History, Genealogy and a Festival, Oh My!

Robert LeRoy Leininger. Leininger Family History and Genealogy. Columbia City, IN:  Self Published, 1971, 7f.

What a busy week it’s been for me! The Association of Professional Genealogists conference is wrapping up today. It was wonderful – timely topics, fun networking events, and it was great to see colleagues again. I highly recommend you attend next year if you are contemplating going Pro.

Today, however, I want to focus on an item I finally crossed off my bucket list. Last Sunday, I attended the Johnny Appleseed Festival in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It was on my to-attend list since I first learned about it years ago.

I fell in love with John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, when my mom read me a library book about him when I was in pre-school. I don’t recall the title but I do recall one of the pictures. Granted, I now know the information wasn’t 100% factual but it did make a major impression on my young mind. I can still picture the book page depicting him in blue pants with ripped hems, suspenders, scraggly brown hair, tall and thin with forest animals following him as he threw apple seeds from a beige bag slung across his body.

I wanted to be him! How cool to be able to walk barefoot, plant seeds, and have all the animals be your friend!

Fast forward to 1985 when my father gave me a necklace that belonged to my grandmother and an old toolbox he had inherited from his father. He wanted me to pass them along to my children someday.  Inside the toolbox were newspaper clippings, undated and the paper unknown, mentioning a reunion for relatives of Johnny. Unfortunately, since I’m still unpacking, I can’t put my hands on it and I could have sworn I scanned it but I can’t locate that, either. Sigh.

The clipping intrigued me. Why would my father have saved it? Was he as enamored with Johnny as I was? I wasn’t close to my father so I had no idea. I should have asked but I didn’t.

In the late 1990s, after my father’s death, I linked up with a Leininger researcher who kindly sent me an electronic copy of two books he had written in the 1970s about the family. That’s where I discovered that Johnny was connected to me through marriage. The map above shows the location of Johnny’s farm.

My “relationship” with Johnny is through my paternal line. Although Johnny had no children, and it’s in dispute whether he had ever married or not, he was close to one of his siblings, sister Percis (1793-1859), who had married William Broom (1792-1848). Percis and William’s daughter, Elizabeth (1829-1863) married John George Leininger (1826-1917). John George is my 2nd great uncle, brother of my 2nd great grandfather Theabald (1824-1900).

Genetically, I’m not related to Johnny. When Johnny was in the area, he stayed with Percis, as Elizabeth fondly recalled as an adult. In his older years, he visited Elizabeth and her family, as her children remembered.

I always wanted to grow an apple tree but Florida is the only state where apple trees won’t grow. I tried, however! I once brought back seeds from a wild apple tree growing in a Pennsylvania cemetery where my husband’s Harbaughs were buried. A cemetery caretaker claimed the tree was the remnants of one of Johnny’s orchards which he had scattered throughout the then wilderness. I did get the seeds to sprout by placing them in a wet paper towel, inserted into a baggy, and kept in the fridge. As soon as I planted them in the dirt in a Solo cup, however, they shriveled and died. Now that I’m in Indiana I will definitely plant that tree! I won’t be using one of Johnny’s, though, as his trees produced fruit best for hard cider which was medicinal for the pioneers. I’m leaning towards Albermarle-pippin, a favorite of Ben Franklin, Queen Victoria, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. I plan on visiting a local orchard this week to get details on when I should be planting. A neighbor told me it’s best to plant fruit trees here in months that end in “R.” I love hearing these old ways to successfully garden. So much of that knowledge has been lost. I wish there were a book about farmer wisdom from days gone by.

But back to the festival – It was a beautiful warm late summer day in Archer Park, on the bank of the St. Joe River. It is the final resting place of Johnny who is buried on the top of a hill. So many vendors were selling homemade craft items, antiques, produce, and food typical of pioneer life. My hubby said this was his favorite festival he ever attended. Since much of the food was made on site, the smell of the campfires filled the air. Craftspeople demonstrated their skills in metalworking, sewing, photography, etc. They were so knowledgeable and I learned so much.

My favorite part was the cannon salute that opened the day. It was in commemoration of the opening of the Wabash and Erie Canal in 1832. Theabald and John George, along with their parents and some siblings, emigrated from Alsace-Lorraine to Ohio in 1827 via a canal to Canton, Ohio. That was likely the Ohio and Erie Canal. It reminded me of how important water travel was back in the day.

History, genealogy, and the festival were intertwined for me which made it so memorable.

October is around the corner and I’ll be writing my annual coincidence blogs. I’ve had some really weird things happen in the past few months that I’ll be sharing. See you next weekend!

APG PMC 2022 Has Begun!

APGen.org

The annual Association of Professional Genealogists Professional Management Conference has opened. Yours truly will be speaking on Friday at 11:30 AM EDT. If you are ready to turn your genealogy hobby into a business I highly recommend you attend next year or better yet, watch the recordings of this year’s conference. The lecture topics are timely and the breakout sessions are a wonderful way to connect with other genealogists from around the world. Click here for more info on this year’s recordings. Become a member of APG to receive details about next year’s conference.

Genealogy Relocation Lessons

Image courtesy of Jewish New Teacher Project

Genealogy at Heart has returned! After driving over 1100 miles twice last month and closing on our home two days ago, we are ready to return to our passion – Genealogy.

Relocating is fraught with pitfalls, stress-filled, and physically demanding. It is also an exciting new life adventure, educational, and invigorating. Flexibility is key. Here are some lessons I learned from my recent cross-country move that apply to genealogy. . .

My first thought about my family’s ancestors came about when we were loading a very smelly, rusty old trunk into the Pod. It belonged to my husband’s great-great grandparents who emigrated with their five children from Sweden to Indiana in 1851. The family had three trunks, the largest one was handed down to us; my husband’s sibling has the two smaller ones. Those three trunks held all the belongings of the seven family members.

As we lugged it out of the garage I remarked to my husband how amazing it was for them to fit all of their belongings into those three trunks. Our family of four households had five Pods, one truck, and two filled cars. As we sweated under the Florida sun, hubby said it would have been a whole lot cheaper and less strenuous if we had followed in his ancestor’s footsteps. Could be but immigrating back in the day was also costly; travel to ports, the cost of the ship’s fare, and the long journey that lay ahead weren’t easy.

Hubby and I are returning to the state where we were born and raised. We understand the customs, culture, and language. Many of our ancestors had to learn all of those while re-settling. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must have been. No wonder why a family moved together and located close to former friends and neighbors who had come earlier.

I had reached out to distant family who I have made contact through family research and asked them for their input as to where we should reside. It’s been nearly 50 years since I lived in my new location and obviously, things have changed. We found their information quite valuable. It never dawned on me to investigate why my ancestors selected a particular location or who helped them when they arrived. That’s something I’d like to do in the future.

I’d also like to research in-depth the transportation methods and routes. Sure, I know the ship’s name but I never took the time to really find out about it. I’ll be looking at the manifest to see how many were traveling from an area close to where my family had left, the size of the vessel, the days in transit, and so on. While we were fortunate to have interstates our trip was not easy. There was a flat tire, overheated vehicles (it was so HOT the day we left!), GPS glitches, construction, congestion, fog, the smoke-filled road from a fire, long stretches without a gas station, and exhaustion. Since hubby was driving the truck, we had to fly back to Florida to retrieve his vehicle and do the drive a second time. We had difficulty getting a flight and finding an Uber when we arrived as the plane had been delayed and it was then the wee hours of the morning. What obstacles did my ancestors encounter? I have no idea.

While packing, I realized that my family heirlooms were now returning to where they originated. I wanted to insure they’d arrive unscathed so I wrapped them well. I’m pleased to report that the few older pieces of china arrived safely. I can’t say that the furniture came in great condition. It never dawned on me that the heat, humidity, and movement would bring out nicks and scratches. The pieces were all bundled in blankets but that probably just made them hotter. I was able to salvage all but our bedroom set by bringing them into an air-conditioned home. I didn’t touch them for a week thinking they needed to acclimate as we did. Then I took a rag and went over them with Howard’s, a product I used in Florida. I had purchased it at an antique store but found it in my new area at Home Depot and Ace Hardware. It restored the luster and hid the blemishes, thankfully.

We have decided to downsize so our new home is much smaller than our last. It was a wonderful time to pass down heirlooms to the next generation who just happened to buy a larger home. Since we live less than five minutes from each other, I can still see them and enjoy using them on holidays. It is an odd feeling, though, to give them up. I guess I’m more of a material girl than I thought! It is comforting knowing they are in good hands for future generations.

Our physical move to our new home takes place next weekend so pardon me if my blog is delayed. I’m hopeful by the end of the month I’ll be back in the genealogy groove.

Boots on the Ground Remains Important

Courtesy of Aunt Becky on Findagrave.com

Do you have a family line that just fascinates you? Mine is the Duers who emigrated from England to New Jersey, moving on to what is now West Virginia and then into Ohio.

I’ve blogged before about the difficulty of identifying individuals as each generation reuses names – John, Thomas, Daniel, Joseph, and John(athan). I have been trying to prove for years that patriot John Duer (1758-1831) had a son, Thomas, who predeceased him. Thomas had a son, John, whose burial location was unknown. Both of grandson John’s wives, Jane and Margaret, were buried in Kessler Cemetery, aka Liberty, in Chattanooga, Mercer, Ohio.

Several years ago I contacted the cemetery staff and they kindly sent me a handwritten listing of burial plots. John Duer was shown buried in row 6 space 23. Unfortunately, that’s not the John I’m seeking; that John was the man I’m seeking’s son John Fred (1836-1939).

While I was in Fort Wayne recently at the genealogical library, I asked my husband to check books for cemetery records in Mercer County, Ohio. John died in Allen County, Indiana, across the border from Mercer as that is where he owned property later in life and had his will probated. No obituary has been found for him. His will omitted many of his children from his first marriage. My theory was that he was buried in an unmarked grave either in Adams County, Indiana, or in Kessler Cemetery.

My husband is not interested in genealogy and sometimes, not having a background makes for the best finds. He didn’t bother using the indexes provided in the back of the books. He scanned every page for the name John Duer. He also was looking for alternative spelling as he was aware that the original spelling was Dure. In Judith Burkhardt & Gloria Schindler. Mercer County, Ohio Cemetery Records of Liberty Township (1987) he hit gold! The last entry on the last page (52) noted in Row 15: “Next several stones missing, sunken in ground or unreadable John Duer – Unreadable”

Wow! It’s likely this was the John that I was trying to find. He wasn’t listed on the Kessler Cemetery sheet sent to me because the document only went to row 8. I had no idea I hadn’t been sent the entire cemetery listing.

I definitely need to take a trip to Kessler to see the stone for myself. I’m not holding out hope I’ll be able to glean information from the stone that was unreadable 34 years ago but I still need to make the attempt.

Interestingly, the Burkhardt & Schindler book also noted that the first wife, Jane’s, tombstone death year was 1888 which is a mistranscription. Her stone is shown above. Actually, that death year on her stone is probably also in error. John married second 11 December 1864 to widow Margaret Martz Searight. It is likely that his first wife Jane died in July 1861-4; no divorce record was found by staff who searched in Mercer County.

I definitely need to check for myself and also search divorce records in Adams County, Indiana, where John purchased a property in 1860, leaving Jane off the deed. When they lived in Holmes County she was listed as an owner with him.

I suspect her tombstone was not added until after the Civil War as the family had several sons and sons-in-law fighting for the Union. I’m thinking 1866 was the year they had the tombstone installed. Or, there was a divorce I haven’t yet found.

Boots on the ground are still necessary and it’s definitely exciting to step away from the computer to make a find in person. Kudos to my husband who made this exciting discovery for me. Happy Hunting!

Changes for Genealogy at Heart

Dear Readers, This is the most difficult blog I’ve ever written.

My family and I have decided to make some significant life-altering changes. It all began a month ago when I attended my first in-person conference since the pandemic started.

I was so excited to be “back to normal.” Little did I know how it would rock my world!

As a board member of my local historical society, I was asked to attend a conference hosted by my county on preservation. I assumed it would be about preserving buildings and artifacts and discussing the typically Florida issues of mold, humidity, insects, and so on. I was so very wrong.

The speakers were professors from the University of Florida and the University of South Florida, a preservation architect, a state archaeologist, two leaders of historical nonprofits, our county’s planner who specializes in preservation, and a tourism guru (it’s Florida, this makes sense).

Whether you believe in climate change or not, you have to admit the weather has just been kooky. We get minor flooding in Florida on a sunshiny day. We have built on just about every piece of land. Citrus canker has decimated our groves and because of the population growth, farming has shrunk dramatically. There is no longer a dairy in my county or any of my neighboring counties. We’re a beef state but the high humidity and temperatures are making that even more difficult.

I’ve been here for nearly 50 years – graduated from high school, and college, married, raised a family and retired after a 44-year education career. I’ve written before about my love of gardening which I hoped to spend more time on when I retired as an educator last year. Spending just 2.5 hours in my garden is now my limit due to the excessive heat.

Sure, I can stay indoors as I did with the pandemic but that’s not the lifestyle I envisioned when I retired.

The conference had no solutions to preserving Florida’s heritage. Models were shown of the damage that would occur with various hurricane categories descending upon my area. FEMA has a new Ap and it was encouraged that buildings of “value” 1975 and before are photographed and uploaded to FEMA, with additional paperwork to complete, of course. That way, they can be “preserved” once they are destroyed.

Floridians are a hardy bunch; we know what to do when a storm is heading our way. Perhaps we have the Jimmy Buffet mentality but we don’t tend to spend much time worrying about what may happen someday. The conference, however, reminded me how long overdue we are for a direct hit. Last fall, I wrote an article for the Florida Genealogist that will be published this month on a no-name storm that caused heartbreak for a local family in 1921. We lost everything once to Hurricane Elena; I do not want to go through that again at my age.

The traffic was fierce when I left the conference and because of congestion, a car fire, accidents, and road construction, it took me 1.5 hours to get home. Back in the day, that would have taken less than 30 minutes.

The next morning I spoke with my husband about my concerns. He processed our conversation that day and by the next day, thought we should relocate. I felt awful as I was the one who made such a big deal when our adult children came back to live here shortly before the pandemic. How would they take the news?

You have to love those millennials! One child said, “I’ll start packing” and the other replied, “I’ve always hated Florida.” Husband and I looked at each other, stunned.

The next decision was where to relocate. One adult child works from home but the other will need a worksite. We all contributed to what was important to us – less congestion, four seasons, access to the amenities we are used to like shopping, and a place that is accepting. My husband and I were then sent on a mission to find that place.

Last week, we flew to Fort Wayne, Indiana. We rented a car and drove throughout Indiana and Ohio looking for a home. Originally from Lake County, we were familiar with some of the areas we were investigating.

Of course, I did some stops just for genealogical purposes. My family settled in Ohio before it was a state, around 1802. I visited where my paternal grandparents were married and the town where my dad was born. They relocated to Fort Wayne when he was a toddler and so I checked out the churches they attended and the home where they resided. My grandfather returned there after my grandmother’s death and I found his last home. I was not close to my father’s side after my parent’s divorce so seeing these locations were new to me.

My husband’s family was in what is now Indianapolis by 1829 when they built a mill race on the west fork of the White River. His second great grandfather, John Anderson Long, married the mill owner’s daughter, Elizabeth Troxell, and they were the first white settlers in St. Joseph County.

So, our roots run deep there.

This is a bittersweet change for me. I was doing fine emotionally until I saw the menu at a Mad Anthony’s in Warsaw, Indiana. I teared up when I realized I could still order shrimp and grits, get a gyro, or a Cuban.

I realize home is where the heart and family reside and I’m blessed that my adult children would like to remain close to us as we age. Still, I will greatly miss my small Florida town, my local FAN club, the beaches, and my exotic plants. Sure I can visit but it won’t be the same.

Our houses will go up on the market next week. I have no idea how long until we move; we have three towns we are looking at in Indiana but decided to hold off on looking at property until our homes sell.

With the upcoming move, I may miss out on a blog or two.

If you have a need for a Tampa Bay Florida area look-up, please let me know ASAP.

Next week, I’ll share a great genealogical find my husband made and why boots on the ground is still so valuable.

Cloud Storage for Your Genealogy

Courtesy of TechCrunch

We don’t take much time to think about clouds. As a tropical storm passes to my south, I notice only grey skies today. Genealogists sometimes look to the heavens and think, where did you leave that record, great-grandpa? Those aren’t the clouds we’ll be discussing. I’m talking about tech servers that are accessed “out there” on the internet. It’s a place where your data is kept for you to retrieve anytime, anyplace.

Technically, the cloud is a misnomer; your internet-stored data is housed in a physical place somewhere on earth and not up in the big fluffy grouping of water vapor. Why is paying a company to keep your data a good idea? If you only store your data in one location, such as your lap or desktop, you risk losing all of it if the device fails. It’s unpredictable when that may occur – spilled beverage, power surge, or just system age can make your hard work disappear in a heartbeat.

Backing up to a portable hard drive or a stick is a good idea, but are you really going to do that after every new task you are working on? Will you take that bulky drive with you when you are researching in an archive? Will you carry it to your family reunion this summer to show your kin what you’ve been working on? Not likely. Both storage methods are useless without the computer itself.

The cloud enables you to access your information from any device, even if it isn’t yours. I’m not saying that is smart or safe to do that; the best practice is to only sign in to a secure device! The option, though, is available and at times, might be lifesaving.

For example, your family member was just injured and is in the emergency room. They want to know when the individual’s last tetanus shot was given. I can’t remember that stuff, especially under times of stress. I can access the cloud on my phone and retrieve the record if I have saved it there.

You probably have been using cloud technology and don’t realize it. Apple iCloud, Netflix, Yahoo, and Google Mail all keep your data in cloud storage.

There are many cloud storage companies, known as computing service providers, available to choose from. Which should you select? Whichever meets your needs and budget. The big 3 are Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. I’ve used them all but like the Dropbox app on my phone. I can scan a sales receipt, upload photos I’ve taken, or retrieve anything I’ve saved to share quickly with just a few clicks.

Saving to the cloud is easy from your computer. You can download the software to use on your desktop or you can sign in via the internet to your account, then drop and drag your information. I have noticed a slight time delay between my desktop and laptop. The transfer is not instantaneous but fairly quick. When I used to work away from home, I would place my unfinished documents in the cloud and by the time I drove home, about 45 minutes later, they would be there for me to pick up where I left off.

If you’ve uploaded a family document to Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, or any other genealogy program, you’ve used the drop and drag feature. It’s quick, easy, and secure.

How secure? I did take my laptop with me when I volunteered a few weeks ago to finish up a task for the organization where I was volunteering. I signed on to the shared internet from that location. A few days later I decided it was time to update my Dropbox password. When I logged on to the site through the internet, I noticed a sign on to my account from a location I had never visited. I panicked, thinking someone had hacked my account. I updated the password and through an option on the site, blocking the unknown location from accessing my account again. What I hadn’t realized in my panic was that the organization I was at used their own cloud servers that happened to be in the location I wasn’t familiar with. Duh! My data had been safe all along; Dropbox was simply letting me know where the servers I had used were housed.

I highly recommend saving your genealogy documents to a cloud environment. Definitely back up periodically to a hard drive, as well! The more you save the more options you have to retrieve your hard work.

I will be taking a hiatus from blogging. We have some major life-changing news brewing that I’ll be writing about in the upcoming weeks. Until we reconnect, you can always reach me at genealogyatheart@gmail.com. Happy Hunting and hopefully, we’ll be back together soon.

You’ve Scanned – Now What? More Genealogy Organization Tips

Courtesy of Google

You’ve successfully scanned all of your genealogical research and are quite proud of yourself. Definitely pat yourself on the back because you’ve accomplished a task that is mundane (as you’d rather be researching), frustrating (when the hardware glitches) and at times, confusing (should I keep the paper or should I recycle it?!).

I hate to break it to you but you aren’t done. Here are the next steps to think about:

  1. Where have you stored the scans? If the answer is on your desktop or computer hard drive then you must think of a backup location. If your computer fails your work was all in vain and you’ll really be upset if you’ve thrown away the originals. I have saved it to a Cloud and to a stand-alone hard drive. I intend to copy the files to two other stand-alone hard drives and distribute them to my adult kids. Why? If the internet goes down and I can’t access the Cloud and my hard drive isn’t working, then I can “borrow” the secondary drive from one of my kids. If this sounds paranoid to you, think again. When a tornado, hurricane, or wildfire hits there often isn’t time to take everything important to you. You may be seeking shelter in a location with minimal internet. When the world is tumbling down I sometimes retreat to my genealogy. We aren’t the only ones living in troubled times, your ancestors did also. Having a backup to a backup is sensible and may lessen your stress level. The cost is minimal for peace of mind.
  2. When do you backup? I’m thinking December holidays and Mother’s Day the kids can bring their hard drives back and one of my “gifts” is that they’ll backup their devices to mine. Remember, you’re never finished! You’ll be adding files as you continue researching so you want all your backups to reflect your newly added finds.
  3. Wouldn’t it be easier to save to a stick? Sure, if you don’t have a huge amount that is a good solution. I have stick issues. Seriously. I was cozying up in my favorite armchair with my laptop and the cat jumped up on me. As I tried to adjust the laptop with the cat on it the stick hit the side of the chair and bent. I couldn’t retrieve anything. I took it to a computer repair place and was told they couldn’t get the data, either. I tried another place, nope. So, if you don’t have cats you may be okay with a stick but for me, I only use them when I travel to give a lecture. I also tend to lose small objects. If you don’t have those problems you’re fine with saving to a stick.
  4. Help, how do I find the info I scanned? The key here is how you named your file. There are many different organizational tips so you have to find what works best for you. Many people save by date. For example, it’s a marriage certificate from 1888. With this technique, the file name would be 1888.Marriage Certificate.Samuelson Family. This method allows you to save in a timeline fashion with little need for folders. Personally, this wouldn’t work for me as I have too much stuff! I’d be scrolling down to the year and then zeroing in on the item and then the person. When I’m researching I tend to think first of searching by the individual and unfortunately, we’ve got a zillion family members named George! I made a folder for each individual by last name dot first name middle name. That helps me differentiate my same-named folks. I also use Jr. or Sr. if it’s appropriate and added a birth year and death year in a few cases. All the scans for that particular person are saved in that folder. Example: Harbaugh.George Frederick.Marriage Cert. I don’t need the date because I have timelines for my people. If you use any genealogy software (RootMagic, Legacy, etc.) or an online program (Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com) you’ve got the timeline built-in. To find an item I just need to open the folder with the person’s name and scroll down. Cloud storage often has a search bar so I can type in “marriage” and the files in that folder that contain the name marriage will magically appear.
  5. What do I do with the info that I want to save that isn’t necessarily for one individual? I created a file folder of a few surnames, such as Leininger Family. This is where I keep scans of documents that I’m not sure belong to my line or not. I also included geographic and historic info I discovered about the place where the line resided. My Leiningers emigrated to Ohio and then moved on to Indiana. If I have an article about researching in Celina, Ohio, I would save it to the family surname folder. This is my catch-all for all those hints we discover but aren’t sure if they are meaningful or not. I also have files for lecture syllabuses saved by lecture title.presenter.organization. This way I have additional research ideas to consult readily without having to dig through a mound of paper.

Next week, I’ll discuss Cloud options.

Genealogy This and That

Courtesy of 123rf.com

Last week was the first time I skipped posting a blog; it was so hectic in my part of the universe I just couldn’t find the time. If you were looking for me, my apologies!

Today’s blog will be short and sweet as I have my area’s historical society’s annual picnic to set up for in a few minutes. The weather here is frightful so we’ll be picnicking INDOORS. Sigh.

I’m happy to announce I did complete the organizational project I mentioned two weeks ago. It’s hard for me to recycle my paper files but I’ve already found how much more useful and quick those files are to recover once they’ve been scanned.

The past week I had a rush project; trying to find a descendant of a female pioneer from my area so a tombstone could be placed on her grave. You know how it is when you email someone for info and you wait and wait and wait for a response. This time, the lovely woman wrote back within an hour. The city approved the project on Monday but rescinded its decision on Friday. They wanted to connect with a descendant so I’ve just finished providing them with my contacts with the caveat that I haven’t fully researched those kinship claims.

I attended an interesting in-person local conference on preservation on Wednesday. I thought it would be about preserving buildings; instead, I learned some disturbing (to me!) information about my county’s “plan” in the event of a weather disaster. The plan isn’t a plan of prevention, it’s of how they plan to spend the federal and state dollars once the area is obliterated. I think I’m going through the stages of grief. I seem to have been the only attendee that was bothered by the slides presented. I came home and did further research and I understand where they were coming from – Florida lies on limestone so there is no way to prevent saltwater intrusion. Dikes aren’t going to work here. I discussed this with my family and we’re making our own plans. My thoughts are with the oldest genealogy book in existence, the Bible. Noah and his ark are definitely on my mind!

Organizing Your Genealogy Documents

Courtesy of Amazon.com

You’ve heard of Marie Kondo and Swedish Death Cleaning. You probably have participated in Spring Cleaning. If you’re like me, you never gave much thought to cleaning and organizing your genealogical treasures.

I originally set up my genealogical documents in paper file folders, all of the same, manilla flavor by surname, and filed the paperwork in a bottom desk drawer. When I first began accumulating paperwork back in the 1980s I didn’t have many pieces of paper so the system worked if I needed a quick retrieval. Those were early computer days – no cell phone and no home internet.

Life has changed dramatically tech wise since then and spilled over to genealogy. You’d think computers would have made fewer papers but I have not found that to be the case. By the mid-1990s I joined America Online and began connecting with distant kin scattered around the world. The family began snail mailing me copies of their records so my manilla file system became stuffed. I moved to color-coded file folders with everyone with the same surname getting the same color folder individualized by the first name. I moved from housing the collection in a desk drawer to a small file cabinet.

The generation older than mine began to pass and younger family members deemed me the archivist so I began to assume more documents. I’ve blogged about receiving boxes left on my doorstep and photos mailed to me. I outgrew the file cabinet and was concerned about how I was historically preserving the items.

I invested in acid-free sleeves to house the growing hoard and in hindsight, should have monetarily invested in the companies that make archival products as I bought loads of them. I moved from file folders to binders that I placed upright on a shelf in my office closet.

As the internet took off so did my collections. I began printing interesting items I discovered with the intent that one day (ah-hem) I’d look into that rabbit hole more closely. I changed emails and decided to print much genealogical-related mail I had received from family members who had passed. All of this went into the binder system.

I continued to organize by surname and then alphabetically by the first name. Women stayed with their maiden name family. This led me to have to make duplicate marriage records to house with both surnames. Ditto for divorce decrees.

I’ve blogged a great deal this year about my ongoing scanning project; I decided in January it was time to clean a closet where I housed items I obtained from my deceased father. After I scanned each photo and a diary I carefully preserved it, boxed it up and placed it in an interior storage area in my home that is high, meaning secure from floods, temperature-controlled, and as dust-free as possible. We have a humidifier and pest control so the items are as safe as possible. Sure, fire and tornadoes could occur which was why I scanned the items before packing them away.

I’m talking here about three boxes of memorabilia and four photo boxes. When I pass, my kids can pitch it all if they like; I can’t bring myself to do that.

The housed items DO NOT INCLUDE the binders. Sigh. I decided to tackle that this week. I had thought most of the contents had been scanned over the years but upon opening the first binder, discovered that wasn’t the case. My heart sunk. So many binders – so little time!

I made the decision to go through each binder this week and scan the vitals (birth/baptism/Bible entry, marriage, death/obit) for everyone that I’ve accumulated. This allows me to see what I’m missing and need to obtain. So far, it doesn’t look like I’ve missed much. After scanning, these items will then be saved in the acid-free sleeves and returned to a binder. Note: 1 binder. I have a pile of other stuff to go through. Enter Swedish death cleaning and Marie Kondo. . .

My kids will not see any value in my email correspondence from 1999 with their dad’s second cousin who they met once. Her memories are important as she is long dead so I’ll scan and attach them to my personal tree. I’ll attach it to the individual she was memorializing and the scanned email serves as the citation. The paper can be recycled. My kids won’t have to dread going through any of this. I will be able to readily find anything anytime anywhere. Except if I can’t.

I’ve mentioned my projects to my friends and they think I’m nuts, though they haven’t said it verbally. I’ve gotten eye rolls, sideways glances, and one vocal doubter of the value of the project. The doubter has validity – what, she mused, is the point if the apocalypse comes? Yes, the world is a hot mess but I’m not preparing for an apocalypse. If only there were scanners available before the Library of Cairo was sacked! My purpose is for my kids to have an easier time going through my stuff after I die. I’m organizing again so I can find items quickly while I’m on my tech. This will be helpful when I venture out into the world again to do boots-on-the-ground research. I’m also at peace knowing that I have a backup to the item in case a disaster does hit my home. Plus, I’ve got lots more space in my closet!

As several dear readers noted earlier this year – make sure if you are scanning that you save to several locations. Mine is stored in Dropbox which I can access from anywhere and will be saved to three stand-alone hard drives. I will retain one and each of my kids will get one. That way, I’m lessening the chance of the information being lost.

I have very few heirlooms and am not quite ready to turn them over to the next generation yet. I’ve put a label on the bottom of two knickknacks, a lamp, and a carved wooden box that notes who the items originally belonged. I’d like those passed along to the next generation and pairing down to so few items makes that doable.

If you are a senior or you live in a disaster-prone area of the world, take the time now to preserve your years of research. Your effort will not be lost and your future family will much appreciate your thoughtfulness.