Preparing Your Family History Records For Hand Over Month 3 Progress Report

15 February 2020

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? Read about it here. Thanks to all those people who have been commenting on my blog posts – I quite often forget to go back and see if there are any comments! It is nice to know that others are also tackling this project as it is one that we all face eventually.

How did the second month go? Read about it here. The feedback through Facebook and on the blog has been wonderful and is partly behind this Month 3 report. It would be too easy to let this project drop because it is huge and there are so many hard decisions to make.

Month 3 has continued at a timely speed on things that don’t really matter. For example, old journals, books and resources are finding new homes with my U3A students. The paper family files continue to shrink but soon I will be at the point of ‘what to do with the rest’? Similarly weeding out the Mum’s family photos is now largely done and there is a small mountain of scanning – so far I haven’t managed to get sufficiently motivated but that day is getting closer.

Who wants my baby shoes?

Memorabilia is proving to be a real stumbling block. What to do with my first pair of shoes? When I first found these quite a few years ago at the back of Mum’s cupboard I was totally surprised. With them was my first pony tail (proving that I definitely had red hair as a child), my Barbie doll and various other bits and pieces. I only kept the baby shoes but I can’t remember why.

No one is interested in my first pair of shoes so why am I so hesitant to throw them in the bin? What happened to being ruthless? Or do I want whoever cleans out my house to see my first pair of shoes? If so, they might have a laugh but chances are, the shoes will go into the bin at that point. What do others think/do with these items?

Mum’s wedding dress is another case in point. Would a local historical society/museum like it as an example of a 1950s wedding dress or are they already inundated with such items? Maybe things were different when people lived in the same house all their lives. Today many people, myself included, move interstate or overseas to live, and memorabilia has no place in a 23kg suitcase when you are moving overseas. I mention this as it was all that my son took with him when he moved to Sweden to live.

E Family Files mirror my paper files system or should. Although I am noticing some inconsistency over time, especially with families where research has progressed quickly. Yes I was saving documents and naming them as I went but in my haste I haven’t been consistent in some families. For example, when I save a document I usually preface it with a descriptor such as Baptism, Marriage, Burial, Census 1841 and so on. This then keeps all similar records for a family together.

With this format it is easy to see those records that don’t comply, but it does take time to tidy up the family files. However, there is no physical space saving within my study as they are digital and just on the laptop. You can spend hours on this type of project without having anything visible to show for the effort. Still it needs to be done.

My biographical files mentioned in earlier reports are proving more of a headache than first thought. Originally I was going to scan and keep, then the plan was to weed and scan only really relevant items, then I was going to do a blog on all documents in each folder as a record of genealogy in the 1980s and 1990s and just scan relevant items. That is proving to be a bit boring (at least for me) but is it likely that someone in the future will want to examine what genealogy was like pre laptop computers and social media? Will my records then become interesting and valuable?

This started me thinking about the whole email world. All our correspondence with friends, families, colleagues and others will in all likelihood disappear. There will be no cache of letters in the archives or manuscripts section of the library for future researchers to discover. All those personal glimpses of the past that we see in letters today won’t be there in the future. This then leads me to think about photo albums and how we value finding them. Yet with all our own photos grouped into categories on our laptops, Facebook or cloudland, will our descendants in a 100 years still discover them? Tidying up your records certainly makes you think of what to keep and how to keep it so that it is not lost to future generations.

But I have skipped over quite a few physical records that need to be tidied up. I need a few more easy targets to get my feeling of success and progress back. Here is an easy one for everyone.

Open the top drawer of your desk and what do you see? Mine is a mess and I do try and tidy it up every few months. I seem to collect pens and pencils at an astonishing rate.

Check out the top drawer on my small filing cabinet? More of the same. Realistically what am I going to do with all of these pens, pencils, name tags and other bits and pieces?

Probably I should do a clean out of all the other study drawers too as a mini project for Month 4. I must also include some photo scanning time and email tidy up time. More family history journals and books need to go and it’s time for another serious

run through the paper files. Having said that I have just spotted all the framed photos and certificates that currently live by the side of the filing cabinet? What to do with them? As you can see, no shortage of things to keep me busy in the coming month.

For those following my project and undertaking the same tasks with your own family records, good luck. Keep going and remember it is a 12 month project and you can’t do it all at once.

Until next month.

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  1. Hi Shauna,
    Well done. Regarding your framed items. I would remove the items from the frames. If they are original items, scan and file. If they are copies, discard or give away. Take the empty frames to the Op Shop or your U3A class. You will feel good about dealing with these larger items too.

  2. Hi Shauna,

    In full agreement with Liz: well done. With memorabilia where you don’t want to keep the object but value the memory, one idea is to photograph the object, write a short description/story and tag it with the photo, then discard or find a home for the object. I’ve found this makes it much easier to decide to free yourself of the object itself.
    Best of luck with your remaining treatments.

  3. Thanks Liz and Susan for those tips. Yes I am taking photos of anything I’m giving away because the image still triggers the memories. The op shop people love me as so much has gone from other parts of the house too.

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