Two years ago we moved into a new home. During our search for a new house we saw lots of places with home offices (one of my “must have” requirements). One large condo we viewed during an open house had a huge bonus room that was someone’s home office. It was packed with stuff and as I examined the room I realized that a genealogist had been at work here. There were books, binders, multiple computers, piles of disks, memory sticks, and printouts hanging on the walls. Unfortunately the realtor told me that the owners were deceased. I knew that nothing was donated to the historical society because I was (at that time) the president of the Londonderry Historical society. It looked like the heirs to the property were going to end up tossing years worth of research.
Don’t let it happen to you!
The time to share your genealogy is NOW. Don’t wait until your research is finished because, for goodness sakes, we all know that it is never finished. There is always another name to lookup, sibling to find, maiden name to research, etc. etc. What you have now is wonderful, even if you are a newbie, and someone else would love to read it.
Here are ten ways to start sharing. You don’t need a vast collection. Sometimes just a few interesting stories can be shared. I know there are more ideas out there, so leave some of your ideas in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
1.) Share online. If you aren’t comfortable sharing all your research, put a subset of your family tree online at Family Search, WikiTree or a pay website like Ancestry.com or MyHeritage.com. Pick a branch that contains a brickwall problem and post that branch for “cousin bait”. Or pick a branch with a famous ancestor and share that just for kicks. Share something about a military hero on Fold3.com. Start with something small, and you can always share more later on down the road.
2.) Share with your family. I know they roll their eyes whenever you bring up the subject of genealogy, but there is probably a cousin or two who would love a pedigree chart or register style report of their branch of the family tree. You can even be fancy and make up a Blurb book or Shutterfly book with charts, photos and stories. I’ll bet that there will be some other siblings or cousins who complain, “Why didn’t I get one, too!”
3.) Choose a branch of the family that lived in one area for three or more generations and download a report on that branch to donate to the local library or historical society. Even if they are located at a distance from you, it is something easy to mail. Attach contact information to the report, along with some photos and maybe even a chart or two. You’ll be surprised how many cousin connections you will make from patrons visiting those facilities.
4.) Scan your family photos and give copies to relatives. My mother took her mom’s photo albums and re-distributed photos to her seven siblings and their children. They appreciated getting photos they had never seen before of their parents and families. Don’t forget to write on the backs of the photos to identify people, places and approximate time periods. If you have a lot of group photos you can make books with Shutterfly or Blurb.com and gift them at Christmas, weddings or family reunions.
5.) If your family has already been written up in a compiled genealogy book, find out if an update has been done recently. Most of the family genealogies that have my family tree were written in the 1890s. At family reunions I have found out who is updating these old genealogies and donated information on my immediate family. Or you can volunteer to write up a new update and collect information from all your cousins. Historical Societies will sometimes fund these updates on local families.
6.) If you are even just a little bit tech savvy, think about sharing your genealogy, photos, stories and charts online in places that aren’t just online trees. Think about starting a blog you can post to on a regular basis. Maybe you can download everything to a website once and then just occasionally maintain it. Be sure to leave your passwords and website/blog information in your “When I pass” file for your heirs (along with your social media information).
7.) Join a well-established lineage society. This isn’t just for bragging rights, but it ensures that your lineage will be safely stored and shared with future generations. If you belong to a lineage society, a small, not too expensive bronze marker can be attached to your gravestone when you pass. Any future researcher, even decades from now, will see this and know that they can find your tree by contacting the appropriate lineage society for lineage papers.
8.) Consider writing an article about a small branch of your family, or the genealogical background on an interesting story in your family tree. These articles can be submitted to your local newspaper, historical society newsletter, family association, genealogy magazines or journals, lineage society newsletters or other organizations. Start with one small idea and find a good place to share your story.
9.) Have a talk with your descendants or heirs (children, grandchildren, friends, nieces or nephews) to see who might be interested in inheriting your genealogy “stuff” when you go. We’re all going to go someday, and you don’t want your research to end up in a dumpster, like that office I mentioned above. Even if a younger person only takes on part of the job, they can also insure that the rest of your notes and manuscripts end up in a library or museum instead of the landfill.
10.) Don’t assume that the local historical society or genealogy society will automatically take your “stuff” after you pass. Make those arrangements now, and have a talk with the appropriate societies as soon as possible. I have already donated some things to a genealogy library for several reasons – #1 to establish a relationship and to get a feel for what they will accept as manuscripts (answer: they won’t take everything) and #2 the storage at the genealogy society is much better than my basement, so they got the originals and I kept a few copies. Find out what preparations you need to do now in order for them to accept your manuscripts and papers later.
Don’t be shy! You don’t have be a great author to share your stories. There are people out there who would love to hear about your common ancestors or kinship, even if you aren’t a Pulitzer prize writer. It is the content that is important. Sharing ensures that your family history won’t disappear, but will continue to be appreciated by the next generations.
Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Ten Ways to Share Your Genealogy", Nutfield Genealogy, posted July 10, 2016, (http://nutfieldgenealogy.blogspot.com/2016/07/ten-ways-to-share-your-genealogy.html: accessed [access date]).