- The most important documents in genealogy are vital records - birth, marriage and death certificates. I keep these in an archival safe binder separate from all my other paperwork. I also include copies of Parish Registers. The binder is clearly labeled with its contents and I have added a sticker that says "Important Documents - Do Not Destroy". I am hoping that this will prevent any descendants from destroying these. I have also scanned all of these certificates and keep them on a DVD which I store in a different location as back up.
- Next I keep all other important genealogical documents such as wills, property deeds, military papers, citizenship papers and school records in a separate archival safe box. I have these papers organized by surname and again I have the box clearly labeled with its contents. I do not have a "do not destroy" sticker on this box. I will leave this decision up to my descendants although I do hope they will see the importance of these documents and decide to keep them and pass them on. I haven't yet scanned these documents and put them on DVD but I do intend to do that in the near future.
- I have two scrapbooks for my family history story. One for my husbands side of the family and one for my side. I will elaborate in a later post how I organize these and the type of album I like to use. I do not use original one-of-a-kind heritage photographs in these scrapbooks, I have copies made for the scrapbooks. I keep my original heritage photographs in a 3-up acid-free Pioneer Album and I have a note included that states that these are "One-of-a-Kind Heritage Photographs" and "Do Not Destroy - Keep in the Family". I have most of these pictures scanned onto DVD and stored off-site for backup. I hope that my descendants will want to keep the scrapbooks and possibly continue adding to them and passing them down. If, for some reason, they do not want the scrapbooks at least the heritage photographs should survive.
- I have one large "Research Binder" where I keep my Family Record Sheets (printed from my Family Tree Software) and behind each Family Record Sheet I have copies of all the supporting documentation. The reason I keep a printed record is because I don't want a descendant to inherit the Family Tree Software but not be able to read it. Technology changes so quickly and if a couple of generations passes before someone decides to carry on with the research it is a real possibility that their technology may not be able to read our DVD's. As long as no one destroys this binder the information will always be available to whoever wants it.
- The remainder of my research and notes are stored in binders, drawers and files. I have a filing system that works well for me and I'll elaborate more on that in future posts.
As you can tell there is a large accumulation of paper and although everything is well labeled and organized I sadly realize that it is a real possibility that my descendants may have no interest in keeping all of this work, or they just may not have the room to store it. By carefully keeping original vital records and one-of-a-kind photographs separate I am hoping that these will make it down the line for sure. They basically consist of one binder and 2 photo albums right now. I am also hopeful that my 2 scrapbooks and research binder will also make it down the line. My system is not perfect but hopefully not everything will end 'up in smoke'
I know this is hard for us passionate genealogists to think that someone may literally burn up all of our hard work but the reality is there. Take some time to think about how you keep your genealogical records. If something happened to you today would your descendants be able to identify the really important documents that should be kept from the records that perhaps are not so important to someone not as passionate as us. Or is there the possibility that a descendant could look at all that paper and think "I'm not interested in this" or "I don't have the space to keep this" and destroy everything, including vital records and photographs without even realizing it? If so, take some time today to rethink how you keep and organize your records. Don't let all of your hard work go 'up in smoke'.
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