Monday, July 27, 2015

Continuing Education:

What Happens to Your Research After You Are Gone?

Have you given a thought to what happens to your research after your death? If you have managed to publish one or more completed histories on your ancestors, you are ahead of the game. Copies have probably already been sold or gifted to family members. However, even though your extended family members have copies, does that mean your work will survive and be available to future researchers? What else can you do?

Copies should be donated to libraries and archives. After all, that is where the researchers of the future will be searching. However, before you send these facilities a copy, make sure they ACCEPT this type of material and in what format—because not every facility does. Most libraries and archives prefer a bound book. If it is a loose manuscript, spiral or honeycomb bound, be sure there is a 1-inch left margin since they will want to bind it. Here’s a partial list of who should receive a copy:

•Library of Congress
•Your local library
•A major public library or college/university in your area
•The local historical society
•State historical society
•Similar libraries and societies in all the states in which your ancestors lived

Yes, that’s a long list, but an invaluable list. It may seem expensive to you, but it will be valuable to the researchers who come after you: your donated research will save them time and often they can add to what you have already accomplished.

What can be done with your genealogy files to preserve them if you have no descendants or your family isn’t interested in your work? I am probably not the only one who has discovered family histories, photo albums, diaries, baby books, etc. at garage sales or charity thrift stores. I would hate to think that my lifetime’s gathering of family information, expensive documents, photographs, hard-to-find and hard-to-prove connections were thrown in a dumpster, sold to strangers at an estate sale, or scattered to the wind.

What should you do with your family papers, documents, photos and files? Many things can be done with these materials to preserve them. Small collections might be scanned and uploaded onto an appropriate website. Larger collections might be bound as-is, or preservation photocopied and bound.

If you decide to give your material to any archive, the more organized it is, the better. Organized files are easier to prepare and catalog, and the material will be available for use by the public if it is easy to process. You might consider a title page, a table of contents, an index, pages that are uniform in size, dividers by family, geographic area, or record type, or other ways of organizing the material. You could type a page of explanation telling what families, geographic areas and time periods the material covers, as well as a description of its organization.

Reprinted from Nuestras Raices, the quarterly journal of the Genealogical Society of Hispanic America, with the author's permission.