Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Record Preservation is a Personal Issue

It seems like it is always the middle of the night when I hear something leaking in my house. Once I have heard the steady drip, drip, drip, it is almost impossible to ignore. Unfortunately, sometimes that simple drip turns into an expensive repair. We have all probably experienced the loss of property at some time or another even if our loss was simply a matter of misplacing a small object.

As genealogists, we face an even more serious recurrent issue. We are constantly confronted with the loss of genealogically valuable records. One thing you learn soon after beginning genealogical research is that the 1890 U.S. Federal Census was lost to a fire. However, what you probably don't realize is that the fire destroyed only a small part of the records. If you read the entire explanation of the loss in the U.S. National Archives Prologue Magazine, Spring 1996, Vol. 28, No. 1, "First in the Path of the Firemen," The Fate of the 1890 Population Census, Part 1 by Kellee Blake, you will realize that the records could have been preserved but because of lack of government involvement, they were almost completely lost. It has been too easy over the years to blame the whole loss on the fire.

At the other end of the spectrum, if you are at all involved in the genealogical community, you will soon hear story after story about the loss of personal genealogy records primarily because the next generation did not appreciate the value of the records. One of my daughters recently "inherited" 5 storage boxes of documents and records from a distant relative. Each of these events where documents have been saved has a huge back story. Of course, my wife and I have a huge pile of documents rescued from a number of our relatives.

This rescue effort is unending. But, as I pointed out in my previous post, this is also a global issue. Genealogists around the world should be in the forefront of record preservation efforts. I previously linked to a post from FamilySearch but in thinking about the subject, I felt that was important enough to repeat the link. Here is the post:

Preserving Historical Records: Lesson of the National Personnel Records Center Fire

This post explains how FamilySearch can assist record keepers of all kinds in preserving their valuable records. But it does not directly address the issue of the loss of private genealogy records. That is a much more complex issue. I suggest that you take note when one of your fellow genealogists is getting "on in years" and may no longer have the ability or resources to take care of the work they have been doing. In those cases, it seems perfectly reasonable to broach the subject and offer to help assure the preservation of the records. This can be done through digitization or the creation of a GEDCOM file. It is important to encourage all genealogists to share their records and sources online. The Family Tree is an excellent solution for the preservation of genealogical data. also has permanent storage capability through uploading a GEDCOM file. The Genealogies link in the pulldown menu on every page of the website has a link to upload a GEDCOM file for preservation by FamilySearch.

This is a complex and challenging subject and I will be revisiting it regularly. 

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