By Jayne McGarvey
If you have spent years, even decades, researching, collating and analysing genealogy and family history evidence, have you made plans for what happens to your research after you are dead?
I don’t want to be morbid, and if your “other half” is as interested as you are then it probably is not much of an issue. But what if your significant other “puts up with” or only brings a loving supportive role to your dedication and enthusiasm in genealogy research or even resents the amount of your time it takes up? What if you have more than one sibling, cousin or child who shares your love of family history? What if your “research buddy” is a third cousin once removed or someone with whom you only share a relative by marriage?
The potentially delicate issue of who gets “your research” may be something you want to consider in the same way that you have probably made arrangements for the rest of your estate. If your research simply forms an unnamed portion of your residual estate will it end up in the hands of someone who will love it, be indifferent to the detail, or loath it. Will they continue your work, share your work, give it to someone you approve of, or will they lock it away from the rest of the family and the world in the back of a cupboard or worse, will your precious research end up centre position in the nearest skip?
Are there are differences of opinion within your family with regard to who should have access to your work – whether your family tree should be public, private, or only available to certain individuals within the family? The same questions arise about family photos.
If you are in the practice of paying for expensive memberships of research sites and genealogy organisations is it possible to transfer any unused portion of membership to someone in your family or a friend who will want to and be able to continue with your research?. Will they be able to access your login details, research notes, your conclusions, the evidence, photographs, even your family tree?
These last items can be very time sensitive. Probate can take time, worse still it can be delayed if your instructions are not clear, or family members disagree with your decisions and initiate legal proceedings. If there are no instructions to continue to pay a membership through the probate process to protect the information on a website or subscription based database the norm would be for the executor of your will to immediately cancel all subscriptions and reclaim any fees that can be claimed as this forms part of the value of your estate. Instructions not written down have little or no legal validly and can be very difficult and expensive to prove in a court of law. If your genealogy is world-wide in its scope then any dispute could involve the jurisdiction of more than one country.
If your genealogy research has a financial or even future potential financial value does this effect the person you choose to make the recipient of your work? How will your nearest and dearest feel about this?
Once your research belongs to someone else then the choices will be theirs to make, will they abide by your wishes, will they know what your wishes are, will they be in a position to follow your wishes?
Have you raised any of these issues with your family?
These are choices you make now but who will make these choices about your work in the future – or do you care?