Helen Rutledge is my cousin. She and I have been sniffing around the same records in the same counties for many years now. I only wish we had met earlier so we could have shared more of the chase.
Helen is no “spring chicken” as we say on the farm. In fact, Helen has continued to research far into her golden years – being in her 90s now. Want to hear the great irony? Helen has no children to leave her work to – but this does not deter her. Helen is the aunt that every one of us wants to have in our family.
Recently Helen sent me an e-mail that both saddened me and inspired me, and with her permission, I’m sharing it with you. I have omitted some of the more personal portions.
After 13 days in the hospital I returned to long term nursing care. I brought my computer and genealogy records from Assisted Living to my new level of care. However, now instead of researching, I am organizing my research to leave for my nephew and some research archives. I have been forewarned in the most urgent way that there may not be time to think about how I will do this when the research is done. Well, we all know research is never finished.
Keep urging perseveration of research on your blog. It is as important as the research itself. Answers are no good if I am the only one who knows the answer to the puzzle…I must share it with others whether they give me credit or not. I thank you for alerting me to that truth and God for allowing me extended days to get my records in order as a gift to other researchers. Oh, the many little tidbits I have garnered, documented, and put together for those who follow in my footsteps with our family lineage.
Organization is not just entering our data into a genealogy program. It is documenting, making copies of the documents available when possible, and recording the ORDER of our research so those who are not familiar with the records, can follow the generations and become acquainted with their ancestors.
Be honest, say information is not documented, when such is the case, and challenge your readers to find documentation. Try to inspire descendants to fill in the blanks and record those who are yet unborn. While they will miss the thrill of solving the puzzle after years of frustration, they will know the joy of learning who they are.
Thank you, Helen, for your lovely, inspirational message. Sometimes we aren’t fortunate enough to receive a warning.
Another e-mail this week told of another cousin’s husband who died suddenly, with no warning, and he was 30 years younger than Helen.
DNA in Perpetuity
I would add one thing though, and that is to record your user names and passwords – especially relative to DNA accounts and tests and anyplace, like GedMatch, you have uploaded your results. Your DNA can never, and I repeat, NEVER, be replaced, while genealogy research could be with enough effort. Don’t let your DNA results become inaccessible.
At Family Tree DNA, you can designate a beneficiary.
On your personal page, under “Your Account” on the left hand side, select “Manage Personal Information.”
Then select Beneficiary Information and complete the form which includes your beneficiary’s name, e-mail and phone number. If you should pass away, this is who Family Tree DNA will allow to access your account. Other companies, to the best of my knowledge don’t include this information or provide this option, so you’ll need to be sure to leave your account access information available for your family members.
If you have not prepared for the inevitable, please take a few minutes to do so. You can make the DNA arrangements now, and easily.
Remember, at Ancestry, your DNA won’t be available unless your account (subscription and login) remains active, so you’ll need to take how to handle that into consideration.
You might want to download not just your raw data files, but matches as well when possible.
Upload your Y and mitochondrial DNA to sites like www.ysearch.org and www.mitosearch.org. Be sure to record the most distant ancestor and enough information to positively identify them, like birth and death dates, locations and spouse’s name. This is the only way to get your info into a public data base that is accessible without having DNA tested for a match. You can also enter Y and mito info at www.wikitree.com and attach it to the proper ancestor. This helps others in the future learn about their ancestors. Be sure to include your full haplogroup in the notes and a link to anything you may have published about that line.
Upload your autosomal results to www.gedmatch.com and upload trees where possible.
Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, because baskets aren’t forever either. Think about how many genealogy companies have come and gone and what happened to our Y and mitochondrial DNA with both Ancestry and Sorenson (also destroyed by Ancesty).
You can take a few minutes to put together a plan for how to preserve and present the balance of your genealogy information. Preserving and publishing my genealogy research has been on my bucket list for some time now and is the purpose of the 52 Ancestors articles I’ve been writing for the past 18 months. I’ll write them until every ancestor is covered….or I can no longer write the articles – and I sincerely hope I have the opportunity to finish. Not just for my own sake, but for the benefit of everyone else who follows. I hope future researchers make huge breakthroughs and add immensely to what I know today. My work will at least give them a firm foundation to start from and they won’t have to replow the same ground.
One of the avenues to preserve your work online is a blog. WordPress offers free blogs and they will be available into perpetuity, whatever that really means. I am also printing my articles and will be donating them to archival facilities like the Allen County Public Library. And of course, I’ll have a set of binders for each of my children.
WikiTree is another public resource for your trees, your Y and mtDNA results and additional information, although that’s not the same as offering the detail in an article.
So, however you choose to do whatever you choose to do… just do it.
And do it now.
You may not have an opportunity later.
Time may be shorter than you think.
Get your ducks in a row.