Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dear Randy: What are you going to do with your "Genealogy Stuff?"

CeCe Warren, a devoted Genea-Musings reader, writes:

"I am wondering what will happen to all your years of hard work and all the paperwork with it that you have amassed?  At my age, it has been a great concern to me.  I have Ancestry and FTM2012 and tons of digitized pictures in my picture file on line besides those in my family trees.  Plus I have 4" binders separated first separated in 4 binders by my grandparents surnames and then broken down to all us cousins with all paper work, pictures & documents I have ordered in acid free sleeves individually.  The families originated from Norway & England.  The main part of my families were amassed in S.W. Iowa & S.E. South Dakota, but now the cousins are all over the place. None of my family, nor my nieces and nephews, seem to have any interest in all this.  Is all my work for naught?
... I do not think I have any repositories for all this except for maybe Sioux Falls or Yankton, South Dakota where they do have areas I have visited that have some ancestry history."

That's an interesting and challenging question for each of us.  Here is my response:

I will define my "genealogy stuff" (genea-stuff) and what I want to happen to it when I pass from this sphere:

1)  I have a collection of genealogy books and periodicals.  I want them to go to a "good home" in a local library or to a local genealogical society whose members can use them (perhaps through a book auction or sale).

2)  I have a collection (yea verily, about 40 linear feet of them) of notebooks with photocopies and handwritten notes in them from 23 years of genealogical research.  I sincerely doubt that a library or genealogical society will want any of that...they are for specific family lines, most of it is available in libraries around the country or in online book and periodical digital archives, and some of it is under copyright protection and should not be digitized.  My plan has been to enter the pertinent information from these notebooks into my genealogy management system (software) program with appropriate notes and sourcing, and thereby render the paper collection superfluous.  I am not scanning every page into my computer files, only those that are unique and cannot be found in any other repository.

3)  There are some unique "family papers" and "official certificate"documents in those notebooks which should be saved for the family.  I need to break those items away from the notebooks and put them in a "Save This Stuff" file.  I am in the process of scanning these items into my computer file folders, and labelling them with name, date, and place information.

4)  I have a bookcase, several boxes, and a file cabinet, full of family pictures, ephemera (scrapbooks, photo albums, family letters, papers, etc.) and artifacts.  I am trying to scan as many of the useful photographs as possible, and posting many of them on my blog.  I will designate these as "Save This Stuff."

5)  My genealogy database contains the vital records (names, dates, places), relationship conclusions, life events, research notes, and sources that are the collected fruits of my genealogical labors.  It is imperfect and incomplete (well, I'm not "done" yet!) and yearns for an accomplice collaborator to carry on the task.  I don't have many of my document images or photographs included in my genealogy database yet.  I put an updated copy of the entire database on an Ancestry Member Tree occasionally, and have strewn various versions on many other online family tree sites as "cousin bait."  The Ancestry tree serves as a "backup file" just in case something bad happens at home.  I need to make copies of the database (both in native format and GEDCOM format), and the "Ancestral Files" (digitized papers, documents, photos), and put them on DVDs and pass them to my daughters once in awhile (ah, a Christmas present!).  I'm hoping that one of my daughters, or sons-in-law, will get the "genealogy pox" when their lives are not as busy, or that a grandchild will show interest and carry on the ancestral search quest. 

6)  I have authored two self-published books about my ancestry, have a set of memoirs about my life, and have written 23 years of an annual "Seaver-Richmond Family Journal" that is sent to my brothers, my children and my cousins.  These need to go on the DVD also and in the "Save This Stuff" also! 

7)  I have a wealth of material on my Genea-Musings blog, and in case of my passing it should remain there until blogger dies or dormant blogs on blogger are deleted. 

8)  I have written a "genealogical directive" and placed it with the important family papers.  I need to update it.  Basically, I directed that the "genea-stuff" be given to an interested relative, the books and periodicals be given to a genealogy society or library, that the database should be submitted to a number of online family tree websites, and that books be published based on the information in my database and donated to a number of genealogical libraries (e.g., the FHL, NEHGS, SCGS, Chula Vista, Carlsbad, San Diego, Sutro, Allen County, etc.).  I need to update that directive, and perhaps make a portion of the daughter's inheritance dependent on satisfying my wishes.

I'm sure that I've left something out in the above litany of "genea-stuff" and I'm sure my readers will have more questions and comments to help set me on a better path.  If you have ideas, please make a comment!

Thank you, CeCe, for the concern about my "genea-stuff," and I hope that you, and all of my readers, will think about their own situation with regard to this issue.


GeneGinny said...

Great post, Randy. I don't know about other genealogical society libraries, but we in Seattle are trying to figure out a way to fund and maintain an appropriate archives for storing and sharing member archival contributions.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Randy for an inspiring post and CeCe for the question. I can empathize with your collection and you've given me food for thought on dealing with mine. I've added it into my Will but more needs to be done.

Root Digger said...

This is a great post...I was thinking the same thing all week as I am helping a close friend of my parents (86yrs old)to donate his boxes upon boxes and file cabinets full of papers to the SDSU Library.

Janet Hovorka said...

Thanks Randy for the insightful post. We're trying to deal with my Great-grandfather's collection that has been left mostly forgotten for two generations. I think the biggest answer to this problem lies in making sure your children and grandchildren know that this is important to you and bringing them along for the ride as much as you can to see if any of them will catch the bug. That's why I've been working so hard over on my blog to help people get their family involved. That's the whole point in the end I think.

Heather Wilkinson Rojo said...

Randy, on your second point, you might be surprised to learn that those books of notes would make an excellent donation to a manuscript collection at NEHGS or another genealogical library. At NEHGS I've used the notes of several authors. After reading their books, I look at the notes and collected ephemera they used to produce the book because they usually don't include ALL in the book, and sometimes the notes contain clues to more source source information. I especially like the family letters used by authors 100 years ago to compile genealogies (makes me want to save all my email!).

Julie Goucher said...

An interesting question. I have every diary & journal I have written from 1982 & genealogical & notebooks since 1986. They all reside in my study, and do feature in my will.