For years the thought of all my work being cast aside when I am gone has haunted me. What about all those original copies of old deeds, pension records, wills and the personal research notes that I so pain- staking gathered while putting together the family histories that I value. Will anyone want them or even take the time to read through them before throwing those years of work away in the nearest dumpster?
My solution: Simple convert them to documents on my computer that can then be shared with everyone via CD, email, flash drive or what ever form the future holds. Then my work can be preserved in a form the kids will want to keep and it is easy to share with other researchers.
The Task: Very time consuming.
The problems: Guess what. I didn’t do such a good job 40 years ago as a novice researcher. The documentation is very poor. I find myself looking at those old folders and little pieces of paper wondering where did I find that piece of information and why is it recorded this way. Shall I keep the original copy of that will that is now faded because the ink used to copy it way back when has faded over the years, or shall I just transcribe it and record where I got it. Then the next generation will know where to look for the original copy is they really want it. I even found poorly copied pictures of an old oak tree that the family dearly loved 75 years ago. No wonder our children tend to throw away moms old files. The only person they are of value to is me.
The reward: My genealogy was done. I had solved many of the mysteries, added history to the names. I was done. Or so I thought. Over the last 40 years a lot has changed in the genealogy world. Today I can sit at home use my internet, contact relatives I didn’t even know existed, Check out libraries catalogs before making visits, Contact genealogy societies and other researchers via email and share my work with others with out even leaving the comfort of my office. And when I do make those trips to the Libraries, Societies, Cemeteries, Court Houses and Relatives I can go prepared.
I am so grateful for researchers who have gone before me. Who worked to diligently to gather and preserve records for us to use today. I have often heard people complain about the quality of the work done in the past or question why didn’t this get added to the research. Or even those statements well they got it all wrong, didn’t they know better. We look at today’s technology and forget how hard it was to do research way back when.
Much of my mother’s work was done on site or in the homes of relatives who still knew and remembered the ancestors I now only read and write about. How grateful I am that she sacrificed her time and travels to do the leg part of the project. Thank you mom for visiting and talking with those ancestors and gleaning their stories for posterity so that my work would be easier. She started out with a typewriter and notebooks. Today I use the computer, cell phones, email, scanners and other electronic equipment to make my job easier.
As I began the project of cleaning up my folders I also discovered that my job wasn’t done as a matter of fact it was far from it. While cleaning out the folder of The Parr family I discovered that I have two separate fathers listed for Richard Parr. Apparently I gathered the information, stuck it in the folder and never really investigated it properly. A new job to tackle. More films to order. (Only 7% of the information can be found on the internet). More libraries to visit and maybe even a trip back to Mississippi to visit another court house.
As I continue to clean out the folders, I am recording and documenting those old pictures and little scraps of paper in new folders on my computer and then discarding them. As for the old wills and original documents. I have transcribed and or scanned them into my family documentation. But my kids will have to decide what to do with them. Some things I just can’t discard at this point in time. But at least I know that they are saved in two forms and can be easily shared with others who might want them.
Words of Wisdom gleaned:
1. Your genealogy is never done only at a brick wall to be moved later.
2. Keep a good Research Log so you know where to look next time.
3. Decide on a filing system, adapt it to your needs and be consistent.
4. Understand that someday it will be passed on.
5. Remember not all research can be done on the internet.
6. Revisit your files occassionally to look at those brick walls. Some new information may be just around the corner.
7. Find a database you like and use it.
8. Record as you go, doesn’t let it pile up.
9. Be grateful to those who have researched the family before you. Remember that they did the best they could with the information that was available at that time.
10. Be grateful for the tools we have today and learn to use them.
11. Understand that the field is constantly changing and there is always something knew you can learn.
12. Enjoy the trip and learn to love your research.