Preserve Your Family Legacy

[Editor’s note: Thomas MacEntee of discusses why you should ensure that your family’s history is preserved for generations to come]
unknown two boys 1892

How much thought have you given to making sure that all your hard work researching your family history doesn’t go down the drain? Have you taken steps to ensure that your family’s legacy, their photographs and documents don’t get lost or tossed out by accident? What about finding someone within your family to continue the genealogy research once you’ve passed on?

These are questions that we don’t take time to answer perhaps because it means we have to contemplate our own mortality and time in the future when we are not here on this planet. Just like estate planning or specifying your last wishes, consider a plan to ensure that your family’s legacy endures.

Make a Legacy To-Do List

It’s easy to tackle the problem of preserving the family’s legacy with a simple list of tasks. Here are some you should consider:

  • Create an Inventory. Some call this a “master list” or “road map.” It is a document that lists everything you consider to be included in your research. List items, box numbers if used, and location. Keep this list with your other important legal papers.
  • Start archiving materials. You’ve probably put this off like many of us have, but make sure you are using archival quality folders and files to preserve hard copies of photographs, documents and other paper items.
  • Digitize photos and documents. Yes, you’re going to archive these items (you are, aren’t you?) but you should have a digital copy for safekeeping. This is where the Flip-Pal mobile scanner can be used to scan items, even 3-dimensional ones like medals. Many Flip-Pal owners say this is the easiest part of legacy preservation—just keep a box of items to scan and scan while you’re watching television at night!
  • Don’t forget online items! This means places where you’ve uploaded your research data or a GEDCOM file. Also include any site where you’re storing photos such as Picasa. Write down the website URLs along with your login and password and make it part of your inventory.

Do It Like There’s No Tomorrow!

It is easy to put these tasks off for another day especially when discussing something related to the end of your life. Not only could something happen to you tomorrow, but a natural disaster could strike and damage your materials as well.

Preserving your documents and photos digitally using the Flip-Pal mobile scanner allows you to create digital copies in a snap. In addition, the Picture Keeper flash drive makes it easy to place those digital copies in a safe place along with your other estate planning papers such as a firebox or a safe deposit box.

Nominate a Legacy Keeper

It is likely that you’ve already discussed your research with either immediate or extended family members. You might even have one or two cousins who help you with the research. Take time to discuss this issue of “legacy continuity” with them and select one or two persons to carry the torch after you’re gone.

Also make sure they know where your materials are stored, including those online! You may want to prepare a document listing the inventory of research as well as a list of websites along with logins and passwords so they can access the online materials. You don’t need to share this now, but make sure the document is placed with your other estate planning documents.

Explore Non-Family Options

For whatever reason, you may be in a situation where there just isn’t anyone in your family to whom you can entrust your research and materials. One option is to contact your local genealogy or historical society and discuss donating your collection to their library. Most organizations would be happy to receive a well-document record set that they can use as part of their holdings.

Don’t assume that you can just specify the organization in your estate planning papers and you’re done! Just because you designate a group to inherit your research, doesn’t mean they’ll accept it. It is recommended that you contact the society now and discuss various options on passing along your work to them. In addition, make sure that your family members understand your arrangements so there isn’t anyone interrupting your well laid plans for the society.

Your Love of Family History Will Go On

Taking steps now to preserve your family legacy with useful tools like the Flip-Pal mobile scanner will ensure that your family’s history is not lost and will be passed along from generation to generation.

Photo: Two Boys [unidentified], 1892. Digital image in possession of author.

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