Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, April 3, 2017

How can we stop the tragic constant loss of genealogically important records?

“It's so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.” 
― John SteinbeckThe Winter of Our Discontent

The interesting thing about lost records is that they are lost and we may never know what benefit could have been derived from their availability. As new genealogists start to search, they quickly learn about record loss. One of the first and most obvious losses is that of the 1890 U.S. Federal Census. But lost or missing records soon become an almost constant background noise to research.

Presently, we seem to be barely staying afloat in a deluge of records, but the quantity of the records only makes was is missing more obvious. Here is an example from an English parish register:
Ramsey, St Thomas A Becket, Huntingdonshire : parish register transcripts : bapt. 1921-1955, banns 1926-1937, marr. 1921-1955 (no burials)
Of course, as a seasoned researcher, I would take this list more as an incentive to do additional searching, but who hasn't found the records stop just before the year that you need to find your ancestor?

What we don't usually realize is that as genealogists we are not just passive consumers of genealogical data, we are also instigators of preservation. As we investigate and examine records, we can be a positive force in promoting their conservation and preservation. Experienced genealogists are always quick to point out that not all records are yet digitized and available online, but implicit in that observation is a need to become proactive and promote the digitization of those records we identify.

The fact is that we can be a positive force in discovering records that need preservation and then promoting their preservation. To read about the opportunity we have to promote this preservation effort, see the following post.

Preserving Historical Records: Lesson of the National Personnel Records Center Fire

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