Saturday, October 30, 2010

Genealogy Lesson 19 - What to do with all of your genealogy "stuff"

I was looking around my office one day and noticed how many files I had. I literally have hundreds of file folders, filled with copies from deed books or census records. I am extremely neat and organized, everything has its place, but I started thinking about what happens to all of this stuff when I die?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized all of these files have a 99% chance of ending up in the trash. My kids might care less about them so I am running a huge risk of wasting all of my efforts...in the long run. I made a bold decision, one that I might regret later, but I am going through with it for better or worse. I am throwing everything away myself and not waiting for them to do it!

I decided to go through each file and scan everything into my computer, either as a JPEG or PDF. I am then sending copies to anybody I know researching that family. There is no sense in being stingy with what I have if it might advance research on that line. I am also making sure that I have entered everything into my genealogy database and that all of my entries are neat and uniform. My goal for years has been to put together a book of all my research and I am finally doing it!

I also want to focus on preserving the history of my ancestors as opposed to my relatives in general. This is counter to what most genealogists try to do but I want to actually finish the book project and cannot do it while trying to fit in 2,500 people. I want to go back and look for deeds and stuff from my ancestors, that I have neglected to look for in the past. I want to fill in the blanks that I have been too preoccupied with aunts and cousins to do. I also only want to go back about six, maybe seven generations. Anything beyond that tends to get too sketchy for me. I do not operator on theory, only fact.

Now do not get me wrong, I am still looking for marriage, death and SS-5 info for aunts and uncles that may give me info on their parents, my ancestors. I just cannot focus on them any more. I am going to get out a first revision of my family history book, with my ancestors only, and then I might go back and do more detailed books on each family surname. I have enough info in my files to write ten books, easily. I just need to shrink my focus to make sure it gets done.  I need to follow the advice I have been giving you all-along!

The last big decision I have made is to keep only original documents and photographs. I am then going to donate all of those to a local library or society. I have a lot of old, original documents that would make a great public collection. I would like to work a deal with William and Mary or the Library of Virginia to one day start the "Lett Collection" - sounds cool right! I have been a collector of old Virginia documents for some time and will have a rather nice collection by the time I retire from the game. I would like to see it go somewhere safe and enduring.

This is my plan...now put yourself in my shoes.  What are you really going do to with 450 pages of census copies?  What will your legacy be?  Do you want to be remembered as a pack rat or as an author and collector of valuable documents?  Do you want your research in a library or in a trash heap?

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