Monday, October 10, 2016

Leaving It or Handing It Over

I was having an email conversation with someone the other day about leaving my genealogy work to someone when I die or handing it over while I'm still living. She didn't understand what I was saying so I had to think about it some more.

This is what I mean.

When I die there are provisions in my Will to leave my work to someone in the family who will either be interested or give it to someone else in the family who's interested. Hopefully it will land with someone who carries on giving it due honor and diligence. I'd like to care if that works out but when I'm gone from Earth I just won't.

Leaving it to someone means it may get dumped in the back of their hard-drive and the rest in the basement because it's too disruptive and too much for them to incorporate into their life. They've just come home from a hard day's work and they'd rather flake out in front of the television. There are valid realities to not-interested and not-enough-time.

Although it would be more work for me, I prefer the idea of transitioning while I'm still alive. That doesn't mean 'handing it over' to someone who says they're 'interested'. A lot of people who are 'interested' in the family history don't know what they're asking for. They're asking because it's a fad or because they have 5 minutes to burn right then.

And the reason they don't know is that they don't understand how many moving parts there are. They think the family history is something they can 'get' while they're double-parked at the curb.

I've written README documents for some of the moving parts to go with my Will.

  • Legacy; learning the software
  • familiarity with the family lines; what's known/unknown
  • MRIN digital filing system (IPTC metadata & related software)
  • paper filing system (file-boxes and binders)
  • photo software
  • online resources (bookmarks, webinars, social media)
  • other tools
  • DNA and related correspondence
  • other correspondence
  • privacy concerns, copyright, etc.

That's a daunting lot of stuff.


Off and on over the years I've heard either first or second-hand of someone in my family who's 'interested'.

Ten years ago I wrote 18 weekly installments; the family history as a cliff-hanger. I thought I was being entertaining. I sent it to two sisters and two nieces. Three of them ignored me. Only one sister wrote back to say she couldn't follow it. Really? Am I that abstruse as a writer?

I've stopped being a lemming running to the sea and smartened up. Since I obviously don't know what they mean by 'interested', and they don't know enough to know what they mean, I've made a list of potential candidates and I'm working on creating an invitation for Next Keeper of The Family History. I don't know if I'll send it; I'm just playing with the idea.

Meanwhile, I've thought about what transitioning means exactly. How would I go about this? It seems to me there's a way to develop someone's interest instead of just throwing an 800 page Descendants Book Report at them and watching it go down the toilet because they don't understand what they're being given. And who could blame them? Weekly installments wasn't it either.

If they're interested then let them earn it. Earning it means making time, paying attention and being willing to learn something. Call me old-fashioned.

The only mandatory step in transitioning is they have to have their own copy of genealogy software. If they inherit the whole thing when I die they're going to have to do that anyway. If they can't get that far I figure they're not that interested. Of course I would prefer it be Legacy because that's what I use and it would be easier if we were on the same page.

And it means they're hands-on from the beginning. They don't get a free ride and they don't have to be bored to death by me talking over their heads. They can play with it on their own time putting in a few people they know like their parents and siblings and then I will feed them more information.

In a relaxed sort of way, when they have time, I will export one marriage at a time with the accompanying folder of documents, leaving time for absorption and discussion as I work my way up the direct lines. That means they're learning how to import a family file. They're learning about their ancestors. They're learning the software. They're learning the filing system. They're learning what I don't know yet and they're learning about privacy and copyright issues.

If they poop out after one generation I'm gone too. If they stick with me, I'll stick with them.

Surely, by the time the direct lines are transitioned they'll have a good handle on how things work.

Right now, the next generation of my family range from ages 33 to 44. Some of them have children, some of them don't. All of them work from morning til night in areas of their own interest. The family history is a vague curiosity for some. For some it's not even on their radar; they couldn't care less. So be it. None of them has asked to take this on; I'm just saying I have a plan if they do.

In the meantime, the satisfaction in this biz comes in the present tense; answering questions, solving problems, breaking down brick walls, teaching and learning with people who are presently engaged. And all of this will live to see another day.

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