Keeping Genealogy Records Intact for Now and in the Future

By: Marie Christianson

Genealogy research is an interesting field that is becoming an increasingly popular pastime for many people. With the large number of people flipping through records and copying files, there are a few things you should do to ensure these records remain intact for those who are doing their research now and for those who will be doing research in the future.

Be Respectful in Facilities

One of the first steps you can take to ensure that genealogy records are kept safe and available to others is to be respectful when visiting facilities that house these records. For example, you should always be courteous to the people who work at these facilities. Remember that they have regular tasks to complete each day and, therefore, they really do not have the time to listen to each little interesting detail that you uncovered about your family lineage.

While you may be excited to share the information with someone else, allow those working at these facilities to continue with their daily tasks. After all, they are busy retrieving and preserving records for you and others to use in research - let them continue about their work so you can have more information to explore!

Being courteous in the facilities also means respecting the rights of others. Be sure to speak in a low voice and to keep a close eye on children so they do not cause a distraction or accidentally ruin some important documents.

Know What You Need

As part of being respectful when visiting genealogy facilities, know ahead of time what sort of records you need. Do not monopolize a worker's time by simply asking for everything they have regarding your ancestors. Come prepared to ask for specific records. Then, take the documents to designated areas in order to ensure they remain safe.

Never take them to areas that are off limits and always ask for permission to make photocopies of documents. In order to ensure the documents are not damaged during the copying process, you might also want to ask for assistance. Along the same lines, do not hoard all of the documents. Take only a fee at a time so others may access them and so you reduce the chances of causing damage to them.

Handle Everything With Care

Many genealogy facilities have excellent resources available in book format. Be kind to these books and avoid forcing their spines to be spread open and causing them damage. In addition, you should never "dog ear" the pages or make any other markings in the book. Make photocopies and then mark on those. If you find a mistake in a document, do not take it upon yourself to make a correction. Instead, bring it to the attention of one of the facility employees and allow him or her to determine if a correction needs to be made.

Photographs are an excellent resource that can really help you make a connection with your ancestors. Seeing what they look like helps create a mental image of them and their daily activities. So, be sure to treat all photographs with care. Preferably, you should were archival gloves whenever you handle photographs. In addition, be sure to handle them by their edges so the pictures do not become smeared and dirty with fingerprints.

You should also avoid laying your paper or any other objects on top of records or books as this may cause damage to them. In addition, never place pressure on the documents. This includes laying your paper on top of a document or book and writing on your paper. The pressure from your pen or pencil can cause permanent damage to precious document and photographs.

Put it Back Where You Found It

Always remember to place an document, book, or photograph back in the spot where you found in. Do not rearrange their order or place them in a different location. In addition, you should never remove anything from the facility. This includes printed information, originals, electronic documents, microform, and artifacts. If you are unsure of where the item was located, return it to one of the facility employees to ensure it is replaced in the proper location and available for those looking for it in the future.

Of course, you should always learn about the rules of each facility you visit. They do not all follow the same procedures. Some may allow you to mark pages with sticky notes while others may not. Never question the procedures and always be respectful of the rules. Remember, these guidelines are put into place in order to help preserve the living history of millions of people - including your own ancestors.

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Marie Christianson is a senior business analyst at Visit the Genealogy Info Center for more articles and resources!

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