Don’t Let It Fade Away

When I began my genealogical research, photocopies faded within a few years. They were not meant to be even reasonably permanent and the concept of archival photocopies was laughable. The librarian warned me that I would need to transcribe by typing any copies I had made on their photocopier.

Copiers of those types are not found any longer, but do you have materials that might fade with time?

Are there records or family papers that should be reproduced before the ink seemingly evaporates from the page?


9 thoughts on “Don’t Let It Fade Away

  1. Nancy Nelson

    It’s true, a cousin in Texas sent me copies of death certs a few years ago, and when I went to look at them again they were blank! Lucky for me, those death certs are on line now.

  2. Marie Reedy

    When I was asked to put a program together for the LDS on dating photography, I went to a local photo shop to ask a question. The manager told me you must use a photo quality printer, archival quality ink and print on acid free, archival quality paper. They are still not expected to last for more than 20 years and quality is lost each time you scan them. The best bet is to take film pictures of any thing you need , keep the negatives and have traditional printing done. .

    1. Jean

      You’re absolutely correct, Marie, the best way to preserve your photos is with actual prints and negatives. There are scanners available at reasonable prices to scan negatives at very high resolutions. One thing to be watchful of: Be sure your negatives will be returned to you when you get a roll of film processed! WalMart sends roll film off to be processed and you get your prints (and a CD disk with copies of the prints) but no negatives. It’s all done electronically now. I think Walgreens still returns negatives at this time. Before leaving your roll of film anywhere be sure they will return the negatives along with the prints. Kodak and WalMart both offer archival photo print paper. A lot of professional photographers are still using film. It may take some work to find sources for processing film, but it’s worth the effort.

      Regarding photocopies, remember the first microfilm printers used a wet chemical process– Those faded quickly too, I appreciate the reminder to go through our early research to check for these old copies and transcribe them, or make new photocopies if they haven’t faded too much.

  3. Winifred S McNabb

    The other side of this are the letters of my Bartlett family dating from 1820 to 1870. Not only are the originals in good shape but so are the photocopies that are over 20 years old. I have many photocopies that are that old or older that are not deteriorating. What is making the difference?

    1. michaeljohnneill Post author

      Old letters could easily be on paper that had a higher rag content with less acid in the paper. With photocopies it depends on the process, the ink, and the paper. I’d make new copies of any photocopies if those photocopies are the only copies you have.


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