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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Saving old letters & identifying old photos

From: Patricia
I searched the archives on the subject, but couldn't find what I'm looking for. I have about a hundred old letters (dated 1868 - 1911) that are still in the envelopes they were mailed in. I want to preserve them but do I have to put each page in its own separate protective sleeve (letters have an average of 3 pages each)? That's a huge project - not to mention expensive! Any other suggestions?

On another note, I also have an album full of photos - probably from mid-late 1800s, with no clue as to who 98% of them are. They are marked with the photographer's name and city and sometimes dates. Is there any way to find out who these people are, i.e., a web site for posting them? Surely, there are others who are in the same situation. Thanks for any suggestions.

WOW! You have a marvelous collection, kiddo. I would give my eye-teeth to have even 5 ancestral letters from the 1868 time period. YES, you must put these in top loading sheet protectors, however I don't think the cost will be as high as you think. I went to the Office Depot website just now and discovered that you can purchase part of the required supplies at a fairly reasonable cost, especially considering the personal and historical value of your letters.

Ol' Myrt isn't telling you anything you don't already know. In your heart of hearts, you know you have been entrused with this ancestral treasure, and must do what you can to preserve this wonderful collection for posterity. Carefully unfold these letters, and place them in sheet protectors, since continued fold/unfolding will speed up the aging process. What if an ancestor's wife's maiden name is written right across one of those fold lines? Perhaps it is the final sentence in a paragraph simply describing day-to-day life experiences.

We don't want the paper fibers to break down and crack along the creases, effectively obliterating the handwriting.

A box of Office Depot® Top-Loading Sheet Protectors, Standard Weight, Clear, Box Of 100 is $7.89. These will fit a three-ring binder, and are acid-free and archival safe. Eventually you'll want to place these sheet-protected letters in archival boxes, because 3-ring binder storage leaves them prone to spilling out of the top of the sheet protectors. There is also the problem of exposure to light and dust.
Find these online at:

Ol' Myrt recommends the boxes described in the Light Impressions catalog. "Polypropylene Boxes are moisture and dust-resistant, made of archival polypropylene, and designed to be stackable. The Polypropylene Box features snap locks to keep your work safe, plus flexible hinges that withstand years of use. Available in black, white and gray. Holds our PhotoGuard™, TopLoaders™, SlideGuard™, Print File®, and HD PolyChron™ pages. Interior Dimensions: 10 3/16" X 1 3/4" X 11 5/8"." These run $14.95 each, and you will eventually need 5 or 6.

There IS a website for posting old photos that you cannot identify. See the folks at:

They have successfully orchestrated 693 photo "reunions." You'll find guidelines for submissions on the right navigation bar under "Submit Photos."

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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