Casefile Clues

20 September 2007

Where Will Your Stuff Go?

Every so often the "genealogical clause" to add to your will makes the rounds on the internet. While such an addendum that specifies where your genealogical materials are to be placed is not a bad idea, there are several things worth remembering:

  • Libraries, archives, and historical collections find space to be at a premium. It costs money to property store and maintain collections. Unorganized material, stacks of photocopies, undocumented family group charts are not highly desireable and just because your will says "give it to the blah blah library" does not mean blah blah library has to take it. Of course, if you leave a sizeable donation to blah blah library that might increase the chances they take it.
  • Frankly, the attorney and your executor might not care too much what happens to your "stack of papers" and filing cabinets. They will be concerned about real assets, money and any personal items of value and personal items that family members squabble over. Even if your will says your papers are to be donated somewhere, they may end up being donated to the local dump.
But my will says that "thus and so" should happen to my papers. To be honest, once your will is being probated, you are dead. You have no control.

What to do?

Work on preserving your information NOW. Work on sharing your information NOW.

Write a documented biography of one ancestor and submit it to a local genealogical society newsletter for publication. Write up a set of parents and their children, documenting every fact, relationship, and date you can using reasonable standards of documentation. Submit that for publication in a local newsletter or quarterly. Most of these county publications go begging for material to publish and this way you have at least preserved SOMETHING even if writing the WHOLE BOOK proves to be a larger task than you can accomplish.

And remember. Most of these genealogical society publications go to quite a few libraries and may even end up being microfilmed. This way you have preserved part of your information. There are other ways to preserve your information to be certain. The key is to actively work on preservation BEFORE you leave this life. Don't wait on someone else to do it for you after you are gone.
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