Genealogy Wise

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How to Make Sure Your Research Won't Be Lost or Forgotten

I know a genealogist that passed away on January 1st, 2007. His name was Bob. I know Bob put a lot of effort into his research and that he took trips to do more research and walk in his ancestor’s footsteps. I wondered what happened to his research, so I asked.

It turns out Bob’s PC and three-ring-binders have yet to be picked up by his son!

I don’t mean this as a slight or to suggest that it should be any other way than it is. It’s just an observation, but one I think Bob would have thought important: his son is apparently not motivated to carry on his genealogy research nor even preserve it for the future. Might this be the fate of your research too?

It very likely would have been the fate of mine. Luckily, I asked members of the community to share with me their one big genealogy problem and fear of one's research being lost and forgotten was a common one. When I saw this fear among the responses the solution was immediately apparent to me and I knew it was a nearly universal problem so I was compelled to develop a method to solve it and make it freely available to all genealogists. I have put together a draft of a method I call Establishing a Genealogical Materials Steward. With the six simple steps in this method you can virtually guarantee that your genealogical research will be available to and remembered by succeeding generations. Here are the steps:

1. Prepare For Stewardship
2. Create a Prioritized List of Stewardship Candidates
3. Ask Each Stewardship Candidate (in Priority Order) Until One Accepts
4. Provide the Stewardship Materials
5. Review the Stewardship Materials with Them
6. Schedule Ongoing Stewardship Material Refreshes

Simple, right? Simple, but not easy. Judging by the state of the genealogy “research” published on the Internet, these simple steps are also secrets until now. Naturally there are techniques that make up each step, but these sub-steps are simple too. Anyone can do this!

As I said, I'm going to make this method available to anyone who wants it at no cost. First I need to polish any rough edges and make sure it is complete. To do this I need some people to volunteer to go through the process and give me feedback. This first pass through the method will be limited to a small number of people so that I can keep it manageable. The instructions will be emailed to you each week, one step at a time. This will give you time to review the material, ask any questions, take action, and give feedback. If you're interested, sign up for the mailing list here.

Even if you aren't interested in helping on this shake-down cruise, I would still like your input. Have you arranged for someone to manage your research after you pass? If so, how did you go about selecting the person or institution and arranging it? If not, what's preventing you?

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If there is a society in your family's name and they have the space to collect histories and artifacts, they will probably take your research to add to their collection. Unfortunately most of us have surnames without their own association. Like you, I've wondered where my research and artifacts/family treasures and documents will go. I am trying to keep the size of everything, including treasures, to one storage box. I believe there is a better chance of a relative keeping it if it doesn't take up too much room. I have one younger cousin who may be interested. I really hope so. It makes me sad to see family photos and documents in antique stores or at flea markets.
I have talked with my family and have people interested. I am publishing a "lineage" book; hopefully this year including group sheets, stories and pictures.

That being said, be careful when you talk about institutions taking your research. Many have limited space and will "pitch" things in the future to make room for more important items. County Historical Societes depend on volunteers and they die or disappear into another area. Then the material lingers in someones basement, or where ever without protection.

You have brought up a very good subject. I, too, would be interested in knowing how people are handling this. CDs, Tapes, Pictures all fade over the years without protective coverings. And technology keeps changing so fast that CDs, etc don't really meet a long-term criteria except they don't disintegrate.

Will watch for more updates.
Thanks for bringing this up. In addition to all the physical materials, I am focused on the larger question of HOW to ensure that others find the information compelling - the story behind the story. Trying to put the information into historical context such as why might those people all have left Italy when they did, and the order and timing of their arrival, and choice to settle - the "flesh" on the bones of the story. What did losing a baby do to a family? Why was the mother-in-law living with the family in another town - was it due to the economic conditions at the time?

Would love to hear what others think.

Colleen Lukoff made a great point about the "flesh on the bones of the story." There is so much more to family genealogy to me then just date of birth and death.
Neither one of my 2 children seemed at all interested in the Tree until we took a trip 600 miles to see my father's (who died in 1973) crypt. I talked to each there individually there about their Grandfather. Who he was, good and bad, and explained that he lived in my heart and I wanted to make sure he lived in theirs. This really touched both of them.
Since then I have told them about the Walker that was a prisoner of the British in the War of 1812, how we had family in both sides of the Civil War.... you get the idea.
Well my 19 year old son has "caught the bug." I am grateful, as I too was so afraid no one would care. Well someone does now.
I have been fortunate to have been given many family treasures. I am documenting the stories of the histories of these items, taking a photo of the item, and filing both in a notebook. I have told my children these items need to be protected but enjoyed. Hopefully, my efforts will protect the family treasures in the years to come. If and when I pass an item on to someone, I give them a copy of the history, and notate in the notebook who is now the proud custodian of the item. I realize that once I give something I no longer control it, but I do request that the if the recipient parts with it that they please pass it along to another family member before they consder giving it away outside the family or selling it. I also take the time and effort to show the notebook to my grandchildren so they will know why these items are so special to our family.
I tried to sign up for the mailing list, but the form was not present to register. Any suggestions?
When that happens it's usually because you have ad blocking software on. Those interfere with email opt-in forms as well as ads.

Jennifer Jackson said:
I tried to sign up for the mailing list, but the form was not present to register. Any suggestions?
Ben you have a most excellent idea! None of my children give a hoot about all the original photos or papers I have collected over the years. My sister has 2 kids but they don't care either and don't plan on having kids themselves. My one last hope is that one of my 2 granddaughters will carry on for me...but who can be sure?

Have you considered staring a group for this idea?

Claude: This is an excellent idea, however, in all my years (40) I havenever come across a Historical Society or Genealogy Society that would take someones research and continue on with the research. They have better things to do and asking one of their members to work on some unknown deceased persons family history would be stretching their volunteerism a bit far, even if you left the society money. I would suggest that you designate a Professional Genealogist, sit up a trust from which the Professional can draw money a few times a year for a certain number of years or until the Professional believes research has come to a feasible end. There are many 'real' Professionals who would be very interested in this type of arraingment, myself included.

D. Jane Carpenter
Carpenter Genealogical Services

Claude P Perry II said:

This is an excellent idea. I had often wondered myself what would happen to my research once I pass beyond the veil. I'd like to think that my nephews, once I present to them what I have when I feel it is ready, would take up the mantle of being the family genealogists. Right now I have in mind that my eldest nephew could possibly be the one to carry the torch. My youngest nephew, I think is still too young to understand the importance.

I'm also thinking as I type this, that perhaps arranging for a historical society, or even having a professional genealogist continue the work might be an option. Basically, leave instructions that the descendants of my family be regularly updated, say on a sixth month to yearly basis, should none of my current family members be interested in doing the work themselves. A tall order I'm sure, but it could be possible correct?
A few years ago I made all the research I had done so far on my mother's family, into a little book, with pictures, and at Christmas gave copies to my sister, my daughters, a couple of cousins, and one or two other interested parties. I have done another one since containing family trees for my immediate family. My hope is that at least one or two of these will survive!
Hi, Sherry.

I have thought of creating a group here. It could be a great resource for people looking to find and be a genealogical materials steward. My plan is to create it after the first group of people have gone through my program.


Sherry Hightower said:
Ben you have a most excellent idea! None of my children give a hoot about all the original photos or papers I have collected over the years. My sister has 2 kids but they don't care either and don't plan on having kids themselves. My one last hope is that one of my 2 granddaughters will carry on for me...but who can be sure?

Have you considered staring a group for this idea?

This is a great topic. I wonder what will have to my 25 years plus of research. I have trouble getting my children to pay attention to my passwords so they can access my online materials. I hope they don't toss all my books, computers, notebooks, files, etc. I know my information would be a treasure trove to someone as I have researched wide more than deep in order to get past roadblocks and brickwalls.



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