How to KEEP Letters Sent From Friends and Family

Family Letters and Documents

Consider the time taken to write and post a letter; you’re keeping family knowledge when you group and scan letters.



Writing a letter can take 15 minutes or longer. If your letters dated and addressed then you have a  GPS time capsule in your hands. Look, I understand the urge to throw your letters away because they can be out of place with who you are now.

For me finding a letter from a family’s past is like stumbling over flotsam and jetsam on Family Heritage Island, so here are my tips in keeping letters that have escaped decluttering blitzes up to this point:

1. Put a label on your letters. Once you classify them with a Family Group Code , you move the item from being flotsam and jetsam to a letter you value.

2. Scan and save the document as a PDF file under the person or Family Group Code. Remember image files can be turned into PDF files later if needed.

3. Make a decision about keeping the physical document after scanning and filing it digitally.

Destroying the original and keeping a scanned version may give emotional freedom for you. I’ve experienced this freedom with letters that hold negative memories. Scanning and saving documents with a knowledge process keeps the family story and provides the benefit of removing any emotional responsibility.  Keep it with your physical family archive  or declutter?


A mini project using the Family Knowledge Process.

In the video I scanned a family letter written by Dad on 10 January 1972, it was four pages:


Letters - put a label on them.

Group and classify letters

Step 1.Put a label on the letter. This letter belongs in my birth Family Group using the Family Group Code so it’s filed under GBlaSmi1960.

Elapsed project time 10 seconds to work out the group.


Canoscan Settings

CanoScan Document Settings

Step 2. Scan the letter. I used a CanoScan Lide 220 and used these settings.

Elapsed project time scanning a 4 page letter – 1 minute 20 seconds

Scan and File Letter

Scan and File Letter

Step 3. Move, file and name the letter on your portable hard drive. This letter written by Dad to the family is filed under the Family Group Event Folder – COMMU.

Elapsed time 50 seconds to move, rename and file in the community folder.



Project Notes 

I’m happy with 300 dpi image (a 10 second scan time per page) for this letter. Top quality is 600 dpi (a 33 second scan time per page) with triple scan time and little difference in quality (see gallery pictures).

Total elapsed time to scan and file a 4 page letter was 2 minutes and 20 seconds. That’s nothing when you consider the energy required to write and post the letter in the first place (listen to my frustration on SoundCloud).

With these timings you can estimate your time commitment before starting your project. I had 60 letters from Lahara with an average of 4 pages for each post. Scanning and filing for one family group with 240 pages(60*4) takes  about 2 hours and 15 minutes. I wonder how long would it take you to hand write 240 pages?

If a picture is worth a thousand words then your family letters are worth eighty thousand words or more.


When you use the Family Knowledge Process  and place the document in the context of a Family Group then you start to see the document in another light.

Now for the creative part, consider the external events that were taking place when the letter was written, and think about writing a journal entry for the event of the person putting pen to paper and writing the letter in the first place.

What’s the theme of the document and how does it relate to the Digital Dreaming journal event codes?

Is the letter to do with :

  • travel,
  • love, courtship, and foundation events,
  • maybe the letters about friendship, laughter and community.


A mini project task using the Family Knowledge Process.

Step 4. Now for the creative part of the 5 step Family Knowledge Process, enrichment of a family letter written on 10 January 1972. What external events were happening? Thanks to the information era this is fun.

10 January 1972.

“It was Monday, under the sign of Capricorn. The US president was Richard Nixon (Republican). In that special week of January people in US were listening to American Pie (Parts 1 and 2) by Don McLean. In UK I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony) by The New Seekers was in the top 5 hits. The Cowboys, directed by Mark Rydell, was one of the most viewed movies released in 1972 while Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach was one of the best selling books.” Source:

For Australian readers in 1972 William McMahon was Prime Minister and in Sydney it was the third day of a 5 day cricket match Australia v World XI.


When you complete step 4 you’re done!

You will have invested time in your letter and would’ve managed its soul and gained a sense of belonging to events of the past.


A dramatic example of a GPS time capsule

“Tho they say this Ship does not roll on account of its size. Any how it rolls enough for me, I shall never forget it. It is very nice weather but awfully windy and cold. They say we may get into New York Tuesday night but we are really due early Wednesday morning, shall write as soon as we get there”

The letter was written by Eva on 14 April, 1912 and wasn’t posted. It did make it off the ship as this link explains.

Wishing you and your family a Happy Easter

I hope you enjoyed this multi-media article and it inspires you to start a Family Group Project. Family knowing starts with you and is important.

Happy Easter

Happy Easter

Please share my article with family and friends.

Think of me as a blogging street busker, your likes and family sharing are as good as gold to me – R.L. Black.

Other articles by following this theme on keeping documents are:

KEEP In Step and Up To Date

Above all else, Take Stock

Oh for Pete’s Sake, or oh for Family Keepsake


About Soul Assets

Soul Assets exists for a soul purpose, to educate families with survival skills to KEEP family knowledge in the Information Age. Soul Assets is the place for families to share skills of the Family Knowledge Process. Imagine, fifty years from now, people inheriting keepsakes that are welcomed by the next family because they were treasured as Soul Assets.