When You Are Gone

I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating:

Work to preserve your genealogical information while you are alive–do not expect your descendants to do it for you.

You can tell them what to do with it when you are dead. But when you are dead, dead is what you are and they will do as they wish.

You can have a clause in your will as to what is to happen to your “genealogy papers,” but remember:

  • Executors can exercise some discretion and probate judges and other heirs are more likely to focus on bills being paid, property being maintained, and items of value being dealt with properly. If they all agree to look the other way while the executor dumps your papers in the garbage on trash day, it could happen.
  • You can bequeath your papers to a library, but they generally do not want file folders of material that are unorganized and difficult to follow, stacks of photocopies of pages from books that are easy to obtain elsewhere, compiled material that is unconnected to any local family, etc. They may not have the money to maintain your material and they may be not able to take it. Just because your will says to give it to them does not mean they have to accept it and preserve it forever. That’s not the way it works.
  • Garbage day is Friday. Your funeral was on Wednesday.

When you are dead…you are dead.

Plan for what’s to happen to your material when you still have the ability to see that it happens.


6 thoughts on “When You Are Gone

  1. Scan everything you can and upload and attach documents to the most appropriate ancestor in FamilyTree! Future generations will be so grateful!

  2. I posted this on Facebook (Genealogy Tip of the Day), then realized it should have been put here. Sorry, it is now in two places.
    I’m in the process of changing my paper into digital records. I don’t think my kids or grandkids will want all the binders and file folders with the thousand and much more pieces of paper. All that would be overwhelming to go through and find a place to keep after I’m gone, but a digital collection whether on flash drives, cds, or in the cloud or online is more likely to be kept as a family heirloom, of sorts. Some of them are showing mild interest in researching, but they all find interest in the history of the family provided it is presented in a format that isn’t just boring documents and dates. I hope to create some type of short, focused, creative photo books that are not only informative, but enjoyable to read or look at so the information I am finding will hopefully live on. I don’t really care if the specific little details that I find interesting live on after I’m gone, but I would like for my children and grandchildren to know the general stories of their ancestors and be able to tell their descendants.

    • Double posting is not a problem. Digital images are much easier to preserve and share than paper copies. There’s always concerns about how long digital media will last, so constant migration to new media is usually recommended.

      • Can you guarantee that someone in your family will be interested enough and committed to upgrading the digital media over the next 50 – 100 years or longer? I doubt it if they aren’t interested in what you are doing now. If your great grandchildren can’t access the digital information it is useless. I am trying to get everything organized into my binders and on an online family tree with the hope that something will survive to future generations.

  3. Sandra Streitberger says:

    This truly is an issue to be addressed while still alive. I have been dabbling with our family history for nearly forty years but became seriously involved after I retired and had the time. My main goal was to organize everything and write it up in narrative form. I have done that with several of our branches. Took the typewritten material, had it copied at a local office supply store and bound it. Gave a copy to each of my children. It at least sparked their interest and made them realize how very much effort this hobby involves. I kept all the supporting documentation organized in 3-ring binders so they could easily find their gg grandmom or granddad’s death certificate, photos, etc. Not the ideal set up but hopefully they will be less likely to “toss it all in the garbage!” lol

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