Keep a record of the Holders of Family records/ copies (their addresses/ web addresses).
    5) Check your records at least once per year to make certain of no leaks to storage container/ no insect damage.
    6) If YOU are not the Holder of the Family History, find out Who is: in many extended families it is the Holder of the Family Bible.
    Be pro-active: search for records of key relatives and interesting family members, while they are still available. And, if time permits, consider writing a story about one or two interesting ancestors. [In process of researching my Great-great Uncle, I discovered he was captured at Battle of Shiloh with two of his cousins, and confined in Southern POW facilities in Alabama and Georgia. I wrote a book about their experience, “Falling through the Hornet’s Nest,” and made it available to extended family as ebook on Amazon.]

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