What to do with Your Genealogy Collection When You Downsize or Die

Many of us have collected all sorts of genealogy information. Not only do we have our personal data, most of us also have collected books, magazines, photographs, and more. Someday, somebody will have to dispose of all that material. Perhaps your heirs will make that decision soon after you die. If it was me, I would prefer to make those decisions myself long before my demise.

Another reason for planning to get rid of materials is a word that I fear. This word sends shivers up and down my spine:


Again, I prefer to make decisions about downsizing while I am still able to do so. I don’t want to wait until someone else makes the decision for me.

What to do with all that material? One possibility is to donate it to FamilySearch. Yes, the Family History Library accepts donations.

In reality, you cannot simply bundle everything into boxes and send them to Salt Lake City. In short, FamilySearch is only interested in unique material that is not yet available within their extensive collections. If FamilySearch already has 36 copies of a certain genealogy book, they don’t have much need for a 37th copy.

According to FamilySearch’s Gifts, Donations, and Loans guide at http://bit.ly/2mf8RAs:

FamilySearch looks for genealogical records and family histories so we can preserve and share them on FamilySearch.org.

FamilySearch will accept only materials that:

  • Are readable, very well organized, and accessible to help researchers identify individuals and relationships by name, date, and place.
  • Add new information to FamilySearch’s collection (duplicate materials are not accepted).
  • Do not violate current privacy and copyright laws.

FamilySearch does not organize collections. Submit GEDCOM files or place photographs and stories (memories) in Family Tree or the Memories section of FamilySearch.org.

FamilySearch does not enter or add information from Pedigree or Family Group charts on Family Tree.

The same guidelines also state:

“Written works, such as family histories, should be in a clear, readable format. They should include a title, the author’s name, and the publication date.”

The same guidelines also state:

“Contact FamilySearch before submitting a donation, as the materials must meet established criteria or they may be returned to the donor.”

For complete donations guidelines, read Gifts, Donations, and Loans at http://bit.ly/2mf8RAs.

Your local genealogy society, historical society, or library also may be interested in accepting your genealogy information, books, and other material. However, most societies also are only interested in materials that “Are readable, very well organized, and accessible to help researchers identify individuals and relationships by name, date, and place.”

Contact your local genealogy society, historical society, or library for further information about acceptable donations.


Allen County Public Library accepts donations of organized materials, digital or paper. Check their website for their current criteria.

Liked by 2 people

Since my niece’s and nephews have no interest I have told my wife everything goes to my Genealogy society I have also already gave them most of my books.


The problem or issue I face is simply no one in my family has a bit of interest in what I have accomplished. It is a history of the family but nothing note worthy but sure would hate to see it go by the wayside. Not a significant amount of information but it is still 5 binders worth. But that may happen, and so be it, I have enjoyed my hobby, enjoyed helping others and there really is no place to turn the information over to.


    They don’t care now; they will care someday. My nieces and nephews aren’t at a point yet where they care, but I’ve invited them all to claim their Geni profiles so that, when the day comes, they have easy access to our tree, documents, photos, etc. People are more likely to care about digital records they don’t have to store in their homes.


    Try giving it to the local library for a local genealogy or historical society.


    You could consider entering the data into a free family tree at FamilySearch. Alternately, you could pay someone to enter the data into family tree software, which could then be used to upload the family tree to a free site, like RootsWeb’s WorldConnect.


    If it’s online you can be sure countless people that come after you will benefit from your work. I’m so grateful to the family historians who are no gone who gave me copies of their work. I’m trying to put as much online as I can.


This is why people need to get into collaborative genealogy. When you die, your private Ancestry tree will die with you, but everyone using a site like Geni will have their records and discoveries live on. Stop hoarding “your” information and help it survive when you can’t. Scan your documents and photos and get them uploaded to a public, shared tree!

Liked by 1 person

    Ashley, I have discovered the truth of your idea and strongly recommend it. Collaborative genealogy, for me, has been WikiTree.com, and the progress I’ve made in a few years exceeds all I learned on my own in decades.


For JR,
Perhaps your local library has a genealogy and/or local history collection. Our small town does and it is tremendously helpful to people who come from quite a distance to do research because their ancestors came from our area.

Liked by 1 person

Raymond W Wolfgang March 7, 2017 at 7:50 am

I have digitized and then disposed of most of the books, paper, slides, prints, certificates, diplomas, and so forth, so my computer is the repository for my research and family history. All of these are written to the new archival millennial disks as well and stored in a safety deposit box. I suggested to my children that they keep my computer running in sleep mode to ensure the operating system and security software continue to be updated at least for a few years following my journey to the Bourne from which no traveler returns.

Liked by 1 person

Most small libraries and hist/gen societies can’t accept materials, as they lack storage. Our genealogical society can’t take anything physical, period. So I like the idea of uploading my materials to a public website where it can be shared.

Liked by 1 person

Carolyn Fix Blount March 7, 2017 at 10:24 am

As the volunteer indexing the dozens of donated collections at the Fiske Genealogical Library in Seattle, I might suggest that in addition to organizing your collection you also index it, placing the finding aid in the front of each notebook or file, along with a pedigree chart or family group sheet identifying the family. Consider a $ donation to the receiving library to cover the costs of indexing and storage. I’m nudging myself as well!

Liked by 1 person

Please, please check with the genealogy society or library before you box everything up and haul it over there. Make sure that they accept such donations. Also, please be sure that the material is well organized, clean, and that it ONLY contains genealogical material that does not violate copyright. As a volunteer who processes such donations, I can say that too many times we receive boxes of “stuff” that appears to have been scooped off of any flat surface and dumped into the boxes. I have found bills, receipts, rental agreements, and appliance manuals mixed in with donations. When these donations are sorted, they may contain only a small amount of usable materials.

Liked by 1 person

I like the principle of collaborative genealogy, for sharing what you’ve found, but I haven’t seen it done in a way that appeals to me. I tried Geni, but couldn’t see how to present evidence of what I was entering, or to find out what evidence supported the entries of others. It was annoying when I found myself repeatedly rejecting false “facts”, such as the second Christian name one of my great grand-fathers never had, and it was disconcerting to find that the tree I was listed as managing suddenly contained dozens of people I knew nothing about, but the worst thing was that they don’t seem to have any privacy protection for living people. It seemed the natural thing, to start my entries with myself, but that was a mistake, as last year I Googled my birth surname, and was shocked to find an entry from Geni giving my full name with both birth and current surnames. So although I agree with the suggestion that you share your work, on-line, I would also add that you should do so with caution.

Liked by 1 person

    —> So although I agree with the suggestion that you share your work, on-line, I would also add that you should do so with caution.

    There are a number of online sites that will allow you to attach full notes, source citations, and more. Most of them allow YOU to see all the data you entered but do not allow anyone else to see information about living persons in your data.

    Try: MyHeritage.com at http://www.MyHeritage.com , The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding© (usually abbreviated to “TNG”) at http://www.tngsitebuilding.com/ and WebTrees at http://www.webtreesonline.com/ and any of a number of other, similar genealogy services.

    Liked by 1 person

    Anne, you can upload your sources to any Geni profile via the “Sources” tab. You can put text citations in the “About” field. And all living people are private unless they’re a celebrity/notable figure.


    Please add WikiTree.com to Dick’s wonderful list of collaborative online sites! If I tried to write all the ways my genealogy skills and my tree have improved from being a part of WikiTree, I’d have to pay Dick for advertising. (joke! WikiTree is free) All I can say is give a try for yourself.


Your genealogy materials will be much more likely to be preserved if they are organized. I once asked Curt Witcher of the Allen County Public Library if there was a preferred method for organizing such material. His reply was “ANY method of organization, as long as they are organized.”


In my Trust: I have listed 4 genealogy/historical societies in an area where branch(s) of my family spent a number of years. To sweeten the deal I designated $1,000 to each society IF they accept the material. I only hope I can get the material organized before meeting the Big Guy!

Liked by 1 person

If you have some military information you can contact the Carlisle Military Museum at http://www.carlisle.army.mil/ahec/donate.cfm. You can also search their digital collections.


I was glad to see that someone mentioned including a donation with your research. It takes a lot of time to organize even “organized” research.
Also the New England Historic Genealogical Society accepts organized research. ( and not just New England families)
It is really important to make some decisions about our research that also are realistic! I know one man who said in his trust that his genealogy was to be stored until his adult children became interested and agreed to take it…It has been 10 years!!
That is a lot of time in storage where no one can take advantage of and appreciate his research.


I have seen a statement you can put in your will on what you want done with you genealogy put out be a genealogical society — anyone else seen this statement????


I have prepared a document for each of my children, who like hearing about ancestors but have no interest in research, which explains where my files are on my computer and what my passwords are on genealogy websites. They will each inherit two backup hard drives of all my data on my computer including a copy of my family tree software to install.

In the meantime, while trying to figure out how to use my DNA, adding to my research in my Family Tree software program, and forever learning new things, I’m trying to find time to enter information into Wiki Tree and have uploaded GEDCOMs to several websites that need to be uploaded again when there are a lot of changes. I never thought of attaching scanned documents so that’s something else I need to do. I need at least 20 or 30 more years to live and that’s not likely, so will do the best I can.


Cyndi’s List has a series of links to ideas for planning a genealogical will, outlining what we want to have happen to our family history collection after we join our ancestors. Writing out instructions and letting heirs know (and leaving money to store or care for items and subscriptions) is the best way to safeguard our hard work. See links at: https://www.cyndislist.com/preservation/after-youre-gone/


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