The Dusty Genealogist
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The Best Offense Is A Great Defense!

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who have suffered the idiosyncrasy of Mother Nature. We are allowed to experience the hobby of genealogy, because our ancestors managed to survive, thrive long enough to have children, and records were kept in some sort of protective manner. It is always better to be lucky than good. When you have a day of research where you find not only what you were looking for, but more. That’s an exceptional day. When you find information on an ancestor whom you had given up ever finding, it is amazing.

New records and information come to light every day. So many people understand the importance of preserving their own family history. Historical societies and family history centers are more likely to keep donated family records, whether belonging to the donor’s family or records which may have been randomly found in family bibles at a flea market or salvage family records after a disaster, because of awareness of their importance.

Even if you don’t think your family was special enough for others to think they were important. Your descendants will think their family history is important to them. It is important to save you family history from just disappearing.

We have been fortunate that the ravages of war on American soil only had limited impact on our country. Records during the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War have managed to survive. General Sherman was not the first general that decided that tactic of burning records and court houses, and everything else in his path, was useful. He learned that strategy at the military academy at West Point. I am sure that tactic has been taught since before the Roman Empire.

Genealogists have existed since before biblical times. Some genealogists have been able to trace their ancestors back to the 700’s or potentially further through family names in religious texts. All of those governments, with accountable taxation for each person, or religious ordinances, kept good records. Keeping up with the records, is a different question.

When people are aware of pending problems, records are moved and kept out of the danger zone. Early Sumerians kept records and stored copies in locations away from their cities. We know this because archeologists find those records. Sometimes keeping up with the records is a challenge. Governments, companies, banks, and churches, have second sets of records stored somewhere or should have.

The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints has a missionary program available for free to churches to copies their records. All organizations need to do is ask for participation in that missionary program. Encourage your church if they have not already participated in that program. Your family records are as important as any other records. Possibly your church elders are thinking about more pressing problems, like a roof for the church. Remind them how important records are.

When you cross paths with disasters, you are in shock. People in shock, react. Your reaction is based upon your training and experience. That is the survival instinct. Many presume that all is lost. Others believe they will find a way. As part of the healing process and putting some closure on the situation, going through your home to see what is salvageable is helpful.

As a genealogist, the best offense is a great defense, is sound advice. But, how do we do that? In today’s world of technology, it is easier than you think. If you are not ‘tech savvy’ get out of your comfort zone, and ask for help. There are children, adults, librarians, fellow genealogists, and neighbors who can, and will, help you. Most of them for free.

The term scan copies, does not mean make more paper. You put your document on the screen, and tell the scanner/printer where you want the file sent. Some printer/copiers can do this. Other’s cannot, they are only copiers. If you have a printer at home that you know can scan, but you don’t know how, ask someone to physically show you how to do it. Then practice doing it until you get the hang of it.

As a genealogist who is ‘tech savvy,’ what a wonderfully good deed to offer to help show someone how to preserve their materials. When you scan your documents, send them to your personal e-mail. That way it is generally always available, and only seen by you. Send it other family’s members e-mail, and upload it to genealogical sites, like <> (Free), or <> (membership fee), or libraries or historical organizations where your family lived, who might be interested in your family’s genealogy.

Add a codicil to your will addressing what you want to happen to your genealogy research. <> has a sample codicil available for free, or search for ‘genealogical codicil to my last will and testament’ on the internet. Codicils are generally standard and can be done by you, and added to your will for free. At the bare minimum, if you are scanning genealogical documents to your e-mail or other digital file location, like a friend’s e-mail in addition to yours, provide your passwords to these email sites in your will, enabling your family or ancestors access to all of your work.

River Campus Libraries offers wonderful advice at <> for recovering water damaged material and books. They point out that you should not air-dry vellum or leather bindings, materials with water soluble inks/colors, manuscripts, drawings, or photographs without first consulting a conservator. They also want to make sure you know that you should be very careful when handling wet paper – it tears easily!

To air-dry, gently open the front of the book in the normal manner. Put paper towel sheets in-between every 20 pages. As the front of the book starts to dry, turn the book over and do the same with the back. Allow the paper towels to absorb some of the water for about an hour. Then stand the book on end, head or tale, not on the back of the book, slightly fanned. Change the paper towels beneath the books and between the pages until the book is only damp. Use fans to circulate air to dry books completely.

If you find photos or books with mold on them. Use a mask or tie a bandana over your mouth and nose to prevent breathing the mold. Spread photos and books out in the open air, somewhere outside, on a dry day and let the material air out and dry. Gently wipe the mold from photos with a dry cloth. Contact a photo store, tell them that you have moldy photos and you would like them photo-printed. Your new photo will be complete with the image of damage and mold stains, but it will be the likeness of your ancestor. Call to compare prices. You are not breaking copyright laws, you are protecting a photograph that already belongs to you.

The reason we wright genealogy notes in pencil? Pencil does not run or fade! Remember to write your name on each research page. Include an address or e-mail address. It doesn’t have to be your personal address or email address, just a location where lost papers can be sent if found by someone.

Bio: I am a Certified Genealogist and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. I believe that the hobby of genealogy is fun, exciting, and very satisfying. Through researching genealogy, you may add skills, meet new friends, and gain new respect for those who have gone before you. You may reach me via email at ‘’ with questions or comments. I thoroughly enjoy the hobby and hope that you will too. Label your photos with a first and last name, an approximate date, and a possible location if known. Please look for a new genealogy book from this author to be released in 2018.


By Marjory Regan

A brief bio of Marjory Regan: I am a member of the Williams Mills Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) and a “Certified Genealogist’ Thank you for your questions, comments, problems and successes. Email me at I think genealogy is a fascinating hobby; I hope you will, too. Get Started. Do something small every day, it all add up. Label the photos! First & Last names and approximate date of the photo. Do it for an hour while watching TV.