Preserving your family history

Gee, I am nearly up to date with the #ANZAncestryTime chat summaries. Had time to do this one today at the library as only two people booked and one of them didn’t turn up. So plenty of time to write a post.

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Which part of your family history research do you consider most important to be preserved and why? ie trees, documents, memorabilia, stories, all?

all of it. Bits ‘n’ pieces can be used in error, which would not be helpful to future generations SLR

Stories and memorabilia – the rest can be recreated (albeit painfully!) but those stories and and memorabilia are irreplaceable

I think you might have nailed it here. Today Dad and I were talking about framing his grandfather’s medals in a kind of shadow box. But he was the one who said we need a story with it as well so it means something. So a bit of both.

That’s a really good example Alex, especially when I think of the most effective museum exhibitions I’ve seen e.g. Egyptian Museum in Berlin – a room of papyrus fragments brought to life because they told stories about them

Photos are a good idea too Mandy. I was just thinking that if I could have only three photos of each person in my tree it would be the “maiden, mother, crone” approach 🙂

I would hate to see my trees lost but I have no one interested Tara. Much of my research though is in my stories in blog posts

a lot of my research is in wordpress websites/blogs and I’m hoping my daughter will keep them in the future if not adding to them

I know the @NLIreland is archiving sites of Irish interest so hopefully that will include Irish-oriented genealogy blogs but how do you ensure your blog content survives if wordpress dies?

Above all – the stories. I have insights into parts of Australian history that I had no idea about. Or, had studied the history but didn’t realise any of my ancestors were associated with the events (e.g. Eureka Stockade). But, also documents, photos.

For my own research, the work I have done to try to identify mystery 2xGGF. Even if I don’t figure it out, I would like to leave a head start for someone else

yes – nothing more frustrating than a bunch of notes but not accurately sourced or presented clearly.

I think we still need to downsize our digital photo collections too – do we need all of them? perhaps a few digital albums to pass on or store online

the tree initially as family members like to see number of people and see where they are in grand scheme of things. Stories in a blog is the best thing as it provide more tangible relatable details.

In the same way I was taught by my mother and use her 50 years of work, I am working with my nephew. He is starting to get his young sons interested and eventually I hope his baby daughter, my namesake.

Do you think that because our family thinks this gig is “ours” they switch off? Maybe when we’re not around?

good point. I am starting to have those discussions now. Along the lines of what would make you keep this? Is it about how it is presented? Is it attractive. Is it portable (fits in a box) – i.e. not overwhelming.

I just found a box of boxes of slides in my back bedroom mentioned in my NFHM post . What to do with them is another problem.

I am adding many of my family members to WikiTree writing detailed biographies based on sources. I add my family to FamilySearch. I am hoping to write more of my story, but am finishing off my research road safety scrapbooks this year.

Excellent strategy, adding the sources and stories to online trees such as Wikitree and FamilySearch

For me it would be my tree. I have very little in the way of memorabilia. My FTM tree has photos attached. I wish I had more. I have found some online and a few have been sent to me (digitally) from newly discovered cousins. Always exciting

The trees, the evidence that underpins the trees and the stories that go with the trees

Overall, all components are key to handing over a complete family history. Trees are needed to explain who fits where, documents to support your discoveries and stories to bring it together. Memorabilia offers a tangible link to ancestors.

yes Pauleen the tangible stuff is so important isn’t it? If we can’t walk the land our ancestors stood on, it’s good to hold something they touched e.g. medal or cloth.

IMHO it is the stories of people’s lives that most need to be preserved as usually they will contain all the other elements

All are important but I think stories as you might be the only one that knows that story. A genealogy tree/database can be stored online easily or given to others but only you can write the stories.

what an interesting question. I think descendants get most excited about the trees to begin with – “Ooh look how far back you’ve gone!” but it’s all meaningless without the stories I reckon.

Totally agree Alex. Researching family history has to include finding the stories that make our ancestors become real people

That is very true. I add links to my blog to each individual where I’ve posted their story.

I think that family documents and personal items like photographs are the most important things to preserve

The most important part of family history research to be preserved will be the write up.

I agree because it would typically include reference to the other aspects.

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Have you made plans for or had discussions with your family about what will happen to your research? Do you have a beneficiary chosen and recorded?

vip to consider maintenance of websites especially those that were based on html WYSIWYG technology – a big issue as not so many folks will be able to code in html for websites in the future. This is an issue that the Fellowship of First Fleeters is currently working on

It’s the fluidity of technology that makes me nervous. What will last, what won’t?

Yes. I’ve looked for advice from the major libraries and archives and have followed it with sound files.

I have a niece who has some interest but haven’t discussed plans for my research when I’m gone. It would be a shame for the research to be lost but it has given me a lot of pleasure over the years

Mind you, I have no intention of falling off my perch until I’ve smashed all my brickwalls

When my grandkids visit I show them the items I’ve bequeathed to them and tell them why. I may hand the items over before I pop my clogs but the kids need to be a bit older.

I haven’t yet. I don’t currently have anyone interested although a couple of my cousin’s kids ask questions occasionally. Maybe in 10 years…

school assignments or history assignments usually prompt questions don’t they?

Already answered that. In my will I leave various items to people that I hope will use them. BUT I am getting rid of them now as I am the best to know what is what. I have disposed of five people’s stuff, I’m working hard on my own.

As the older generation we need to tell them about the things they may see so don’t hide things away too much so that they can ask us

yes I think this is the trick. If it is important to us we need to have it on display so that it prompts questions 🙂

I have a convict diary Alex that I believe I have the only full transcription of and both the original and microfiche have disintegrated. I was thinking SAG for that

As there is no one close to me, I am planning to have it all online in various places eg subscription database trees, blog posts on my website (archived by NLA in Trove) and PDF copies of my family histories for whoever wants them

I’m like Shauna, all online for others to connect with and read when they become interested.

I am toying with the idea of preparing something to donate to SAG according to their guidelines.sag.org.au/Deposit-Your-f

I think it may have been more a direction than a discussion 😉 one daughter is my designated beneficiary and that is included in my will. Key memorabilia is also outlined for descendants

very organized Pauleen and people appreciate that. Dad is super organized and has written lists of who should get what and has discussions with me regularly. All amicable. He is a good painter and so his artwork needs to be shared around.

we are such hoarders that my daughter is determined that we will clean up the house now. So those sort of conversations have started. I often wonder if the freshly minted grandson will be interested. No formal arrangements yet.

I know I should make plans but currently my son is not interested he has cousins who may be more interested

I have no idea as yet. No one else in my family is interested. My half-sisters are interested in our Chinese side (paternal), but my maternal side may need to be donated to SAG or a library etc

Passing on access to DNA data is important too

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If no family member is interested in inheriting your research, what steps can you take to ensure it is preserved?

I do have some bits from my father-in-law of historical interest – Union card (branch president) from the 1830s, and letters from the masons building Scott Monument in Edinburgh. I’m looking into best places to donate these

yes sometimes our family isn’t the best place – a museum e.g. Australian War Memorial or State Libraries are a great place for precious memorabilia e.g. diaries/letters

My great grandfather was a cooper. His tools were passed down but we could not keep them so donated to a brewery museum who was able to take and display them..

Especially if an ancestor had no descendants, giving artifacts/documents/photos to museum or library or archive or historical/genealogical society will keep them safe for future researchers

in my estate trust I have a letter of direction for how to dispose of various parts if no one is interested. Org. Names & addresses included.

So important to write instructions regarding what happens to our #Genealogy collection after we join our ancestors. You can also check with the organizations in advance to confirm what they will accept.

My current strategy is to put everything online as much as possible – so trees at WikiTree, FamilySearch and all the ‘biggies’.

Yes, share family trees online to be sure info continues to be available. And for #CousinBait!

none of my family show any interest in family history, occasionally like once in a blue moon they might ask about it, but when the time comes I hope most of my research will be deposited with a Record Office, though the majority of it hopefully will be online

I’ve written an article for a local historical society, and am slowly putting another one together. I gave a conference presentation as well in 2018. I’m trying to get my head around some new information – then I want to publish the findings, in due course.

I’ll donate copies to local county archives. I know they hold a number of genealogies already, some closed and some open

Yes! Borders Family History Society collect member trees. I am currently working on that line, but once I’m reasonably done, I will submit to them, along with DNA confirmation reports.

I collected oral histories last year and got participants’ permission to lodge them in archives. I also made sure they were saved in appropriate electronic format (can’t remember what it is right now but details widely available). I’m hoping that older ones my late uncle collected can also be archived as some are invaluable local history resources

Hopefully If we rely on wikitrees and donations to societies they will keep the technology updated

Societies often publish books to a theme or a special purpose eg Qld’s 150th commemorations. Writing stories for them ensures there’s more than one place that may have your family’s story.

I have noticed in some family history societies, that my earlier research from family reunions eg pedigree charts and family sheets have been given by family members. I will need to give more up to date research to them I think

There would be nothing better than finding information about your family history at a society Sue. It hasn’t happened to me although I found a photo at a historical museum and got a copy

Since the 1840’s many of my recent ancestors resided in NZ so the “NZSG Pedigree Registration Collection” is an opportunity for me to share my tree details. The info goes into the Kiwi Collection and it available to members if I understand it correctly.

I’m a big believer in writing up the stories in a blog, book or booklet. Links to your documents will help future researchers with the trail. I download my blog to book format using Blog2Print even though it’s currently preserved in Pandora. Belt and braces.

even if no one is interested now, they may be in the future. I wonder if the family thinks the research is my “thing” and when I’m gone they’ll be more interested. Organising seems a key need whether it’s going to family or elsewhere.

Some archives or museums may take items of interest but we need to investigate. Websites may preserve some things if they are digital. WikiTree and Family Search.

did think perhaps depositing it to the various family history societies for each county/country the family can be found in

My plan is to have it online in various places to be shared by all in the future. PDF is a good way to save my family histories and I can attach them to my website. The Internet Archive may also be a place to upload them.

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Have you taken steps to organise your research, documents etc? What strategies could help to ensure our research is preserved amidst changing technologies in the future?

honestly, with the changing speed of technology I just don’t trust that we won’t lose data over time. I trust hard copies more and digitise as a backup. I believe books have a better chance of survival.

I definitely agree with you. Print will survive any change in technology. Paperless #Genealogy is not my goal–my goal is perpetuating #FamilyHistory for the sake of future researchers and future descendants.

I have THOUGHT about the steps I need to take to preserve my family history. Now I need to take some steps!

try using brightly coloured Post It notes stuck on drawers of filing cabinets et al. Eg scan this drawer by August/September etc. Visual flags.

I’ve scanned my photo albums, my sister has scanned her collection, waiting for my brother to scan the albums he has had for about 20 years. I will pass on my original albums once I have written about them.

I am now using FOREVER rather than dropbox Margaret.

One payment and I have forever storage of photos guaranteed to keep up with changing technology

Yes have used ppt for videos now I upgraded to Office 2019, easy to add photos and commentary for each slide

have digitalised some things but have so much it would take rather long time. But whilst prepping for blogs before being written up, this is when I sort things out a bit.

it is incredibly tedious to do but then again there may be an advantage in going over old ground. We see new things every time we look at a document again.

Have evidence scattered across hard copy files and electronic files; the latter could be better organised (note to self!) and have made a start to writing biographical narratives which are kept both in electronic form and hardcopy …

Currently digitising photos, docs and writing up family histories and checking genealogy databases and adding citations. Not a quick process but doing it one set of GG grandparents at a time. Salami tactics.

I cannot wait to get rid of my archive boxes once everything is scanned Shauna. We inherited paper and will leave things in digital format.

A tough one, as some of the answers to earlier questions indicate. I’m not quite at the point of some, writing up wikis or blogs but I do need to get better at it, even sharing my working notes around family members would be a start. As crgalvin said LOCKSS – Lots of copies, keep stuff safe

Make videos and save to youtube. More that it is another free place to save stuff. Your talks that are not held to ransom by organisers would be an option also.

do the steps have to be practical? Can’t they be in my head? “All” my records are in family folders which should help but I need to streamline them and weed out the excess. A LOT still to be done!

Today I’ve been Re-reading Devon and Andy Lee’s book on Downsizing with Family History in Mind. It really sets out a clear, practical path. Highly recommended.

yes isn’t it? I printed out the kind of timeline or checklist they suggest. I reckon the paper is the hardest stuff to get through. Furniture, china…all that is easy. I’m even finding books easy now 🙂 (shock! horror!)

The papers and the fiddly bits like badges that lurk in the corners and have a story to tell.

 

Lots of tips and blogposts found by Alex and other participants

Readers: Have you thought about how you are going to preserve your family history into the future?

Advice for beginners

Another great #ANZAncestryTime twitterchat. Hope these tips and mistakes not to make help you in your journey as family historians.

Tips for starting your family history journey

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The most common tips were:

  • Start with yourself and work back one generation at a time.
  • Get proof for every fact by having documents, certificates, newspaper reports etc
  • Talk to the older members of your family including cousins – record these stories if possible with their permission; photos and newspapers are good prompts
  • Keep records using charts, notebooks, digital files, folders – whichever suits you best
  • Buy certificates if possible – check all information on these including witnesses; in New Zealand get printouts rather than certificates
  • Don’t believe everything that you see online without seeing the proof
  • Keep a note of where you searched (research log), and what you found (or didn’t).
  • Cite your sources so you find information again
  • For beginners listen to this brilliant podcast (see link at end of post)  it talks you through every single step in a logical sequence brilliant for beginners @AFHpodcast
  • There is not just one way to do family history research. We need to be able to adapt to the circumstances when necessary for better results.
  • BACK UP your research. You don’t want to lose all those hours of work!
  • Surround yourself with support by joining a local family history society
  • Do a workshop or course in the how.
  • Look for a list of questions to use when asking your elders about ancestors. eg
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How and where to record the information you find

Thinking about slow cooking, slow family history might be a thing. Many variations of way to record your family history being listed. Use the method that makes it easy for you such as paper, charts, or digital with software.

When I volunteer with people at the library, we start with pedigree chart, family group sheets then if they want to connect to others especially DNA, then online tree with ancestry

Can I be an alternate voice? I loathe being straight jacketed by those forms, even back in my earliest days decades ago. I probably kept the same info but in my own way.

Try a few genealogy software programs and pick one you like, where you record everything you find. Also, think about a digital filing system for your computer. I started out mostly using A5 notebooks, and I still use them, but am waaaay behind in transferring info

I decided to put all my digital stuff in one folder with useful file names. Searching for things on the mac has always been easy (according to me) and I only need one copy in one place. Not multiple versions for different people. (Make sense?)

I’d recommend a software program or spreadsheet at first to get started

A few people have suggested spreadsheets & I’m curious to know how you use them

I’ve used them for shipping data, census details, timelines and a checklist for possible sources and if I’ve checked them. Do as I say not as I always do 😉

I use them for my DNA matches adding them from every source where I have it. Add info on whether has tree, what likely family, & if added to my tree & the relationship. I download DNA data from some sites.

Spreadsheets for timeline of a persons life, or for downloading a range of search results for analysis and sorting or for keeping track of certificates bought, or #genealogy expenditure just a few for starters

One way I use them is for NZ electoral rolls, for example. I have all the names down the left and dates of electoral roll across the top. Black out cells when people to young to vote, migrated or dead. Then mark of in each cell when found with a ref. FH software.

I do this for UK census records – note the ages down for each census I’ve found them in, group with family, mark off years before born and after died, so I know who I’ve found in each census (and who I haven’t). Interesting to contrast ages across decades too!

I have columns for DOB,DOM, DOD, Where Living, Where died, Occupation. IF you’re clever, and I’m not you can have the spreadsheet do the calcuations of age etc and codes to cross ref

Export the names and info from your family tree software. It is so much easier to see the gaps with a spread sheet. Have another one with UK census info. It is easy to see families together and then when person moves.

Use 1. pedigree charts 2. family tree charts 3. research logs so you know what sources you have already consulted and when, this very much helps avoiding unnecessary repetition

I would suggest an online tree either public or subscription based plus family tree software for recording your tree. A research log for information and sources

Assuming you have a computer try various software programs or start a blog

Write it down and store it somewhere safe. I would say type it up too but PLEASE back it up.

Invest in the best family tree software you can afford e.g. if you think you might want to publish a book down the track, look for software that will help you do that. Also record on paper using standardised templates available for free on Ancestry. Back up!

Always & Everywhere. Go mobile – start with audio recording & scanning apps & build up to local family tree software alongside online platforms with confidence & affordability + keep a notebook or journal whether paper or online to record progress

join a free website such as @WikiTreers where you can keep living family private but connect to deceased ancestors

I started with a dedicated notebook, still precious to me, moved to a timeline format in Word, supplemented by narrative format in Word

depends on how comfortable one is with computers. Pen and paper initially is good start to see what info you have. Talk to other family historians before using genealogy software. Spreadsheets can a good way to record too.

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Mistakes to avoid when starting out

Remember no family is perfect. We all have black sheep ancestors and skeletons on the closet. Don’t ever assume all your discoveries will be happy.

Ensure you record all the details and look at first few pages and last pages of a book and for margin notes or errata message

And I use their bibliography for future reference.

Never assume family stories are correct, or that you are getting the full story. Details change, recollections alter over time and sometimes people muddy the truth for a variety of reasons

Don’t think that everything is online. Visit libraries, archives, societies

I have found that libraries in larger towns can have resources for other places. I used to spend time in the @Library_Vic doing NZ research. So pays to check in larger places.

When I lived in Darwin I would keep a running file for future research in QLd archives and libraries, then hit them hard when visiting. Did better then than I manage now.

Do not copy other people’s online trees or information. Research and find the evidence yourself

Don’t dismiss anything as hearsay make a note and look for proof

Assuming everyone in your own family will be excited as you about any if it – you need to find your people (we are your people)

The biggest mistake I made was not writing down where I found something for everything I found. Even acknowledging who told you is important. When you want to check it later it cannot.

1. Not accessing an original document when possible (#Digital or #Paper ) & just relying on #index entries helpful though they are. 2. Basing my own research on the research of others without verifying 2. Not citing/recording sources

when I started I recorded everything in one notebook at a time. Advantage: in one place to find. Disadvantage: separating out the families’ data later on. You won’t believe how much info you’ll accumulate over time!

Beginners should be wary of ordering anything through a third party try to order directly from the official office

Don’t go blindly accepting Ancestry hints assuming they are all the same person

And if someone goes out of their way to tell you you have the “wrong ” person in your tree, do yourself a favor and investigate their data. Don’t just immediately blow them off.

Absolutely!!! In one of the cases there were 14 or something people with the wrong one. I didn’t have the mental capacity to tell them all. I will when I have a chance.

Yes. Most ancestors have hints for records in the US. Only one ancestor ever went to America and that was when he worked on ships, he never stayed there.

Accepting hints on Ancestry and discoveries & smart matches on MyHeritage – both are often wrong. Assuming that anyone else’s tree is correct without doing your own research

Assume everyone in the family is interested and want to know all details – they don’t. Don’t assume all online tree owners have done research thoroughly – many haven’t, just copied from others and don’t even show any proof.

Biggest mistake: believing anything you read or anything anyone tells you – go and investigate, find out as much of the truth yourself as you can. Next biggest mistake: not listening, not reading between the lines.

procrastination can lose you personal knowledge as the older generation passes away. I got fabulous info from some but didn’t get round to all my contacts.

Thinking I’ll write down that source later. Or not having a plan. Or thinking you know the answer and not considering other options. Not asking for help is probably a biggie. And of course….thinking that it’s all online. It most definitely is not.

Keep record of sources; prove other’s work online – don’t believe everything is correct; visit archives and towns if possible for museums etc

you won’t remember where you found everything as your research progresses. Record when and where you found info and the name of the source. This lets you and others find it again.

listen to what you’re told by family, read and record what you find BUT also look at it critically. Test the consistency of the data and between what you find. Some stories may be 100% true, some 1% and some 0%. Follow up what you discover in other records
Where to find help when getting started


1. your local & other Genealogy family history societies 2. archives libraries 3. community groups 4. religious political & fraternal organisations … go where the journey takes you 😀

Find a genealogy friend to buddy up with who can help with where to look. Check out Family Search’s wikis for learning, attend seminars, webinars, read books. HAVE FUN!!

1. Get help by joining a local family history society. 2. Purchase a beginners book. 3. Check out YouTube. 4. Legacy Family Tree Webinars @legacyfamily. 5. @RootsTechConf sessions. 6. Many societies have Zoom meetings. 7. Family History magazines.

The wiki from @FamilySearch will have answers to most questions including a section for beginners. familysearch.org/wiki/en/How_to…

For those in Australia there is help on starting your family history info at the @nlagovau website. nla.gov.au/getting-starte…

Family history societies and libraries are a fab resource to begin with for the area you are researching as they have knowledge of the streets and general history.

Facebook groups, twitter groups like #ANZAncestryTime , Library, YouTube and other online sources.

locate a family history society near you and join up. There’s lots of knowledge in the membership + learning opportunities,seminars etc. they will usually have access to the big pay-to-view genie sites

Also join, or visit, a family history society where your ancestors lived. They know the local history and will likely have indexed local records.

If you need more information and thinking of buying certificates in England or Wales see if available as pdf and only use gro.gov.uk/gro/content/ho…

if in Hobart on a Friday, book in a one hour session with me (Sue) at Rosny Library haha

Not everything is online! There’s still mountains of info undigitised in archives and libraries. Learn the skills you need to explore them and don’t be intimidated. Use discoveries from Trove as clues about where to look.

Join a family history group Look at free websites such as @FamilySearch which has a Wiki Join @WikiTreers and check out their pages Join Genealogy Facebook groups

Help is everywhere families, books, libraries, local societies, YouTube, webinars, Facebook, Twitter etc.etc.

The #NZSG have three video tutorials available on their website, very useful when you’re starting out: genealogy.org.nz/Getting-It-Rig…

I actually learnt quite a lots from @AFHpodcast Andy’s brilliant podcast, stuff that I’m sure I really should have known!

Blogging posts

Hilary – importance of documenting what you do and find

Paul – Top ten sins of a genealogist

Daniel – Double check those Ancestry hints

Alona – 27 do’s and do not’s when researching family history.

Amanda from Geni – 5 Things to Do to Get Started on Your Family Tree

Amateur family historian – podcast about beginning your journey

Readers: What tips would you give to people starting their family history journey?