16 October 2015

Before you donate your genealogy research -- Important things to do!

Entry in Oldham Database for the Genealogy Research Volume I donated in 2001

We are not all in the fortunate position to have others in the family that shares our passion for genealogy and so will become the next archive for the family research already done.  When in that situation, it’s important to consider giving your genealogy research to a library or archive.

And, you don’t have to wait to handle such in a will or similar instrument.  When I completed the first round of research on my mother’s family (in 2001), I donated a copy to the local history library for the area which was the focus of the research.  You can still find that item in its catalog.  I also shared copies with family members.  This way, no matter what happens to me or my research, at least a summary version of it is in the care of what I hope to be an in perpetuity facility.  Unfortunately, I have produced two addenda to the original volume in the interim and I probably should also send a copy of those to join that initial volume.

I have created similar volumes for other branches of my family – They all Met in Salem Mass, They All Met in Chicago and They Married in Wilmington DelawareI know what my New Year resolution will be come January 2016!  Though, in a bit of a defense, I have posted most of this material online on my website and I have done so for years.  And, donating volumes, like donating a book, is not quite the same as donating your collected research.  Let’s delve into that now.

So, now that you’ve decided to donate your collection somewhere for safe keeping, how should you proceed?  First, I suggest you read 4 Things To Do Before You Donate Your Genealogy (Amy Johnson Crow, via Ancestry.com blog) and do skim over the comments.  There are some additional helpful ideas and thoughts to be found in the comments posted.

The Society of American Archivists also has some suggestions on Donating Your Personal or Family Records to a Repository.

Earlier this year, Dick Eastman (Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter) answered a query with a post titled Where to Donate Records to Make Them Available to Everyone.  As always, do glance at the comments provided – they will tell you what the person who posted the original query did and provide many other relevant suggestions.

I am sometimes asked this question about family bibles and other one-of-a-kind documents (versus whole collections) with a North Carolina connection – my suggestions in this case are one or more of the following depending on the specific circumstances (you want to donate copies of pages, the original bible, etc) – NGS Bible Records collection (a member benefit), State Archives of North Carolina (digitized bible collection (currently over 2000) & brochure on how to donate to), UNC (e.g. Southern Historical Collection), local archive/library, etc.  My suggestion is to first aim for the largest (and most likely to endure) repository and then if that isn’t feasible focus on repositories for which your bible or other material would be an asset such as several generations of a family who lived in a county or particular town.

What advice would you give someone who wants/needs to donate their genealogical research materials or bible or other one-of-a-kind original documents?

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