Keep Important Family Documents Safe and Searchable


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Would you be able to grab your child’s birth certificate in a hurry? What about your home insurance policies? Family passports? Deeds to your property? Shot records for the family pooch? Keeping kids’ shoes, mittens and school projects organized is hard enough. Add insurance documents, financial statements and other important papers to the mix, and parents can find themselves scrambling.

This year, carve out some time to create a system for those valuable papers before you need vaccine records for camp or passports for your family’s spring break vacation. Finding a central location is the first step to getting your important documents organized.

“Store documents on the first or second floor of your home,” says Matt Blessing, archivist and curator of Special Collections and Manuscript Collections at Marquette University. “Avoid the attic and the basement,” Blessing adds, noting that paper documents are sensitive to heat and humidity and can become damaged in extreme conditions.

A fire safe, available at office supply stores, can be a good option for protecting important papers from unexpected circumstances. “If your home goes up in flames, the damage can actually come from water,” says Blessing, who recommends a fire safe with a lock and key for increased security.

A safety deposit box is another option for original paperwork as well as bulky valuables. A safety deposit box can be rented for an annual fee from many banks. However, not all branches offer safety deposit boxes. Consider easy accessibility and branch hours when shopping around for a location.

Creating a digital copy and saving documents on a CD can be another back-up option, but Blessing warns about the stability of this method. “CDs have a lifespan of five to 10 years, and some have been known to fail within three years. A magnetic field or a child’s toys can corrupt the disc,” he says.

While it can save wear and tear on an original paper document, Blessing suggests that a digitized document is just a copy. “Don’t view the second generation as your original archiveable copy.”

A secure Internet storage service is another choice for storing important information. Documents can be scanned or downloaded onto a computer file. Through a secured connection, they can then be saved to an online server and accessed by you anywhere you have Internet access. Lose your passport while traveling? You can sign in to your online back-up account and retrieve copies of your birth certificate, driver’s license or passport to help speed the recovery process. Before choosing an online storage service, read the privacy policy and choose a company with an established track record and credentials.

Sound like a big job? Setting up a safe, easily accessible system for your important documents may take a little time, but it can save you hours of searching in the future. Whichever system you use, follow these tips to make it most efficient:

- Add a list of names. Include names and contact information for quick reference, including family lawyers, adoption agencies, real estate agents, insurance agents, doctors and family friends.

- Make extra copies of documents. Gather files and take a trip to a copy center so you’ll have several copies of documents: one for long-term storage, the other for easy access. Make more than one copy of documents such as birth certificates, passports and immunization records that your family may need when applying for camp, school, a new job or travel.

- Note what’s inside files. Keep a list of where your important documents are filed, separated into long-term and frequently accessed categories. Make sure you update the list to reflect changes each time you update your files.

- Tell a trusted family member where files are stored. In case you are unable to access paperwork in an emergency, make sure someone outside your immediate family knows where your important documents are and how to access them.

- Ask professionals about their filing systems. Doctors, tax professionals, lawyers and insurance agents will have copies of your files. Ask how long files are kept in their office. If you relocate or change services, request a copy of your files.

- Review files once a year. Set aside some time each year to go over your filing system, double check the location of your important documents, and add any new paperwork if necessary. The start of a new year or tax time can be a good time to annually update your files.

Top-Priority Papers

Not sure which papers are important? Documents falling into the following categories should be stored in a safe place that is easily accessible:

* Family records: adoption records, birth certificates, death certificates, baptismal certificates, marriage licenses, divorce papers, citizenship and naturalization papers, passports, child custody agreements, immunization records and wills.
* Financial records: tax returns, health and life insurance information, stocks and bond information, receipts, social security cards, pay stubs and banking records.
* Property records: deeds, warranties, car titles, mortgage information,investment records and household inventories.

Sharon Cindrich Miller is a mother of two who writes frequently about parenting, technology and travel.

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August 2019

For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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August 16th is National Tell a Joke Day. Come to the Finley Center anytime during the day to share some jokes with the park community. A large board will be set up in the Exhibit Hall where...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Erwin Road
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Knightdale Station Park
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Cost: Free

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Flaherty Park Community Center
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Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
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Cost: Free

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Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
Apex, NC  27523
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Sponsor: Bach To Rock Music School
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Cost: Free

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Flaherty Park Community Center
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Cost: $35/resident, $46/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
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Cost: Free

Where:
Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
Apex, NC  27523
View map »


Sponsor: Bach To Rock Music School
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster
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Cost: Free

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Locopops Dessert Cafe
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Cost: Free

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Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
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Cost: Free

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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Join us at Harris Lake County Park as we explore the wonders of water through educational activities and some for just plain fun! We will dip for critters in our pond to discover what lives...

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Where:
Harris Lake County Park
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
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Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
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Learning Express Falls Pointe
9660 Falls of Neuse Rd
#130
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Sponsor: Learning Express Falls Pointe
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Cost: Free

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IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
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Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
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Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
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Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Flaherty Park Community Center
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Cost: Free

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Orange County Main Library
137 W. Margaret Ln.
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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307 S Roxboro St
Durham, NC  27701
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Cost: Free

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GREGG MUSEUM OF ART & DESIGN
1903 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Telephone: 919-515-3503
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Cost: Free

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Flaherty Park Community Center
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Cost: Free

Where:
Uptown Roxboro
211 N. Main St.
Roxboro, NC  27573
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Sponsor: Roxboro Area Chamber of Commerce
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Cost: Free

Where:
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9660 Falls of Neuse Rd
#130
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Sponsor: Learning Express Falls Pointe
Telephone: 919-325-6057
Contact Name: Stephanie Gillespie
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Cost: $15/resident, $19/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: $3/person

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Carrboro Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
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Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Cost: Free

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Town Hall Campus
316 N. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27513
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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The North Carolina Boys Choir and Girls Choir Half-Day Camp and Music Workshop is open to public (all children in our community between 7 and 14 years of age). Register online. ...

Cost: Free

Where:
Binkley Baptist Church
1712 Willow Dr
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: North Carolina Boys Choir and Girls Choir
Telephone: 919-239-9083
Contact Name: Robert Unger
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Cost: Free

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Duke Homestead
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
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Celebrate North Carolina farming culture and history at Duke Homestead. Don't miss the looping contest and Hornworm Race. This event features live music, local arts and crafts vendors, hands-on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Duke Homestead
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Personality Festival is a Roxboro tradition. Enjoy amusements rides along Main Street, food vendors, singers, dancers, craft and merchandise vendors, local businesses and more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Uptown Roxboro
211 N. Main St.
Roxboro, NC  27573
View map »


Sponsor: Roxboro Area Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 336-599-8333
Contact Name: Melissa
Website »

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Play children's games from the past. No registration rquired. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Leigh Farm Park
370 Leigh Farm Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
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Website »

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Learn basic canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history, then head out to explore the pond's many features as seen only from the water. Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family for treats, music, art and more. See a special exhibit showcasing the work of Artspace's talented young artists.

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace
201 E. Davie St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1:00, 1:30, 2:00, 2:30 & 3:00 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Come into Learning Express North Hills for a trading event. Socialize with others who collect Pokemon and/or LOL dolls and negotiate for rare cards.

Cost: Free

Where:
Learning Express Falls Pointe
9660 Falls of Neuse Rd
#130
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: Learning Express Falls Pointe
Telephone: 919-325-6057
Contact Name: Stephanie Gillespie
Website »

More information

Children make treasured memories while increasing their knowledge of plants and animals. Ages 7-10. Register online. Choose course #124931.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Join Horne Memorial UMC & First Baptist Church of Clayton for an evening of Christian fellowship, inspirational music, free food and family fun. All proceeds benefit Clayton Area Ministries...

Cost: Free

Where:
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100 W. Main Street
Clayton, NC  27520
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Sponsor: First Baptist Church of Clayton and Horne Memorial UMC of Clayton
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Cost: $25 first child, $20 each additional child

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5655-A Western Blvd
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Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
Telephone: 252-646-7053
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Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina State University
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Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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400 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC
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