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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Methodology - Part 1: Getting Started, Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skillbuilding, Methodology - Part 3: More Strategies, Methodology - Part 4: Effective Searching and Recording, Methodology - Part 5: How To Prove It, and Methodology - Part 6: Professional Preparation and Practice  by Louise St Denis, Brenda Dougall Merriman and Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Survival of Your Research

Ensuring the future of your research can be achieved by:

  • Writing it up in small portions as you go along and distributing as widely as possible to interested relatives.
  • Actively promoting enthusiasm for genealogy amongst the younger generation in your family.
  • Printing out research results on acid-free paper.
  • Depositing hard copies with appropriate archives or libraries.
  • Storing electronically and ensuring that your technology is up-to-date. However, this is expensive and unlikely to be kept up by uninterested posterity. Likewise creating a website is only good as long as someone is maintaining and paying for it.
  • Regularly sending electronic copies to a genealogical library that has the resources and motivation to keep the technology updated and provide a free method of access worldwide. The most successful and long-lasting one at present would seem to be the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, via the Pedigree Resource File and its successors.
  • Ensuring that your own original research material ‘goes to a good home’ at your demise.

Your Final Say-Disposal of Your Research After Your Death

All family historians have a much more lasting legacy to bequeath than words on a tombstone. We are involved in unique personal research and we should take steps to see that this material is preserved after we have gone to join our ancestors.

Perhaps we will be fortunate enough to have another member of our family ready and willing to take on the quest. If not, then inclusion of our wishes regarding the disposal of the books, papers, etc. in our will should ensure that they are not tossed away. A prominent note left with our papers, and telling our executors beforehand, are important as well because too often the will may be read after someone has disposed of what they regard as ‘all that junk.’ The note should not only say what is to happen to your research, but where it can all be found. Tell as many people as possible that you have made a will and where it is. Your bank is a good place to deposit it as enquiries will always be made there. Sometime in the future your descendants will be so grateful for your foresight, particularly as some of the artifacts that you have recorded, for example gravestone inscriptions, may have perished by then.

A codicil may be added to an already written will, and examples of these are available from several genealogy societies including the Guild of One Name Studies and the Society of Genealogists. The latter and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City do accept private research papers but you should contact them ahead of time to discuss an acceptable format and process.

This may not be enough, however, as family research has been known to creatively ‘disappear’ before a will is read. Even if a will exists it may not be probated, particularly if there is a sole beneficiary, and in England if the total estate value is less than £6,000 probate is not required. Be aware, also, that if your executors are lawyers or a bank they will charge for disposing of research, and this will diminish the value of the estate to beneficiaries. If the latter are already unsympathetic towards your hobby this will not endear you to them! Finding a person to take over the research is a far better idea, or appointing a trusted friend who is interested in family history, or your local Family History Society, as the trustee of your research materials.

A horror story, perhaps apocryphal but with a useful moral, appeared in the Aberdeen and North East Scotland FHS Journal #61. It concerned the newly-widowed non-Family History lady returning from her husband’s funeral. Even before she took of her hat, or put the kettle on, she took the life’s work of the Dear Departed out into the garden and made a bonfire of it, saying, “That’s the end of all that nasty tittle-tattle”. He hadn’t written it up; he hadn’t given a copy to anyone.


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Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses Methodology - Part 1: Getting Started, Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skillbuilding, Methodology - Part 3: More Strategies, Methodology - Part 4: Effective Searching and Recording, Methodology - Part 5: How To Prove It, and Methodology - Part 6: Professional Preparation and Practice offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about these courses or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.

  • This page was last modified on 7 May 2014, at 19:43.
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