Sunday, November 1, 2015

Gen Do-Over: Do You Have a Genealogical "Will"?

Farkas-Marks wedding, 1930s, New York City
The whole point of this year's Genealogical Do-Over is to be sure we have accurate, complete, detailed, and proven family tree information. But what happens to all this marvelous data in the future?

Please think about writing your Genealogical "Will" to be sure all your hard work and carefully-researched materials are preserved for future generations. This may well be the most important step in the entire process, to avoid family historians having to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel when you already have so much to share with your family.

I'm lucky: I have a volunteer from my side of the family and another from hubby's side of the family to take custody of all the archived records, files, photos, and family tree data, both hard copies and electronically. I'm also leaving each of these genealogy heirs a sum of money to help them preserve all my genealogical data so it gets passed down for many years.

So start by identifying your genealogical heirs. Then, with a written document, be sure your genealogical heirs know the location and disposition of:
  • Photographs (all captioned, right?!) Above, a treasured framed photo in my possession of a Farkas family wedding, showing my grandma (seated second from right) at her sister Jeanne's wedding) and grandpa (third from right, standing). I've willed this to my genealogical heir so it will always be in the family.
  • Family histories in bound or printed form
  • Diaries and notebooks from ancestors and relatives
  • Online family trees 
  • Correspondence about genealogy with relatives, historical societies, etc.
  • Original documentation (marriage/death/birth certs for instance)
  • Computer files with family tree data
  • Audio files (I have microcassettes) containing oral histories
  • DVDs, flash drives, and other electronic media containing digitized versions of genealogy data
Please emphasize to your heirs that nothing is to be thrown away. There are ways to distribute things that the family doesn't want to retain. Over the past two years, I've been culling my collection and returning photos of distant relatives and family friends to their families so they can be passed down in those lines.

In addition, I've gifted items (like a WWII war bonds wallet and an 1800s handwritten notebook of debits and credits) to historical societies and museums to be archived and maintained for the future.

To help plan your genealogical "will," check out the following links I found through a quick online search (not an endorsement, just a suggestion for more reading and follow-up). Also consider getting professional advice about your own personal situation!
  • Thomas MacEntee's compact book about how to arrange for your genealogy research to be preserved "after you're gone" (see his YouTube video here).
  • A template for a genealogical "will," from Devon Family History Society.
  • A template from the Northern Neck of Virginia Law Page for a genealogical "will."
  • Guest post on Geneabloggers by Paul Brooks about this topic.
  • Genealogical will file posted to Gen Do-Over's Facebook page by Carol Corbett Ellis-Jones.
UPDATE: Read about how and why to make a genealogical "will" in my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

4 comments:

Corinne Mitchell said...

Marian, what a very value-packed post you have written with so much detail. I really admire how much thought and organization you have devoted to this!

Marian Burk Wood said...

Corinne, thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment. I wrote my genealogical will this weekend and my heirs know exactly what is where and how to carry on the research (but of course not for MANY years yet). Hope your research is going well!

Jana Last said...

Marian,

I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2015/11/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-november-6.html

Have a great weekend!

Marian Burk Wood said...

Thank you, Jana, for including me in your Fab Finds! I'm honored. Enjoy your weekend!