Saturday, November 20, 2010

13 Nov 2010 HCGS Meeting - Where Does It Go When You're Dead?

    Leilani Adams Maguire led the discussion on: "Where Does It Go When You're Gone?" She has the dilemma of finding the right homes for her cherished family heirlooms .  One of Lelani's grandmothers died a while back and Lelani and her cousin have been trying to go through what she left.  For example they found 200 years worth of bibles, one with many locks of hair in it, yet no names attached.  She scanned the pages of the bibles with information and the covers then happily the libraries of the small Midwest town accepted the bibles for their collections (she kept the one with the locks of hair).  She found over twenty daguerreotype pictures of people.  There is a footlocker full of photographs from the 1800s in Hawaii.  Another example of the family heirloom dilemma stems from 1957 when her other grandmother, Lillian August Tewksbury, died.  Since then Leilani has kept her wedding gown and is wondering what best to do with it, as it is getting fragil and slowly disintegrating?
   Discussion followed:
   1.  Decide who is going to get YOUR stuff.  Will an adult child of yours who is not interested now, be interested later?  Would a more distant family member conserve these treasures? How about a historical society or museum?  Her grandfather, Henry Jackson Adams drove the first "Rio" automobile across the United States, with two kids - she found a home for his original scrapbooks - wrapped in deerskin - in a museum in Lansing, Michigan.
   2.  Mark items as to who will get them - items in boxes or bags may be seen as trash, but if labels and names of who they should go to are on them, the chances of their survival is greater.  Makes a list of these items or collections and keep them with your important papers. 
    3.  Start giving your heirlooms away now while you have complete control over these items.  The recipients will be able to understand who significant the items are.  For photographs the website was mentions as a place to send scanned images of unnamed people.  Also local museums may welcome photographs of local people, even if not identified.
Lelilani with her grandmother's wedding gown

  4.  Fabrics are very hard to maintain forever.  "Foxing" appears even when wrapped in acid free tissue paper, etc.  Even with costly repair/restoration her grandmother's wedding gown would be fragile... and still would need to find someone to take it and store it.  Using portions of the fabric for heirloom / scrapbook displays was discussed.
  5.  Stories are a type of heirloom that can be preserved, but only if recorded some way.  Whether in print, on voice recording, stored on the internet or on printed page... it should be done by everyone.  Once you are dead your unique stories are gone too, unless preserved in some way.
   6.The question is where to find family, libraries, or genealogical societies as repositories of your genealogical research paperwork, heirlooms, boxes of assorted family treasures, bibles, pictures, movies, etc.  Questions arise that if a library or society will accept some of your material, what format does it need to be in? Papers in folders? Three-ring binders? CDs? DVDs? Photo albums? Now's the time to plan ahead.

This was a very interesting meeting, thanks to Leilani Maguire.  
I've included some correspondence from a genealogist cousin in Texas who answered my (Donna Wendt's) question about "What to do with Your Stuff" -- Robert "Larry" Akin responded:
Larry Akin responds to question
"I separate my stuff into parts. One part are my local family heirlooms. I have some country art that my Dad created, for example. And there are things like the abstract on our family farm that has been in the family since 1857 and other historical pieces that are of most interest just to my children and siblings. I want all of these things to go to someone in my local family and I believe that I can find the "right" people for them. Note that most of these "things" are either of no interest outside of my local family or are available in other repositories like the county courthouse.
Then there is the material that I have collected on the Akin family more distant than my local family. I have met folks that keep extensive journals of their research activity, but that is not me. I just don't write much down as I go along. What little I do have, I intend to scan and put on my hard drive along with all the rest of the stuff. I have done a lot of scanning of materials, and I intend to continue doing that. As I scan stuff, I toss the paper unless it is an original that has historical value.

Note that I keep several backups of this digital data. Hopefully, I will end up with just these historical originals in paper form. These I intend to donate to the NEHGS. I picked them because most of our family originated from New England and because I know that they will appreciate the gift, preserve it, and make it available to others. I helped another genealogist donate her notebooks to NEHGS although I scanned the pages before I sent them off. They are on the CD.

 The digital material that I scanned will be sent to some family members, who are interested in our history. I will also give copies to my children, cousins, and siblings although so far few have expressed much interest in genealogy. And, I will include DVDs of this material when I make the donation to NEHGS. I may also send copies to some of the public libraries that are in locations that are important in our history - like the Akin Library in Quaker Hill, Johnstown Library, Dartmouth/New Bedford Libraries, etc.

Then there is the "David Akin of Newport, R.I." family tree on This is what I consider my primary repository of genealogy materials. I have no idea how will evolve during the remaining years of my life, but I am going to continue to add media, sources and names. Hopefully, most of my digital library can be uploaded.

I do not know if or how the ownership of a database on can be transferred to a different person, but I certainly hope that I will be able to give the ownership rights to someone that will keep it going. I have a number of family members on the site as collaborators, and I intend to continue to refine and expand this group so that there will continue to be a community interested in the material.

Then there is the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. I am keeping a close eye on their offerings and capabilities. They may eclipse everyone else and become the repository of choice for genealogy materials. If so, I will try to switch horses."

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