Every month on the 10th I write a blog post with a top ten list...
Here are ten things you can do to make it easier for your descendants to research your life one hundred years from now. Your kids or grandkids may not care, but down the road one of your descendants will someday thank you for doing any of these activities…
1. Leave a paper trail. Keep a diary. Save those letters. Print out important family email and texts. Scrapbook news clippings. Save receipts and ephemera. Scan everything if you don’t like the paper mess. Buy land or a home and be listed on the deeds. Write a will and make sure your probate records are filed with the court. Pay your taxes.
2. Join the military. There will be lots of good records for someone to dig up later.
3. Lay down some roots. Your descendants don’t appreciate running from state to state or across international borders to trace your vital records and censuses. If you must move frequently, consider keeping a journal with all the addresses and stories behind each move.
4. Join a lineage society. At least one line of your family tree will be preserved somewhere as a lineage application. This application and its sources will help some future descendant fill in the rest of the branches with the good clues left behind on your lineage papers.
5. Take lots of family photos and spread them around to all the family across the globe. Don’t forget to label your photographs before you share them. Please.
6. Get involved in your community. Run for committees, local offices, clubs and societies. Be listed in the newspapers for volunteering or service. Be listed in the town reports if you live in New England. Donate to projects. Register to vote. Serve on a few boards. Join a house of worship. Graduate from a few schools or institutes of higher education. Have a lot of friends and neighbors (acquaintances might remember you, too, on paper or in records!).
7. Learn to spell your name. Consistently. And pass this spelling on to your descendants. Never sign or register as “A. B. Smith”. Please spell it all out. Never sign as “Mrs. John Smith” when you can sign as “Mrs. Mary Maiden-name Smith”, and this will please your descendants to no end.
8. Get your name in the newspaper. It doesn’t matter if you are up to something naughty or nice. Just get involved in some activity that is covered by the local press. Black sheep ancestors are interesting, too.
9. . If you must pass on family names (especially Jr. and III’s), please think of interesting and “different” middle names. Six generations of Robert Wilsons in my family tree were difficult enough. Four of them married women named Mary, too. I love the ancestor who finally broke the boring string of names with a “Robert Southwick Wilson”.
10. Keep a family register. Pass it on to someone who will appreciate it, and add to it, and preserve it for the future. Whether or not this register [family tree/genealogy/chart/bible entry] is paper, electronic, artistic or carved in stone does not matter. Just leaving the clues is the important bit.
Published under a Creative Commons License
Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Ten Ways to be a Good Ancestor", Nutfield Genealogy, posted September 10, 2016, (
http://nutfieldgenealogy.blogspot.com/2016/09/ten-ways-to-be-good-ancestor.html: accessed [access date]).