Handing on Family History Stories and Artifacts to the Next Generation


About a year ago my wife stopped at the door of my office and said something that pushed me into action. Her question was “Once you are gone what am I supposed to do with all of these books, papers and computer files?” I had no quick answer for her but knew that if I did not do something, she might just shut the door to the office after my death and let someone with no interest in family history do the cleaning up. To circumvent that happening, I needed to rapidly develop a plan of action for the sharing of my material.

The books that I hope my children keep are those that are family histories of various lines of our extended family. I have made a list of them and have separated them from the main collection. All of my how to do it books are to be given to the local branch of The Ontario Genealogical Society to use for their library collection or for fund raising purposes.

No repository wants boxes of material that are not compiled into a readable family history unless you are famous like Sir John A. MacDonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada. That means that I need to create “books” which could be in paper or electronic format. I can hear someone saying, “Why not save gedcoms?” I have no problem with doing that but I know that my children are even less likely to open up a gedcom in a family tree program than they are to read one of my compiled family histories. If your family histories contain the interesting and exciting stories of ancestors they might just hook the next generation.

I have started to give some of my artifacts to good homes. All of the items I had that belonged to my long deceased older brother, such as his slide rule and his cast toy tractor, went to a niece’s son who was named after him. I now carry the appropriate family photo album with me to visit cousins and allow them to request that I scan copies of any photos they do not have or that they would value. Knowing that a family history is never completed, I have started to share my working copies with immediate and extended family members. I am now planning to set up Dropbox files for the purpose of sharing what I have with numerous cousins. Obviously a Dropbox file or similar is a good way to share photos but I find the photo album is a great way to trigger family memories and elicit interest.

At some point in time I would like to build an online tree but as of yet I have not decided upon the location. I would like it to be freely accessible but I do not want the hassle of continually reentering source citations in the event that someone decides that “Uncle Fred’s” dim recollection of events trumps an official document. Mind you, I have had “Uncle Freds” whose information was correct, I just didn’t stop there and went on to find official documents to support the facts provided.

Another way that I try to enshrine the stories of my ancestors is to write articles for Branch newsletters, our Families journal and for compilations that are published in paper or electronic format. Do remember that the above mentioned newsletters and journal are indexed in PERSI [the Periodical Source Index.Find My Past provides access to PERSI.

My way of sharing my research and compiled writings with the next generation may not be your way. The way of sharing is not as important as the act of doing it while you are still alive to do so. I would love to receive potential guest posts which suggest alternate ways to do this sharing.

Alan Campbell
Past President
The Ontario Genealogical Society
pastpresident at ogs.on.ca
© 2017 

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