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November 18, 2011

What Will You Do With Your Genealogy Research?

Randy Seaver wrote an interesting blog post about his hopes and his plans for his genealogy research after his demise. For an avid genealogist of a certain age, this is a question of huge importance.

I am a firm  believer that no one,  no matter how interested, will want my 6 filing cabinet drawers of loose papers. No one will want dozens of family surname binders. 

This extends to all of us. Who would want drawers and drawers of loose papers, no matter how well organized? Who has the time to read it all or the space required to store it?

Digital copies on DVDs? Maybe.. but will they survive technological changes? Will they be readable 50 years from now?

It is unlikely that any museum or library will want your work in loose form.

For me, the solution has always been clear in my mind. The only way I can come close to guaranteeing that my years of hard work will not be lost is to write and publish family books. I can self-publish using any number of websites such as,, and soon.

I can print books myself, create laminated covers and bind them using coils. I could print copies of all documents, run off a family pedigree chart and place everything about a specific person or surname in a binder.
That doesn't work well for me as I would end up with 50 or more binders. I don't think anyone would want to give them house room! But it is an option.

That takes care of the documents and research I've done. But what about treasured photographs?

Some of the Family Books I've self-published
Again, in my mind it's a clear choice. I use Shutterfly to create family photo albums. I label each photograph and sometimes I put in a brief sentence or two about that specific photo. Then I have them printed and I distribute them NOW to family members.

I'm not going to risk keeping them in my house and hoping that when I'm gone my executor will take the time to distribute them. By giving them out now, I've also got insurance against a fire or other calamity destroying all the copies in my possession.

Another thing I do  is  create photo books on Shutterfly and order 4 in hard cover - one for each of my children and one for me. Then I inform other family members (siblings, cousins, niece and nephews) that copies in soft cover are available. (Soft cover is cheaper than hard cover. ) If they wish to have their own copy, I simply charge them exactly what Shutterfly charges me, then I have the copy shipped directly to the family member who asked for it.

Not wanting to leave anything to chance, I've also worked very hard and consistently over the years to encourage my grandchildren in the love of family history and genealogy. I've played games with them, talked to them, shared stories, showed photographs and family treasures (talking about the ancestor whose photo or treasure it was).

My theory is that since I have 13 and soon to be 14 grandchildren, at least one of them might take up the torch for me! And if no one does, that's okay too because I know that some of them will remember bits and pieces of the stories and be able to pass those memories on to their children.

The last thing I've done is to tell my husband and also leave written instructions for my executors as to what I would like done with my collection of genealogy resource books and my collection of Civil War Era Photo Albums that are not of our family.  My wishes may or may not be carried out but I've done what I can to ensure that they are.

Have you thought about what will happen to your years of research? Have you developed a plan or set one in motion? I'm curious to learn what others are planning.


Melissa Mayhue said...

Excellent points. As you say, a consideration for all of us with so much material collected that WE see as valuable.

~ Melissa Mayhue

Pam Beveridge said...

Great post! With all the groundwork you've done, I'm sure there'll be at least one grandchild to take up the mantle.

Debi Austen said...

I've been working on my granddaughter who is going on 10. She seems mildly interested so I'll keep pushing it. I think it really hits home with her when I'm able to show her a photo and tell her a story about that person. I need to work on that more.

Thanks for a great post - it's really got me thinking.

Celia Lewis said...

Great points and descriptions of your current ways of handling all the docs and photos etc. It's clearly time for me to start writing my family history stories and DO something with all I've collected to date. Thanks for a super post.

Judy Webster said...

Many people don't know about Legal Deposit laws (which vary, of course, depending on where you live). In Australia we are required by law to deposit a copy of our family history book with specific libraries. This is great, because it ensures that our work is preserved. Unfortunately not everyone deposits their book. A friend of mine didn't, and years later he received a letter of demand from the National Library and had to get extra copies printed. It would have been much easier and cheaper to do it in the beginning! I have said in my will that I want certain parts of my family history material to go to the Society of Australian Genealogists' primary records collection.

Anonymous said...

Great ideas. I do not have any children, not from lack of wanting or trying, but my nieces are very interested in it. They always want to help me search.

I am putting my photos digitally now. One for each side of the family.


Anonymous said...

Lots of great tips Lorine, and I do think publishing and depositing our books in reference libraries is probably the best per Judy's comments for Oz (where I am also). Good ideas re photos too...and encouraging grandchildren though mine are still a bit little.

Lynn Palermo said...

Lorine, a current project is under way with the Canadian Library Archives. Canada 150 is a national project to encourage Canadians to assemble their family history in time for the 150th birthday of Canada on July 1st, 2017. The Canadian Archives would be more then happy to have a copy of your family history book/books.

Dawn said...

I've been telling my kids all along about the stuff I discover about our ancestors. Just recently I found one that had been in an asylum in Ontario, Canada for nearly forty years. My oldest daughter said that was the first time she found genealogy stories fascinating...whatever it takes, I guess. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your suggestions.It is soimportant that all our work is not lost.

The Librarian said...

In addition to creating books and submitting them to the state libraries mentioned in the books, I've joined numerous lineage societies which documents my work and best of all, in my will I wrote my genealogy (I, Kathryn, was born XYZ, at ABC to Sam and Sara. I married Johnnie on XYZ at ABC. Our children are Jimmie and Tommie born XYZ at ABC. I joined these lineage societies and include my society numbers. I've put family histories ion these state libraries A, B, C.). I figure that opening to my will should give some researcher happy heart failure

Jim said...

Great Plan! We like the software from Passage Express to make CDs/DVDs of our research results. We include family stories, pictures, movies and even gedcom files. The CDs look attractive, are inexpensive to publish and easy to use. Even though no one else in our family has shown any passion for our history, we send them as gifts to our kids, grandkids, cousins and nephews/neices - hopefully it will cause someone to "catch the bug".

Anonymous said...

Kudos to you for planning ahead! Like me, I'm sure many of you have received boxes of undated photos, postcards and records. It took me 2 years but I've scanned EVERYTHING and saved to dvds. Gave any family member who was interested a copy, posted the photos and records as public on ancestry and gravesite photos on find-a-grave. In the event of a catastrophe the info has been saved and I've helped other researchers, too.

Lauren Rogers Mahieu said...

Excellent post, great suggestions. I do keep online trees so at least others will find the photos I've uploaded and save them. My son is not into family history, and I worry most about the 1888 grandfather clock (it belonged to my great grandfather) and matching pictures. After reading your post, I will be developing a plan for distributing copies of pictures, etc.

Lauren Mahieu