Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Family History: Don't Keep It to Yourself!

Don't wait to share what you know about your family's history. 

Maybe you're just beginning your research or, like me, you've invested years in your ancestor search. Either way, share now to get the info to relatives and (if you choose) make it available to other researchers.

Some clues are better than NO clues

Consider this list of Steiner siblings, jotted on the back of a 1930s business card by my hubby's grandfather, Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970). The list included his wife, Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure (1878-1948), and her eight older siblings, with birth years as remembered. 

How lucky that Brice wrote down this information--not wanting it to be lost--and my sister-in-law shared it with me, clues to be followed up. Not every detail in Brice's handwritten notes was correct, but the clues were much better than beginning with nothing. I'm so grateful he didn't keep it to himself.

Thanks to this listing, I had a head start in locating vital records, burial places, and other facts to flesh out and verify the family tree. Brice left other handwritten clues, too, steering me in the right direction to identify members of older generations. In turn, I've shared this list and similar genealogical clues about deceased people on my public family trees, to allow other researchers to make use of them. 

Share works in progress?

Even if your family tree information is incomplete or hasn't yet been verified, I encourage you to discuss with your relatives with the warning that your research is a "work in progress." 

Hearing what you've learned may help your relatives recall something from the past. I still have relatives casually mention key details previously unknown to me--leading to interesting breakthroughs! When something I write on a pedigree chart or family tree chart has not been confirmed, I include a question mark or "circa" or "about" or some other indicator that this is a "work in progress."

In addition to public family trees on multiple genealogy sites, I have a couple of private family trees on Ancestry. I use these for experimentation and I fully recognize they're not ready for prime time. Still, private trees can be helpful to other researchers. 

Recently, someone asked to see a private tree, listing his ancestors with that surname. Unfortunately, there was no connection. My ancestor had changed to that surname as an adult, and no one else on the tree carried that surname. Although disappointed, the other researcher was able to move on, investigating different possibilities in trying to locate more of his ancestors. 

To be continued . . . with a post about LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe).

For more ideas about keeping family history safe for future generations and researchers, please check out my newly-revised book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, 2d edition.


  1. Yes, it's great to share info with others! I, unfortunatley keep my tree private, but share info with others when they ask. :)

  2. I have made family books and given them to my daughters and my sister's boys. Nobody jumps up and down with joy. My nephew has a YouTube channel where he posts his videos that he makes for his students. I watched one in which he mentioned the Freedman's Bureau records. I sent him a quick text and told him about OUR ancestor that I found through those records making the point that occasionally you can find White people in there too. Yesterday he asked exactly how the ancestor is related because he is getting ready to talk about her and the records in class this week. HA! So I agree - share even with those who are seemingly not interested.

  3. I learned the following from Mike Karsten at a conference years ago: It’s better to share some info now than no info never! That advice is what prompted me to start a blog.

  4. My main reason for starting a genealogy blog was so I could share a) the family tree info b) all the wonderful pictures of ancestors and documents my grandmother kept. You never know when someone will come looking for the info.