Sunday, October 1, 2017
Day One: Surveying the Damages
It's been a long time since I last took inventory on my genealogy-in-storage legacy. This month, though, I want to divest myself of some very old family history papers, and the best way to start is to take stock of the current situation. That snapshot-in-time will reveal all the tangible material remaining from a pursuit started over forty years ago.
Naturally, at this end of the research timeline, the paper trail is minimal—mostly handwritten notes kept in spiral notebooks from research journeys that were supposed to be transcribed on my arrival back home. That was the plan, at least—until life's realities got in the way. For a few of those notebooks, I'll have to go back and check that I at least transcribed the information into a more permanent form upon my arrival home. Otherwise, I've got some work to do.
The reason there isn't much paperwork to deal with lately is that my repository of choice for several years now has been a digital one: I keep my trees on Ancestry.com. Oh, I do have a desktop-resident program, as well—a throwback to earlier years before Ancestry shed its training wheels and raced ahead to the winning genealogical position—but it desperately needs an update of its own.
In fact, the deadline for that FamilyTreeMaker update looms within hours, at least for those procrastinators like me who put off upgrading to the newest, sync-able version, but wish to still get it at a decent sale price. That, frustratingly, puts me in the position of sticking to my new fall cleaning task while simultaneously trying to download a computer program and make sure everything syncs correctly. (Warning: the new FTM has a forty eight hour "Co-Pilot" check-in offer, to make sure the download and syncing process went well. That, of course, means the customer has to actually, you know, do the download and sync before that forty eight hour check.) All part of organization, I realize, so it's on the to-do list for sure.
The research era predating my FTM years is where the paper mountain begins. That was the file cabinet era. I have a four drawer cabinet which once was filled with genealogical records. As life progressed, I found myself taking one drawer after another and displacing those genealogy files with other material—financial records, business records, research for other topics and...well...stuff. The genealogy cast-offs that were displaced didn't get tossed, though. They got boxed. And stored. Hence the need to re-inspect those very old papers and decide what to toss.
Before that came the notebook era, a natural outgrowth of the file folder era. Believe it or not, I still have those old notebooks. Before I forsook that storage device, I had made it to the point of organizing one three ring binder per surname—one for each grandparent's surname, mine and my husband's. They still have a spot in my home, although that spot is tucked at the back end of my office.
Since, for me, step one in any project is to do a needs assessment or inventory, I took a look at that old file cabinet today. I dreaded the thought of having to clean everything out before I could even start my fall cleaning process. To my delight—I had forgotten what I had done in the ensuing years—nearly three of the drawers were completely empty of genealogy material.
While I'll have to decide what to do with the material now in there which had displaced those stored genealogy files, at least it's a simple move to take that stuff out. Then I can go straight to the triage moment of deciding which of the storage boxes' files to put back in the file cabinet. It feels so much better to know that, than to face going through storage box after storage box, deciding with each one where to put all those papers. Taking time to survey what needs to be done was a stress-reliever in itself. The emptied file cabinet will be a welcome repository.
Above: "Autumnal Lane," undated oil on canvas by German landscape artist Walter Moras (1856 - 1925); courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.