Keeping A Family Archive: My Dad’s Briefcase

Categories Family Archive, Family History
Dad's Briefcase

Keeping A Family Archive

In my house, there is a cupboard where I keep my family archive.  In the cupboard, there are documents, a few photo albums, and some old cine camera reels that converting to a digital format.

The most important thing I have in the family archive is my Dad’s briefcase.

Dad left a long time ago.  The memories of I have of him are as if they took place in another life.  For the majority of my life, Dad has been an all too brief collection of memories.

Dad’s Briefcase

Occasionally, I will get Dad’s briefcase from the cupboard. The combination lock has rusted due to the passage of time but still works.

When opened, the briefcase gives off a strange smell of mold and old ink.  The documents it stores always feel cold to the touch.  I’ve always found that odd as my Father had a warm personality.

There are old letters, no longer important documents, ID cards, pens that don’t work and receipts.

Many documents trigger a memory of Dad, family gatherings and holidays.  Conversations and the occasional heated debate.


Fuel Receipt 1994
Dad kept his petrol receipts. Here is one from January 1994.

When I read the price of petrol in 1994, I wish I was a car owner back then…  But I digress.

After Dad’s passing, my mother put some old postcards in his briefcase.  He sent them to Mum and his family when he cycled from Berlin to Rome in 1959.  Dad cycled with a  group who presented Pope John The 23rd with the Freedom of Berlin.

Postcard 1959Postcard 1959


The Importance Of Keeping A Family Archive

My Dad’s briefcase and its contents are important because I can physically hold something he once held.  It’s important these items exist in the family so the future can enjoy and learn about who he was.

Those briefcase contents will assist future generations to paint a more accurate picture of their ancestor. What can be found in public archives don’t always do that.

That is why it is so important to keep a family archive.

Beyond Dad’s Briefcase

Dad doesn’t sleep at the back of my mind. He is a prominent thought first thing in the morning and he stays alive in my mind until bedtime.  I mention my Dad in conversation most days.

Sometimes by accident, other occasions deliberately.

Since he left, I’ve felt that if I talk about my Father to others, then in some way, he is current, and not far away.

One of the joys of researching my family history was making contact with relatives who had their own family archives.  I was given a copy of a video that Dad featured in.

Before I watched the video, I forgot a lot of things about my Dad: the way he walked, his mannerisms, and his voice.

Dad is in digital form on my desktop. A moment of his life captured and digitized., I can open anytime and see him alive.

I can hear his voice.

Some years ago, during a conversation about photographs, my Nephew mentioned that when he thought about his Grandfather Sherry, the thought was a person who always stands still.

Sadly he never met Dad. But thanks to others keeping a family archive and though my family history research, my Nephew and future generations have an ancestor who no longer stands still.

What is in your family archive?   Has family tree research added items to your family archive?



Family History addict since 2012. Now documenting my findings and insights online.

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