Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but when I explain I think you’ll understand. Last Wednesday, July 4, was my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. We didn’t have a very fancy celebration, and unlike a lot of other families (I think), we didn’t put together a scrapbook or memory book ahead of time. However, a few days before the celebration, I opened up one the large drawers into which family photographs are tossed and started pulling things out. This rapidly turned into a project. I sat with my parents and went through stacks of photographs trying to identify people I didn’t recognize from the very old pictures. After the celebration, each of my siblings left with a bag of relevant photographs to take away, and I left with a car full of boxes. Most of what I took this time are not original photographs or documents, but piles and piles of genealogical information gathered by my mother about her family. She was quite obsessed with it, at one time, but has moved on to other projects. I did take the original materials related to my father’s family–it’s a smaller collection, and my father had no objections to my taking it away to scan the materials and organize them.
I don’t know if this is true of other archivists, but I have always stayed as far away as possible from genealogy and family history. However, it’s clear that I’m the family member who is going to pick up this responsibility, so I might as well get started on it. I’ve spent some time on Ancestry.com (of course) and its sister site myfamily.com taking a look at the tools they have available for recording and sharing family history. And I looked around on the website of the historical society in the county my father’s family is from–and I was able to send my parents links to quite a few photographs of our family which have been made available online.
As you can imagine based on my interests, I’m looking for ways that people are documenting and sharing their family histories online, and in how companies (and archives) are making records available to meet the needs of family history researchers. If anyone has any favorite sources, please let me know.
For some time now I’ve also been trying to convince my mother to donate her family’s papers to an archives. I found the appropriate repository, confirmed that they would be interested in the donation, but was surprised when at first my mother was not interested. Well, I should say she was interested in providing the archives with copies of the materials, but not the originals. It has taken many conversations about the function and value of archives, but I think I have almost brought her around. And I think I might be able to identify some materials that that county historical society might be interested in from my father’s family too.
I realize that genealogy and family history aren’t exactly “next” topics for most archivists, but I can’t be the only one who now finds herself in the role of a potential donor of materials or user (rather than provider) of information. Perhaps we can get a session topic out of this–or at least a support group for those of us who now find ourselves being archivists as home as well as at work.