Several years ago I made trip to the Family History Library. I was just beginning to do family history research and I had my laptop with PAF installed and all the information that I had been given by my mother and grandmother. My grandmother had spent her entire life researching. She had done much herself (I have about twenty family history books with stories and photos she created) and had hired professional researchers as well.
When I arrived at the Library I went down to B2, since most of my ancestors are British. I went to the counter ready to do some research. I showed the research consultant what I had and asked what I should do next. A quick query came back from the consultant, “Where are the sources for the information here?” I told them that all I had was pedigree charts and family group sheets and that I hadn’t been given any source information. The research consultant advised me that I would need to research all that my grandmother had done and find the sources before I did more. I left the Library and didn’t come back for several years. I couldn’t imagine spending the years my grandmother had spent just repeating what had already been done.
Since that time I have grown a little wiser and a little more persistent. I have begun finding sources for what my grandmother had done as well as doing some of my own original research. I have enjoyed the work as I have discovered by ancestors one by one and pieced together their lives. I did make one vow however. I vowed never leave the same first experience I had for my children, grandchildren, and so forth. I vowed that when they went to look for more ancestors that they would find the sources I had found and the conclusions I had reached.
My challenge has been where to leave this information. I could publish a book. The documentation in books seems to be durable. I have several from family organizations. Given where we are in our digital world, however, this didn’t seem to be to be the best option. Instead I have focused my efforts on the Family Tree at FamilySearch.
Many of you may be saying right now, “No, all the information can be changed there!” You are right of course, and I am counting on it. I am counting on the fact that as I add sources, add photos, document my ancestors’ lives, and come to conclusions, that other family members will add their collective wisdom to mine and reach better and better conclusions over time. I am confident that the power of community is greater than the power of one. I am confident that FamilySearch will still be preserving my ancestors, the collective conclusions of my family, the sources, photos, stories, and other information long after I am gone, even after my great grandchildren are gone.
I will leave behind a legacy of family for my descendants to find. I can’t imagine a better gift to leave them.
Don Anderson is a Sr. Vice President at FamilySearch. Read more on his blog at FindYourFamily,me