Curbside recycling is a wonderful thing… but it’s not where I want my decades of family history research to end up when I’m gone.
Genealogist Alice Hoyt Veen once described her work like this: “I ‘reconstruct forgotten lives.’ Nothing is more satisfying than the knowledge that a life, long lost to time, can be rediscovered and understood. Every life has purpose and significance. My goal is to honor those disappeared lives by recreating, preserving and sharing their memories.”.”1
I aspire to the same goals—and that means that I need to include “preserving and sharing” in my genealogy efforts. Like so many of us, I am staying at home during this pandemic crisis. Why not use some of this time to develop plans to make sure my research, discoveries, and family treasures don’t end up sitting abandoned on the curb one day?
Here are some baby steps I can take. Make sure I have public online trees. Add sources. Scan photos and documents and attach them to those online trees. Link DNA to those trees too, where I have DNA test results. Join lineage societies. Scan family record pages from Bibles and contribute those digitized images and transcriptions to collections such as ACPL and NGS. Check FindaGrave.com; see if it lacks grave marker images for any tombstones I have already photographed or plan to. What else could I do?
Maybe something like this?
Another idea: try to identify all my parents’ first cousins and their children. Then all my grandparents’ first cousins and their children and grandchildren. This can help with identifying DNA matches, but if I reach out to them, I may also discover relatives who have artifacts or stories or photos that will help me recreate my ancestors’ histories. And maybe—if my kids or grandkids aren’t interested in my bins and binders or digital files—one of their family members might treasure them.
I’m sure you can think of a number of other ways to leave a legacy.
If I really want to do a good job “preserving and sharing”, I should probably look into what some experts have to say about it. Here’s a baker’s dozen of resources, including books, webinars, podcasts, and blog posts. Maybe something here will be useful to you too. (All URLs were accessed 29 Mar 2020.)
- Devon Ashby, “Making Memories of You,” rootstech video series 2019 (https://www.rootstech.org/video/making-memories-of-you).
- Melissa Barker, “The Home Archivist: Preserving Family Records Like a Pro,” Legacy Family Tree webinars, 27 Sep 2019 (https://familytreewebinars.com/download.php?webinar_id=939). Fee or subscription. Also, search available webinars for “preserv” for additional options.
- Scott Christensen and Alan Morell, “S.O.S. (Save Our Stuff): Stories and Heirlooms,” rootstech video series 2019 (https://www.rootstech.org/video/sos-save-our-stuff-stories-and-heirlooms).
- Linda Clyde, “8 Tips to Ensure Your Genealogy Lasts,” rootstech blog post 24 Aug 2018 (https://www.rootstech.org/blog/8-tips-to-ensure-your-genealogy-lasts).
- Christa Cowan, “Genealogy Estate Planning,” The Barefoot Genealogist video series, 11 Dec 2014 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKqqNSFX_60).
- Amy Johnson Crow and Curt Witcher, “How Not to Leave Your Genealogy Behind,” rootstech video series 2018 (https://www.rootstech.org/video/how-not-to-leave-your-genealogy-behind).
- Cheri Daniels, “Lost Legacy: A PSA About Donating Your Research,” Genealogy Literacy blog post 25 Feb 2018 (http://genealogyliteracy.com/tag/estate-planning/).
- Family Tree editors, “Your Genealogy Preparedness Plan: Episode 76,” FamilyTree podcast 16 Sep 2014? (https://www.familytreemagazine.com/podcasts/episode76/).
- Janet Hvorka, “Heirloom, Documentation, or Junk: What to Keep or Toss,” rootstech video series 2019 (https://www.rootstech.org/video/heirloom-documentation-or-junk-what-to-keep-or-toss-janet-hovorka).
- Thomas MacEntee, “After You’re Gone: Future Proofing Your Genealogy Research,” Abundant Genealogy blog posted 9 Nov 2017 (https://abundantgenealogy.com/youre-gone-future-proofing-genealogy-research/).
- Judy Russell, “Estate Planning for DNA,” The Legal Genealogist blog posted 20 Aug 2017 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/2017/08/20/estate-planning-for-dna/). [UPDATE 5 Apr 2020 to add this: Judy Russell, “DNA in a Time of Crisis,” The Legal Genealogist blog posted 5 Apr 2020 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/2020/04/05/dna-in-a-time-of-crisis).]
- Penelope Stratton, “Writing and Publishing a Family History: Ten Steps,” rootstech video series 2019 (https://www.rootstech.org/video/writing-and-publishing-a-family-history-10-steps).
- Penelope Stratton and Henry Hoff, Guide to Genealogical Writing: How to Write and Publish Your Family History (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2014.)
Macmillan dictionary defines a legacy as “something that someone has achieved that continues to exist after they stop working or die.”2
I hope to leave a legacy with my family history research, so future generations can also remember and honor our ancestors. After all, where would we be without them?
© Ann Raymont, CG® April 2020
ETA (edited to add): as I encounter other resources I’d like to revisit, I may add them later here!
1. “Welcome Alice Hoyt Veen, CG” Board for Certification of Genealogists (https://bcgcertification.org/welcome-alice-hoyt-veen-cg/ : accessed 31 Mar 2020).↩
2. “Legacy,” macmillan dictionary (https://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/dictionary/american/legacy : accessed 31 Mar 2020).↩