What to Save Beyond You

Yesterday’s post “When You Are Dead You Are Dead” got me to thinking about prioritizing the genealogical material a person saves so that it is not “lost” forever upon their demise.  Is it possible to preserve and pass on every piece of paper or record I have ever copied in my research? What about the material that is really unorganized?

Some of us may simply have too much stuff to expect anyone to maintain it indefinitely for us, particularly materials that we only have in paper format. Some genealogists run all their material through a digital scanner and share those files. That is an option and a good idea, but does require (at least in theory) that the user to organize the material as they scan it. Although it is readily admitted that digital copies of paper records are easier to share and preserve (maybe) than paper copies. Some people may not have the time or inclination to scan every piece of paper they have. Others may see the organizational task as too great. Personally speaking the best way is to start slow–but to at least start.

Where to start?

Personally I would start with the materials that no one else has or that are not in other repositories.

I’m thinking that photographs and other ephemera should be high on my list of things to preserve. I’m also thinking that information I have compiled–families that I’ve “worked up” or conclusions I have reached based upon research should be shared in such a way that they live beyond me. Those personal family items (clippings, letters, pictures, etc.)  may not exist in many other locations–if at all. And sharing my research conclusions may save additional researchers time later.

Of course the best answer is “save everything.” The reality is that may not be possible or practical.




2 thoughts on “What to Save Beyond You

  1. Thanks for bringing this up. As a long-time genealogist (meaning I have a ton of paper) and a recently certified archival graduate, I’ve discovered it’s very difficult to turn a cold, pragmatic eye to your own accumulated research, but essential to do so. I agree wholeheartedly with your conclusion that the focus should be on unique family items in your possession, and any (well-sourced) conclusions you have reached in your research that may run counter to prevailing opinion. In “archive world” it’s all about preserving whatever you have that’s one-of-a-kind.

    • You are welcome and thanks for your comments. I also thought about what I’d like to find “left behind” by a relative who was a genealogist. For some strange reason, stacks of unorganized copies of records really wasn’t too high on my list. One-of-a-kind material is what facilities are likely to have some interest in and what future researchers are inclined to use. Stacks of copies of courthouse and census records just aren’t it.

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