Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Save Family History with LOCKSS

To keep family history alive, start to share now within the family and, if you choose, outside the family.

The idea is LOCKSS

Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe

Genealogy guru Amy Johnson Crow writes about LOCKSS as a way to prevent genealogy from being lost due to disasters, etc.

Multiple copies within the family

Inside the family, I've been sharing bite-sized (and longer) writeups of family history for a few years. At top of this page are just a few pages from the many booklets I've created, focusing on Civil War ancestors and their spouses, special heirlooms created by ancestors, and an ancestor's military career. Even an ancestor coloring book is a simple way to keep key genealogy details from being lost.

Every descendant receives a colorful printed copy because, well, copies keep ancestors alive for the future. Recipients may flip through the booklet only once and put it on the shelf, but they have it. Some day, when they're more interested, they can take a closer look.

Also, I've digitized 500+ pages of minutes taken at family tree meetings from my mother's Farkas family, 1933-1964. Some cousins received a spiral-bound hard copy, at their request. Younger cousins requested a flash drive OR a PDF file to download. Perhaps the digital format will need upgrading in the future, but having multiple copies (digital/print) circulating in the family gives me more confidence that these documents will survive well into the future. 

Also, I've been experimenting with video-based family history. (I offer a few ideas in the new edition of my book.) Relatives do say they watch, and enjoy...but whether they will ever watch again, I truly don't know. The format is MP4 video and perhaps will be upgradable in the future, as needed. Meantime, multiple copies circulating = better chance the stories will survive, the ancestors will be remembered.

Multiple copies outside the family

Friends and cousins have already shared family history booklets with a variety of institutions that invite submissions, including the Family History Library and the Library of Congress, among others. One couple I know wrote family histories and had them professionally printed and bound for donation to history societies and libraries where their ancestors lived and worked. 

Consider whether a genealogy library, museum, archive, or another institution would be interested in having copies of some or all of your collection, and/or whether you can digitize your collection for yourself and possibly for others.

For instance, the Kentucky Genealogical Society offers special grants to help local museums, libraries, and archives digitize genealogical materials, such as old family letters and other documents of interest to Kentucky researchers. If you have Kentucky-related materials, do check this out--the clock is ticking on this year's grants.

DIY digitizing: The Dallas Genealogical Society highlights how family historians can digitize their own materials for free by going to the Heritage Lab at the Dallas Central Public Library. The Heritage Lab has an impressive array of equipment for use by the public. If you're in the area, this would be one way to transfer those old Super 8 home movies to MP4 video, and share widely within your own family.

However you decide to share, LOCKSS can help keep family history safe for the future. 


  1. These are excellent recommendations. With climate emergencies upon us (flooding, fires, etc.), every genealogist needs to consider how to preserve their collections — and dispersing them to multiple locations is one way to assure the family history survives. Also digitizing to the cloud so at least virtual copies are saved.

  2. I wish there were a place near me that offered free use of a proper scanner. My printer can scan, and it's great for photos and single sheets of paper, but not with books. I started scanning my DAR chapter's minutes that were kept in a journal starting in 1896, but when I heard the book cracking, I stopped for fear of damage.