Monday, June 01, 2009

After I'm Gone - I Want My Genealogy Research To Live On

Just a few minutes ago on Twitter, I noticed people posting ideas for their #finaltweet in answer to the question: If you could set up an auto-tweet to go out after you died, what would you want it to say? Tag it #finaltweet. I believe @nprpolitics was the first to ask this question today.

Many of the answers people are giving are flip or funny, but @nprpolitics was also pointing to an NPR article by Andy Carvin about a serious topic - especially for genealogists - "Dead Man's Switch: CC Me From The Other Side".

What provision have you made for access to your on-line genealogical information if you are incapacitated, or, dead?

Over at Gena's Genealogy last week, Gena Philibert Ortega discussed a 'Dear Abby' answer that prompted the same concerns about family heirlooms. Today she's posted a version of a 'genealogical codicil'.

What provision have you made for your family heirlooms, and of course, for all your photographs, and genealogical information?

Two years ago, I wrote an article about this very topic for The British Columbia Genealogist and a year ago I wrote up a handout for the British Columbia Genealogical Society with some starter links for people wanting to write their own obituaries, eulogies and epitaphs. I just read those over and since the information is quite relevant, I decided to post both here.

We also distributed blank copies of death registrations for British Columbia, Canada. Check for a blank form for your own jurisdiction and fill in the personal and family information as a guide for your executor/executrix.

You do want the correct answers to be available on your death registration and death certificate, don't you?

by M. Diane Rogers

We’ve all spent considerable effort, time, and some money, on researching our families. We have family tree charts, binders, countless computer and paper files, websites, scrapbooks, photographs and other family documents and memorabilia we’ve collected and organized, as well as books, CDs, etc. Sometimes, in the back of our minds, we wonder who’ll take care of these after us.

Recently at the B.C.G.S., we’ve been made aware that one member’s years of work were accidentally disposed of by the family while clearing up the estate. Don’t let this happen to your genealogical legacy.

Discuss this issue carefully now with your family, chosen executors and legal representatives. Make sure your wishes are clear for both your ‘precious papers’, the original photographs and the family birthday book, for instance, and for your paper, electronic files and library collection. If items in your collection have significant monetary value, make sure these are listed separately and that your instructions for these are specific. If you have someone in mind to inherit your collection or part of it, speak to them first; then name them on paper. Give an alternate choice, perhaps the British Columbia Genealogical Society. On a practical note, make sure this information, along with an abbreviated copy of your family tree, relevant computer passwords, details of your e-mail accounts, domain registrations, etc. is easily accessible to the appropriate persons and keep this up to date.

Copies of various ‘genealogical codicils’ circulate periodically. We will have an example and links posted soon on our B.C.G.S. website. Basically a genealogical codicil asks family not to dispose of any research or other genealogical materials; and specifies who these should go to, or asks that the family take time to identify to which individuals or groups they might go to; or, to contact relevant genealogical and historical groups, archives or museums to see if the materials can be donated. A key comment in a codicil usually mentions that materials should continue to be available to others. You might include a provision to have your collection copied so a copy can be donated to your genealogical society before the collection goes to the new guardian.

DearMYRTLE notes that the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah may be willing to accept your work. Myrt suggests leaving some financial provision for your collection, if only for shipping or initial storage or preservation, and including a permission provision for microfilming (or nowadays, digitizing, or otherwise electronically copying).

In fact, the one sure thing we can all do now is to share our family information as we wish ahead of time. Choosing to make it available as well through one or two institutions or groups will be very valuable to future researchers.

Thank you to Maureen Hyde, Eunice Robinson and Marianne Soltau for comments on this issue.

©2007 B.C.G.S. This article appeared in The British Columbia Genealogist, March 2007, Volume 36, #1, p. 26 Reprinted here with the permission of the Editor.




Check local libraries under these subjects: Funeral, Eulogies, Bereavement

For example, look at

The Last Word: The New York Times Book of Obituaries and Farewells: A Celebration of Unusual Lives by Marvin Siegel (New York: William Morrow & Company, 1997)

A labor of love: how to write a eulogy by Garry Schaeffer (San Diego: GMS Publishing, 1998).

SELECTED ON-LINE REFERENCES Google™ for many more.

Obituaries now can include photographs or if on-line, may include music and video. Who all do you want mentioned by name in your obituary?

Writing obituaries, from the Robert J Reid Funeral Home, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Want to Live Forever? Write Your Own Obit, Don Fry's how-to on preparing your own obituary”

“Eulogies” from Includes a .pdf form for listing useful information –work, family, beliefs and cherished values. (Don’t forget favourite verses, sayings or passages, too) for the eulogy.

“Eulogies, Elegies & Speeches of Remembrance: from Links to examples, appropriate poems.

Epitaph examples for headstones, from Everlife Memorials

‘The Epitaph Browser’

See how your epitaph might look on ‘The Tombstone Generator’

Would you like a remembrance on-line? View ‘The World Wide Cemetery’ [ June 2009 Note - now there are a good number of on-line memorial possibilities. Which ones do you like? ]


Codicil to My Last Will and Testament Concerning Genealogy Materials

Preamble: I here mean to dispose of the materials owned or properly in my possession at death that have genealogical value, though have little or no worth on the market as personal property. My genealogical efforts have required no small measure of thought, time, travel, and money and may be of substantial value to other researchers. I would ask that my file cabinets, folders, materials in my desk, and any and all my research materials stored elsewhere be gathered together and included in this category. It is my hope that all such materials might be disposed of in the following manner.

Following my death, I request that any and all of my genealogical records, both those prepared or written by me, as well as all other family history records which may be in my possession, including all files, notebooks, books, correspondence, copies of documents, and such as computer programs or computer memory devices, or my websites, etc. remain together and protected for a period for eighteen (18) months or until a recipient is found for such materials, whichever comes first. (With your will and other important papers, place a list of these materials, and a list of relevant computer passwords, e-mail accounts, domain registrations or subscriptions, etc. along with an abbreviated family tree and this codicil and a death certificate ‘draft’.)

Further, I request that immediate efforts be made by my family to identify one or more persons or institutions that would have knowledge of AND be willing to take custody of such materials and assume the responsibility of maintaining and perhaps continuing the family histories and research.

I suggest that the persons and institutions to be contacted regarding their willingness to assume custody of these materials include:

(If additional room is needed here, list persons and institutions by their full names and attach a list of contact details.)

Further, in the event no person or organization named here is willing to preserve such genealogical materials, please contact the various genealogical organizations of which I have been a member, there to determine their willingness to accept some or all of these materials. (Here list the societies or organizations to be contacted; include local chapters, with their addresses, phone numbers and contacts known to you, if any, including websites and e-mail addresses)

In witness whereof and before witnesses, I have hereto affixed my name on the ___ day of ____, 200_

Signature ___________________________

Witness ____________________________
Date ___________

Witness ____________________________
Date ___________

Note: The original form of this Genealogical Codicil was posted for personal use on the VA-Roots Archives by Paul Drake, 25 February 2004 [ June 2009 - it appears the list now requires a password.: ]

And, as Paul Drake writes, “if you have books, documents, or materials within your files that have considerable monetary value to other than yourself,” get legal advice to ensure these are listed properly and will go to named individuals.

For a discussion of these concerns, see “Preserve Your Genealogical Legacy: A Genealogical Codicil” in The British Columbia Genealogist, March 2007, p. 26

Handout prepared for the March, 2008 meeting of the British Columbia Genealogical Society
For personal use only. © 2008 B.C.G.S. Some copyrights may belong to individual authors or institutions

Were you wondering about my final tweet or my idea for an epitaph?

Check my posts at for my #finaltweet and see my Graveyard Rabbit of British Columbia blog for my tombstone. (My daughter was horrified to see that when I put it up, but hey, I'm a practical kind of woman!)

1 comment:

footnoteMaven said...

Sage advice my friend.

A subject we may not like to think about, but the thought of what would happen to my years of research, photographs and documents has given me the necessary kick.

I have to provide for all those women wearing glasses.