There are times when the more redundant a statement is, the more truth it actually contains. “When you are dead, you are dead,” is one of those statements. At that point, control really is gone and what control a person tried to exact from beyond the grave is dependent upon those who are left behind.
When you are dead, you really don’t have any control over what happens and your time is up to create an environment in which your genealogical legacy is preserved. It is over. You had your chance.
In most genealogy seminars at some point I usually mention the importance of preserving information beyond the lifespan of the genealogist who compiled it. I stress that this preservation needs to be done while the genealogist is alive and able to direct and organize these decisions. At one seminar, an attendee shot up her hand and, after being acknowledged, said:
“My will says what will happen to my materials. That takes care of it.”
She had issued her edict. Her material was preserved because she had put a clause in her will.
My thought was “oh…what a naive view of probate what a naive view of how libraries and societies are able to handle acquisitions.” My spoken response was much softer and indicated that it was important to organize materials while one was still alive and make certain that recipients were aware of their pending gift.
The fact remains that when a genealogist is dead…they are dead. A will may mention what is to happen to a boxes of genealogy papers, but if there are no surviving family member with an interest in those papers, their disposition may still fall to the garbage collector the Wednesday after the will is admitted to probate. The executor and the judge usually have priorities that revolve around money. Final bills need to be paid, financial accounts need to be closed, real estate needs to be settled, a residence needs to be cleaned, etc. Those papers may not be high on anyone’s priority list. Without someone having a vested interest in those papers, the bequest may not end up being fulfilled in quite the way a person intends.
Unorganized boxes of papers are not always a welcome gift to a library or group who had no idea they were coming either. The recipient may have no place to store those papers, no staff to organize them, and no funds to maintain them. The recipient of the gift may not even be able to accept them.
And the following Wednesday is still garbage day.
In response to some emails and to some events in my personal life, I’ve taken a new interest in this topic.
Stay tuned–there may be some opinions expressed in the upcoming posts on “preserving beyond your lifetime.” Some readers may not agree with those opinions. But if we’ve caused to think about “preserving beyond your lifetime,” then the purpose has been served.