Devon Noel Lee
Donate Your Family Stories to Archives Before It's Too Late
Did you know that your story can benefit extended family members even if you do not have direct descendants? One of the best ways to ensure access to the genealogies you publish is to donate books to libraries and archives.
Many libraries, archives, genealogical societies, and history museums may welcome your published family history. At some future date, a descendant of your common ancestors will find your work and praise your name.
Therefore, how do you go about donating your finished self-published book?
Donating Digital Family Histories
If you're producing your genealogy books, you already have a digital copy of it. Create a PDF with all of the font, images, and graphics embedded into the file.
Then, upload copies of your book to multiple digital archives. Be aware, that when you upload these books, you're typically granting public access to your work. You'll still retain the copyright, but you won't be compensated for sharing your projects on the following websites.
Since we are family historians, the first place I’d recommend uploading your finished books is to the FamilySearch Digital Library. This informative post contains a video explaining the process and access to the forms for uploading your items.
A second place to consider is the Internet Archive. While it’s not genealogically focused, it’s a second place to preserve your old diaries.
2. Thought Web / Mind Map
Donating Physical Genealogy Books
Hopefully, you'll take the type to print copies of your books, regardless of the format you choose.
One of my favorite places to produce softbound or hardbound copies is through an on-demand service such as Lulu.com.
Once you have ordered and received copies of your book, donate the finished projects facilities that collect family histories and family narratives.
FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Allen County Public Library - Genealogy Center - Fort Wayne, Indiana
New England Historic Genealogical Society / American Ancestors - Boston, Massachusetts
Now, each organization has restrictions on which books they'll accept, but contact the conservators and find out whether your publication is a good fit.
Additionally, look for repositories that serve a special connection your ancestor may have.
If your ancestor is African American, look for ethnic-based repositories that welcome family histories for African American heritage individuals.
If your ancestor worked for a university, consult the special collections division if they would like a family history about one of their former employees. My great-grandfather was a professor of physics at Ohio State University, and their special collections department asked me for anything that they could preserve about him..
Pro Tip: Don't Limit To Location Connections
Don’t limit yourself to close connections for depositing your published family histories. Some locations welcome donations even if the link to a location is non-existent.
A copy of my memoir, From Metal to Rhinestones: A Quest for the Crown, is part of Arkansas's genealogical library collection. Although I never lived there, the library wanted to preserve my pageant perspective and asked for a copy.
The aligns with many historic document and artifact collectors approach.
For instance, I’ve learned from a collector of Books of Mormon that it’s not wise for historical books to only be in the place where you would expect to find them. If all the historical copies of the Books of Mormons appear in Utah repositories and those are destroyed by fire, all copies will disappear.
So, this collector deposits his collection at Harvard, Princeton, and other archives around America.
The same thing can happen to you. Donate your family histories to the logical place and any place willing to accept family histories.
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