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A Plan to Create My Genealogical Legacy

I have done genealogical research for a long time, decades in fact. What will happen to all my work? Genealogists often discuss this issue.

In a perfect world, I would pass it on to another interested family member who would continue my work. In the real world, however, no one like that exists. My sons have little interest in their family tree, nor do my nieces and nephew. My cousins and their children do not pursue genealogy either.

That fact leaves me with a lifetime accumulation of family group sheets spanning many generations. It leaves me with a file cabinet full of documentation I have not scanned into digital form. It leaves me with hundreds of volumes of genealogical publications that fill many bookcases in my home office.

I do not want this work to go for naught. If family members do not want it, what can I do? I have thought about it over the years, and so far, I have developed something of a plan:

  1. I continually publish newly-discovered information and family relationships online at my Web Trees site. Source citations appear here. Anyone can re-trace my research steps without the physical copies of the documents. Someday I may digitize them and attach them to the online tree, as my husband/tech adviser has done with his. But for now, the paper copies serve only for my own quick reference use. Except for heirloom documents like my grandmother’s 8th grade diploma, they could be tossed.
  2. I think no one will maintain my website when I no longer can. For this reason, I have begun entering my family group sheets into the FamilySearch online tree. The information that has taken me a lifetime to collect can remain there, accessible to anyone, forever. If my family wants to throw away all my paper copies of this data, they can do it knowing the information will survive.
  3. I acquired much of my genealogy library from a cousin in a previous generation. Her father and my grandfather were brothers, so we did not share several of the maternal lines she actively researched. Consequently, many of the volumes she collected have no relevance to me. I can begin to weed these from my collection. To dispose of them, I can offer them to the genealogical collection at the Denver Public Library or pass them on to other researchers at my local genealogical societies. In the future, my family could dispose of the remaining core collection the same way.

That’s my plan. In a nutshell, I publish detailed information as I acquire it on my website, and I simultaneously build an online tree for posterity at FamilySearch. I spent October doing just that. FamilySearch now has all my information on my great-great grandfather Thomas Sherman and his family. I will write a character sketch of him for my family for Christmas this year.

I urge all genealogists to make provision for their own research materials. So much time, effort, and passion goes into documenting a family tree. Find a way to preserve your work.

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