It seems hard to believe, but not everyone will be able to do genealogy until they take their last breath. It’s important that we start planning for our genealogy retirement and ask ourselves, what are we going to do with our research when we’re done or no longer able to be involved?
The hardest part of genealogy retirement is realizing that you need to tie up as many loose ends as you can without starting a new project. The second hardest is to realize not everyone wants what you have collected. You have to prioritize what is most valuable to preserve when you’re gone. Make the hard decisions and your research will have a better chance of survival.
Organize Your Research
Three things that you should do to get your files organized for passing them along to your progenitors are:
- Put everything in its place with a label
- Go digital
- Discard easily accessible files
Reducing, labeling, and digitizing your files will ensure that someone will be ready to take on your research.
Plan to Create Engaging Projects
If your research is organized, make sure you do something that adds value to the discoveries you made. Create digital photo books with every photo labeled and the stories behind the collection recorded and beside the images.
You could also create videos that incorporate audio, video, and digitized elements into a mini-documentary about your ancestors. Video is king with the rising generations, so give them a multi-media experience with the past.
You can create a book. A physical book is the easiest possession to pass on to future generations. Capture the stories about your ancestors and publish them in a book. Then make sure everyone in the family can access the book.
Plan to Share with Your Family
Share your original documents, photos, scrapbooking, and memorabilia with your family before you die. It’s easier to ensure that your heirs receive what you intend for them if you pass it along while you are alive.
Recognize, few of your relatives will want your research notes. So process your findings and create reports or online trees that organize your discoveries. Eliminate copies of anything that can be easily found online (such as census records). Ensure that you also pass on your account passwords so that your relatives have access to your online tree accounts (Ancestry, FamilySearch, Family Tree DNA, etc). It’s harder to access digital account after you pass without a password for your heirs, so be sure this is included in your retirement plans.
Plan to Donate to Repositories, Archives or Libraries
Find out which repositories, archives, and libraries are located in the area where your ancestors lived. These entities might be interested in accepting your genealogy research and books. Especially consider them if you have family that doesn’t want your research or no heirs at all.
Be advised that most libraries want organized collections that are well documented and likely to be of value to their members. It’s up to you to contact about their interest in your collection. Don’t treat these entities like a Goodwill or Salvation Army where you drop your disorganized files.
Also, consider breaking up your collection into multiple groups and share with different libraries.
Depending upon the project, send to the Library of Congress or other repositories such as:
- List of Historical Societies
- List of Genealogical Societies
- List of Archives in the US
- List of Lineage Societies
Whatever you do, don’t put off these steps to ‘someday’. That someday will come and it will be too late.