Looking after your family history records and photos

Your family history documents are an important part of your story and cultural heritage. Here are some suggestions to help make sure this information is available for your descendants.

Caring for your records and photos


It’s important to organise your records well, so you can find them easily, and share them with other family members. 

  • Organise your collection by ancestor. Start with yourself and go backwards. 
  • Label your records – name of document, date, and information on document. 
  • Put any information you have about photographs on the back of the print – include the date and where it was taken, who took it, and the names of people in it from left to right. 
  • Use a soft 2B pencil to write on the back of papers or photographs so you don’t damage them. 
  • Record your information in a family history template. We’ve put together a free one you can use:   

Download the template

This information will also help Library staff if you need to contact us for more help.   


Photographs and paper records need special care to prevent them deteriorating over time.

  • Store photos and papers away from water and sunlight, in a dry, dark room or cupboard.
  • If possible, try not to fold documents - the creases become fragile over time and can lead to tears. Keep them unfolded and flat if you can.
  • Photos and paper based records can be damaged by the chemicals from other paper or plastic. It's good to keep your important records in plain A4 manila folders or in acid-free plastic sleeves. You can usually buy these from stationery shops or online.
  • Avoid using staples, metal paper clips, pins, sticky tape or sticky labels as these can also damage paper records when they rust or leave chemical residue.
  • Do NOT laminate items. Trust us. Just don't.

The Library's Collection Care team has more information about how to look look after your records.


If you can make a digital copy of your physical records, this can help if you lose or damage the original. and makes it easier to share them with other people. 

  • Scan at the highest resolution and biggest size you can. 
  • Tiffs and jpgs are better image formats to use than pdfs or pngs.
  • Use a file-naming convention for your digitised records. You could include an ancestor’s name, date of document, and the type of document. This will help you identify and sort files on your computer. For example: 





  • If you take photos or videos on your phone or with a digital camera, it’s a good idea to use this technique for naming those files as well. 

The Library’s Digital Practice Guidelines has more information.

More information about looking after your records

For large and complex collections