Packrat: Pruning the family tree


When I cleared out all the clutter in my house, one of the hardest things that I had to deal with was family documents and souvenirs. Part of the reason for this is the fact that I see my genealogical collections as only partially belonging to me. These items were handed down by my parents and grandparents, so I felt like I was a caretaker for a legacy, not the owner of a pile of objects. In other words, I didn't feel like I was allowed to throw anything away.

On the other hand, my genealogical collection was also a big mess. For years, I had been carting around a motley pile of pictures, albums, slides, birth certificates, death certificates, personal statements from grandparents, xeroxes of family histories, and assorted other stuff. Worse yet, after my daughter was born, I spend a lot of time sitting with her on the couch. To keep my mind occupied while she napped, I wandered through a lot of genealogy sites and worked on my family history. Largely through the help of, I generated a great deal of genealogy information very quickly and was able to fill in a lot of blanks. While this brought me into closer contact with my ancestors, it also added to the junk in my house.

My solution was to file and bind all of my genealogy stuff. Not only did this make it easier to deal with, but it also enabled me to take better care of a lot of family documents and artifacts that are irreplaceable. Here is how I cleared a lot of my family clutter out and turned my mess into an organized history: