Preserve Before It Is Too Late

If you think you have time to wait to do family history when you’re older, think again.

My fraternal grandmother is Helen (Zumstein) Geiszler. I owe a lot of research resources for the Zumstein lines to Helen’s sister Dorothy. Dorothy (Zumstein) Merritt had started doing genealogy some 30-40 years ago. When my mother became interested in genealogy, she met Aunt Dorothy on my father’s side. They began exchanging letters and family trees. Dorothy even wrote the treasured story of the Zumsteins who immigrated to Canada from Germany, and the reasons why. Her work helped me connect with Phebe Zumstein and her reactions to her new home in Canada.

The Zumstein migration story written in Dorothy Merritt's own hand.
The Zumstein migration story written in Dorothy Merritt’s own hand.

Thanks to Dorothy’s contributions I have counted myself lucky with the Zumstein line. For the most part, I just find records to back up the work Dorothy did. However, I would not have had this information had my mother not started asking questions while she had two young children underfoot. Had she waited until the ‘time was right’, Aunt Dorothy would have been deceased.

Last year, I was poking around doing some research on on the Zumstein line. I kept running into work submitted by Helen Wood. Thanks to’s internal email system, I contacted Helen and asked her what information she had to share about the Zumstein line. It turns out, she just loved genealogy. She wasn’t a relative at all but had worked on the line for her Zumstein descendant friend. She said she had photos and documents to share. I was super happy. Even though we weren’t cousins, she had a wealth of resources for me.

Copy of Zumstein Family Bible, provided by Helen Wood
Copy of Zumstein Family Bible, provided by Helen Wood

There were a Zumstein family Bible and a Zumstein binder full of documents and photos. Helen had placed all of this information online in a private drive for me to access. I’m so glad I didn’t wait to download that information. Helen passed away a few short months later.

The stories of our ancestors will be locked away forever if we do not get a jump on this work. Whether you do it yourself or help the genealogy fanatic, do something to capture and preserve the stories of your family.

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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