If you may fit the description of a “genealogy hoarder,” you should read this letter from Roland. He shares a powerful story about being generous with our genealogical treasures. (P.S. Sharing family history items can also help you declutter your genealogy files!)
I often hear about the generosity of genealogists: the way they freely share their time, research skills, and even precious family artifacts and photos with others. But it’s probably easier than we realize to lapse into the practice of being a “genealogy hoarder:” keeping family history treasures to ourselves. Maybe we’re just a little attached to them or feeling possessive about our family.
More likely, we just happen to be in quiet possession of something special that we haven’t thought about sharing—or we haven’t figured out how to best to do it.
From genealogy hoarder to generous genealogist
I love this story from Roland about what happened when he made the effort to share:
“I recently ran across a funeral booklet in a relative’s ancestry research materials that I could not connect to that relative in any fashion. It was printed professionally in 1944 by the deceased’s husband and contained a photo, complete biography, obituary and portions of the minister’s eulogy. I looked on Ancestry.com to see if anyone was researching the lady and made a connection with a direct descendant.
By the time you receive this, I will have mailed it to that individual for their use. I understand he had never seen a photo of this particular relative. I have been the recipient of others’ selfless research and efforts, so I try to digitize, share and move information along to others. When I reach the place where I don’t personally need to store some items, I donate them to the appropriate place or individual for further maintenance.
I think it’s important that we don’t accidentally hoard data, photos or any information. I’m grateful that institutions, libraries and all sorts of data collection sites around the globe are digitizing and making their information available to researchers like myself. It is priceless.”
I LOVE Roland’s perspective on sharing! Here’s my favorite part (it’s worth repeating!):
I couldn’t agree more with Roland’s sentiments about not falling into the hoarding trap. We all have a chance at some point to make a difference for someone else, and we should embrace it when the opportunity arises!
The Genealogy Gems blog has covered several examples of how people have returned “orphaned heirlooms” home–you’ll find three of these at the end of this article. But we’ve also covered some of the how-tos that will help you do it. For example:
- Pat was looking for advice on how to use Ancestry.com to track down descendants so she could return artifacts to them. Click here to read advice I gave her about that.
- A museum in Texas wanted to tell the stories of the people whose heirlooms they held in their collections. But first, they had to research those heirlooms and the stories behind them. Here’s how they did it.
- Ready to stop holding on to some items in your own archive? Read this article by The Archive Lady Melissa Barker about “decluttering” your genealogy stash—and meaningful solutions for where to dispose of those items.
By the way, Roland also sent along some nice compliments I’d like to share—especially if they’ll help you consider how we here at Genealogy Gems might help your own genealogy in the coming year:
“Love the podcast, information, hints, suggestions and endorsements. I’ve been conducting family research for about a year. It became clear early on that your website and podcast were at the top of the heap for a novice such as myself, and so I follow both religiously. Additionally, your broadcasts from RootsTech, interviews with various experts and fellow webcasters, and so forth has also introduced me to other sources that advance my knowledge and research results. I have your book on utilizing Google and I use Backblaze (happily) based on your recommendation. Your sincerity in educating genealogists and family researchers is plainly evident. Thank you!”
Thank you for the encouragement on all counts, Roland!
More Inspiring Ways to NOT be a Genealogy Hoarder
World War I Medal Returns Home
How Facebook Users Reunited an Old Bible with its Family
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About the Author: Lisa Louise Cooke
Lisa is the Producer and Host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show and app. She is the author of the books The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Mobile Genealogy, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, and the Google Earth for Genealogy video series, an international keynote speaker, and producer of the Family Tree Magazine Podcast.