You didn't come by those copies of census records, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage records, or photographs easily. And yes, they are all saved onto your computer.
So, what do you do with all of those paper records?
Me, being the person that I am, intend to leave me genealogy records, which are quite extensive, and I've spent almost 20 years on, to the Historical Society of my family's county upon my death. Since I am not sure what form of digital record may then be most popular, how do you prepare for this?
I have kept every scrap of research I have on paper. And everything has been organized and is in almost a dozen 5-inch three ring binders. But the papers themselves, how do we protect those items?
We've all seen the musty newspapers at the library, that are brittle and must be handled with white gloves to protect them from oils on our hands. We've seen documents and books the same way. See, as paper ages, it becomes brittle. And oils from our hands can make a real mess of it all.
The solution is simple. Place each document in an archival sleeve protector. I use the Avery brand shown above. Make certain that the package states that the sleeves are archival quality. And I must tell you, they aren't real cheap when it comes to purchasing all you need. A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to purchase some in bulk on eBay for a rather reasonable amount. The Avery brand above usually retails from $3-$5 for 12 sheets. Now you can see where the cost begins to come in.
Always print your document on acid free paper if you are printing from a file. And never, ever, put pages in back to back, as ink can sometimes leech onto the next sheet. So, one sheet per protector.
Doing these things will keep your documents legible for a very, very long time.
But what do you do with the archival sheets after you've filled them?
You will want to put your archival sheet protectors in an archival quality three ring binder.
Notice how the spine is hinged? This will protect your binder from coming apart as others do after a time. Should a paper accidentally come into contact with the binder, it is archival quality, meaning acid-free, so no worries.
While most of the archival notebooks I have use a front, or back label for identifying contents, I use an archival quality label to place on the spine of the notebook. This allows me to place my notebooks on a library shelf, and still see what is in each one.
On my Dad's side, I have a main notebook. It is labeled simply with the surname BEAN. Then there are notebooks that breakdown the research I have done on each of my great-great-grandparents children, and their descendants. I also use color coded archival tabs for these. Further breaking down the interior of the notebook into the child, and then each of that child's family and descendants. This makes looking up family members quite easy. Of course, I also use an index, and in the index lists each of the subfolders.
Protect those documents you worked hard to find, and probably paid good money for! I've been told by the State Historical Society, as well as our local historical and genealogical societies that this is the best method if you are planning to donate your research after death. And of course, backing up your files monthly onto the latest form of digital saving, will always be accepted as well. It is also good to include your family's story.
The problem I have with including my family's story, is that it seems to grow in leaps and bounds yearly! I would need to update it constantly. My goal is to wait until I retire, or until I am too weak to work, and spend my remaining years writing that great piece of genealogy!
Do you save your hard copies? If not, why not? If you do, how do you save them?