Tips from the Pros: What Have You Preserved Lately? from Michael John Neill

Recently I was asked to make a presentation at a family reunion. As part of the process, I had temporary access to the “reunion book” which had been kept since the mid 1950s. This book had a record of everyone who attended the reunion and the town they were living at the time (including a list of out-of-state addresses from the early 1970s). There were lists of births, deaths, and marriages, along with lists of reunion expenses, entertainment, and prizewinners. There was even a record of the great debate in the early 1970s whether to donate $25 or $15 to the church for use of the hall.
I realized that there was only one copy of this book and that the information it contained could easily be lost. Since I had to return it, the easiest way to immediately preserve it was by photocopying it in its entirety. My next step is to determine whether I should make additional copies, scan it, and burn some CDs. I’m still considering my options. But at least now there is more than one copy.
The next time you have access to an “unpublished” source, ask yourself, “Is there some way that I could preserve this for future generations?” Someone in 100 years may thank you for it.

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9 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: What Have You Preserved Lately? from Michael John Neill

  1. I was sec-treas for 20 + years of our family records, following my Mother’s tenure for the previous 27 yrs – resigend in 2000 as I felt it necessary that someone younger know the family history as I did and understood the “SAGA” When I did this, I made three copies of the original records (which I still have). Our reunions started in 1925 and are still going. I will be forever grateful to whomever it was who wrote down the attendees in the early eight to ten years.

  2. On September 11 I was struck with how easily our family Bible records could be wiped off the face of the earth. So I scanned the pages from the Bible and the pictures that were placed under the openings in the album part. Then I recreated those pages with new copies of the photos and archival materials. To this I added copies of the pictures of my grandfather’s children (he had no married siblings)and a few important genealogical records I had. Our Bible record is unbroken since 1870 and contains all of my great grandfather’s decendants. I made copies of the records for a library and then one for each of my siblings, first cousins, and their married children. These relatives live all over the USA so terrorists can not burn all copies of the book now. That was how I coped with that horrible time. (Yes, Michael, this is the Carolyn Ramsay you knew and I am still kicking although almost 74 now.)

  3. In the 1930s, my wife’s grandfather sat down and wrote what he knew of his family’s history; his grandfather and father emmigrating from Switzerland to eastern Indiana (farm between Berne and Geneva), his younger years with his family, and his years as a minister. My father-in-law got his secretary to type out this handwritten document, but only a single copy!

    When it came into our possession, we carried it with us around the country during an Air Force career and into our own retirement, until I finally scanned it and made several floppy disks of it. One printed copy and a disk went to the Berne library and led to our being contacted by a cousin of my wife’s, who descended from one of her grandfather’s sisters. Terre has done much work on the Swiss connection, going back into the 1600s.

    It became obvious that our house was not the proper place for the original, so I contacted the Librarian at the college in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where the archives of the Evangelical and Reformed Church are kept. He was anxious to see the history, and added it to his collection. We visited him several years ago, and he went through his knowledge of Daniel Burghalter, and the two sisters who were missionaries in China and Japan.

    My next project is to transcribe the collection of letters that Daniel wrote to his family during a Church-related inspection trip of the Far East missions just after WWI. Those letters, as well as a transcription and CD will find their way to Lancaster in due time.

  4. We have just this month enjoyed our 52nd.consecutive annual Family and Friends Reunion. Over the years we have met cousins that we woule never had known without this reunion. I am in the process of preparing a book to donate to our local library. It will certainly be history for our county. I feel it will be appreciated by many relatives in the future who will be seeking family connections. I had not thought of making copies of the records but that is an excelent idea. Our tresury sometimes gets low and one idea would be to sell copies to our family which should be a pleasure to each of them as well as give us a little extra cash for expenses. Thanks for the idea.

  5. Over several years I have had the joy of visiting cousins and taking part in the rare reunions of the family. Most recently I have asked that my cousins bring any scrapbooks, letters, etc. to the reunion and then make sure that I have my portable computer and scanner with me so that I can easily scan in the photos and documents collected over the years. These are then made up into CDs to share and are currently being incorporated into books about the family.

  6. I am the keeper of our grandparents 1899 wedding album which contains many family pictures and a drawer underneath that contained quite a few tintypes which seem to be getting darker. I have had this book for at least 20 years;I keep it hidden in a closet, it finally occurred to me recently that it would take only one disaster to destroy the book and all those pictures. I used my digital camera to take pictures of each page & the tintypes. I had 2 sets of prints made — one to send to my sister in another city, sent a set to a cousin via e-mail to New York. The pictures & the book have deteriorated somewhat over the years, but now they are preserved in another way.

  7. We had a similar situation with the family genealogy book made by my maternal grandparents. Only one copy and that in the attic of a cousin. Another cousin and I go ahold of the book and put an article in our family newsletter saying that we would have copies made for whoever wanted them at cost. Over 20 people responded ordering the copies which were not cheap. We had them made on archival paper with laser photos at our independent local copy center. We later gave a copy to the PA Historical Society also. So now with so many copies existing hopefully the valuable information will not be lost.

  8. I too was able to have access to the records of my family reunion, held since the 1920’s. It was 2 books, and I scanned to my hard drive, them burned several CD’s and gave them to several people so the records would be safe. You never know when disaster could take these precious items away.

  9. Juliana,

    Our family having a reunion every year always brings something out that no one seems to have known about in the family, a bible, or journal. Since I am the only one (that I know of) building our tree I always ask if I can copy to save and archive these things. I do my best to contact the writer if still living and if not get a informal permission letter from the owner to preserve and share the information.
    If they want to keep it private, I only use it as a source in my own research.

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