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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Would you like to post what older computer you were using that burned the CDs that won't open? Perhaps someone out there still has one, and can help you out! Have you tried copying the cd onto a new CD on your new computer? Many computer entusiasts keep their old computers if they're still running---and here's a good reason why!!!
I have provided a copy of my current material to my local Genealogy Society, which has been updated twice. There is a provision in my Will to insure that all my Grandchildren as well as several historical/genealogy societies and libraries receive copies of my research. I never thought of doing something as formal as you presented. But, having read your comment several times, I realize that is exactly what I did, without even realizing it. Thanks for putting it in order.
I've passed along lots of information as I go. Don't wait to do it "someday!" A family tree is always a work in progress, and you will never be "done" so stop to consider distribution once in a while. Do it now and you can always update it later (see step #6 on Ben's list)

Give trees and reports to all the appropriate branches of your family in 3 ring binders (they are easy to add to when you dig up more notes) Find the local historical societies and/or libraries appropriate to the different branches and distribute copies there, too. I've also donated manuscrips to the NEHGS library, knowing that they will be better taken care of there, than in my attic or basement. I can always keep copies or go to NEHGS if I need to review. Copies of reports make good wedding/ christening/ family reunion gifts, too, even if they go unappreciated now, they will be treasured someday. For example: the vital records room in Concord, NH maintans a file of surnames and local researchers, so put your name onto lists such as this and record where you have deposited your notes. You don't have to be a member of the LDS church to donate to their files, either.

Don't worry about "who will continue my work?" Someday someone will pick up your notes and say "Hey, that's my family, too!" and they will continue to add all the future generations we don't know about now. Believe me, someone out there will be fascinated, and will appreciate all your hard work!

ALSO- Write up short articles on pieces of your family history (you can't do an article on the WHOLE thing) and present them for publication in your local historical societies, family association newsletters, local newspapers, etc. Everyone has plenty of short one page stories, and this will help preserve your family history to a wider audience. (Of course, you can write the "Great American Novel" and include everything in your files, but between you and me- we know you'll never get around to that project!)
I have been reluctant to post my research after an experience where a young cousin posted all my research and all the private information on an open family history site. He exposed ALL of our whole family's personal information and my children's (and all their cousin's) personal information to identity theft. I realize that an experienced family history researcher would have clicked the appropriate box that made living people's info not show and therefore private, but which web site is the best?



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