Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"A true inventory..."

I've spent about 8 hours so far this week transcribing the wills and inventories of three ancestors - Stephen Hazard (died 1727), Thomas Greenman (died 1728) and Moses Barber (died 1733) from the South Kingstown (RI) Probate Records on FHL Microfilm 0,931,833. (If anyone wants a copy of the transcriptions, please let me know.) These records are part of my work of finding probate records of my Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island families - I copied these records back in July and am typing them into the Notes section of my genealogy program. I like to transcribe the wills completely because they usually are very informative and prove relationships, and they eventually end up in my family history books.

It struck me as I was doing the inventories just how simple the life back around 1730 seems to me in the 21st century. These were fairly wealthy men - Stephen Hazard's personal estate totalled 2,760 pounds and Moses Barber's was over 450 pounds. But their lists of possessions, while several pages long, contained a limited amount of clothing, furniture, kitchen things, tools, food, supplies, livestock, etc.

As part of my estate trustee task, I created an inventory of the major items (appliances, furniture, artwork) in my mother's house, and assigned estimated values to them, with the help of my son-in-law back in 2002. The list took several typed pages in MSWord. We didn't list every item in the kitchen, the pantry, the garage, the closets, the desk, each room, etc., we lumped each collection of "stuff" in each room into one line item. As I did this task, I reflected on just how all of this "household stuff" was collected and by whom. It represented several generations of my mother's family and I was sad to have to get rid of most of it.

We are doing a home remodel project right now, and had to empty the garage rafters and the kitchen cabinets. My goodness, we have a lot of "household stuff." I'm sure it would take weeks, and several notebooks, to list every article of stuff that we have, from major appliances down to paper clips, in a manner similar to the 1730 inventories.

I look around the Genea-Cave and wonder how in the world anyone will be able to sort everything out and intelligently decide what genealogy items to keep and what to pitch. I guess the answer is that I'd better "finish" my work and publish it sometime. I should scan the important papers that support my research and store them electronically. Eventually, all of the work could go on a DVD and be given to my daughters, my niece and my cousins. I plan to put it all on Rootsweb WorldConnect or some other free database so that others can share the benefit of, or find the errors in, my work. I also plan to donate copies of my books and/or manuscripts to the local libraries and the Family History Library.

How about you? Will your heirs be able to sort out your genealogy work and dispose of it according to your wishes? Have you even planned the disposal of your genealogy "stuff?"

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