Dec 15, 2019

Posted | 10 Comments

Preparing Your Family History Records for Handover – Month 1 progress report

In November 2019 I set a 12 month personal genealogy blog challenge – Preparing Your Family History for Hand Over in the Future. Read about the issues I am going to tackle over the next 12 months and follow my progress. It is obviously a topic that resonates with lots of other genealogists and family historians.

Nobody wants to see their research thrown out so my plan is to sort it, downsize, digitise, write the family stories and share it with other family members and put it online for future generations.

How did the first month go?

Two main observations – you have to be ruthless and you can’t let yourself be side tracked by what you are rediscovering and had forgotten about.

Two 4 drawer filing cabinets

These contain paper documents, research notes, correspondence and lots of very faded photocopies, rusty staples and paper clips. They are organised by surname and some surnames have subdivisions by given names. There are also some place files. I first started this system in 1977 hence the faded copies and rust. As much of this information is now online, I tackled this area first.

Two empty filing drawers

Randomly selecting files and going through them, I managed to get rid of a lot of paper. Printouts of electoral rolls, convict records, wills, and similar records are now online, plus I have entered the data into the software program or my draft family history for that family. Over the last few years I have also captured digital images of these documents but I will tackle those when I get to the digital files do over. Remember don’t get sidetracked.

There was also lots of correspondence mostly generated by the old GRDs (Genealogical Research Directories) of the 1980s and 1990s. I seem to have kept everything even if it wasn’t related to my family. All gone, ruthless is now my middle name. Today we can look for people researching the same families online, which just wasn’t possible last century. That statement makes me feel so old!

Another observation is that I couldn’t decide on what to do with some ‘stuff’ so rather than get sidetracked I refiled it for a further sort another time.

Obviously I didn’t manage to cull every file but I did free up two drawers. Very liberating.

Mum’s Photographs

These were unsorted in a garbage bag and hastily collected when she went into aged care two years ago. There were also some photo albums but they are on a shelf in the study wardrobe – a separate project. This was a huge job and the dining table was extended for several days while I tried to group the photos into some logical order. I ended up with photos of my brother and his family, my own family, Mum and Dad photos, Mum’s bowling photos and there were also lots of travel photos and I did recognise some New Zealand and Hong Kong views.

First sort of Mum’s photos

I decided not to keep anything that was not connected to a family member. This meant all the tourist type photos went unless Mum or Dad was in the photo. This cleared out a lot and then I tried to sort further and identify things like Christmas or birthdays. This was more time consuming so I ended up putting the various groups of photos into paper bags or plastic sleeves and then storing them all in a single archives box.

Of course I still have to identify/date people and places, scan photos I want to keep and pass them on to my brother or more distant relatives. Mum’s school photos for Buranda State School 1939 and 1941 I scanned and put them on the Buranda State School Facebook page in case anyone else was looking for them.  This is another way we can share our photos that may be relevant to a wider community.

Personal Biography Folders

I started these in 1981 and I can’t remember why but they document my life in archives, library and genealogy from then to 2019. There are 18 folders all fully packed with memorabilia that highlights events in my life. The reason I looked at these folders was that one of my family history writing students is doing a personal memoir and this reminded me of my own folders and life story. Many of her personal family anecdotes about school, playing or life before television brought back my own family memories.

Personal biography folders to be scanned

No one is going to want these folders. They might flick through them and laugh at my changing hairstyles, choice of glasses and what I was wearing but despite their value to me, their is no lasting value for anyone else.

These are an obvious candidate for scanning and creating a digital file of my life events as reflected in the folders. But what a huge and boring job to scan, name the files and then file them probably in the same chronological order. Definitely for another day.

These folders will also help someone to write a eulogy for me at a future date, but given my present ill health, I won’t think about that just yet.

Emails

I keep saying that I will get on top of my emails and stay there – but that never seems to happen and I end up with lots of emails to read at a later date. Plus there seems to be a lot of advertising type emails so I have been unsubscribing to lessen the number of emails. I then dedicated time to going through and doing a quick cull of obviously non genealogy/business/home emails. This was rewarding but still a lot to look at more closely. An ongoing process. Perhaps a few hours each week or month might see this project finish within the 12 months.

What Next?

It is really good to see progress but it is also obvious that this 12 month challenge is huge and perhaps I should start calling it a 24 month challenge!

I think continuing with the paper folders in the filing cabinets is a priority. If I can free up drawers then I will be able to store some of the three ring binders in them, rather than have them on bookshelves or in the study wardrobe shelves. If nothing else, the  study will look more tidy.

Passing on the photos to my brother is also something I want to do – for this I will select a range of his children’s photos but not all to scan for the family history. Same for my own photos – I won’t scan them all. Any photos that are not 100% good/interesting  will not be kept.

Dad, Mum, my brother and me ca 1974

For something new I am going to look at all the draft family histories I have and see if I can quickly tidy them up and to put them into a working order – those closest to being finished to those where I have hardly started. These will be  put online and as my website is archived by the National Library of Australia these stories will be available to others after my website no longer exists.

That’s the plan. I can’t see myself physically publishing but the final decision is a way down the track.

Another ambitious month coming up. It really is just a question of quietly working away on an area and thinking – will anyone want this? If it is digitised then there are more options for sharing and saving. Wish me luck and stay tuned for more monthly reports as we move into 2020.




  1. Great job, Shauna. Keep the momentum going. Having the National Library of Australia archive your website is a fantastic way to preserve your work.

  2. Excellent progress in one short month, well done.

  3. Bobbie Edes says:

    It’s great to read how you’re going with this challenge Shauna, I’m sure it’s giving lots of us ideas of how much time we need to devote. I began my de-cluttering when we shifted two years ago and keep meaning to go back to it.
    To be realistic, I need to think about it for a 2021 challenge as it’s going to take me that long to catch up with entering ‘stuff’ from my last genealogy jaunt.

  4. Love reading blogs that will help inspire others who keep putting off all of those “must do” tasks.

    Keep up the great work – and importantly reporting on it – definitely helps prioritise things in my mind.

  5. Di Christensen says:

    Thanks Shauna
    Have a better year in 2020 and a very
    Happy Christmas to you.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge. It’s fab that your posts are most suitable for sharing with Caloundra Family History Facebook Page.

  7. Congratulations on getting so much done when you are feeling yucky. You are certainly an inspiration to me as I also need to sort and work out how to leave my research. I’ve started in a tiny way by publishing a couple of stories on my blog instead of physically publishing booklets for the family. There’s interest certainly but not huge so it will be there later when they want it.
    Take care

  8. CONGRATULATIONS! Your blog has been included in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at

    https://thatmomentintime-crissouli.blogspot.com/2019/12/friday-fossicking-20th-dec-2019.html

    Thank you, Chris

    Well done, Shauna.. you put me to shame.. 🙂

  9. Shauna Hicks says:

    Thanks everyone for the comments. Just seeing them now. Everything is going well.

  10. thanks for sharing this to your article is very interesting

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