Who will take over your research?

It's inevitable that each of us will one day reach a point when we can no longer continue our research, whether through incapacity or death, and whilst we all know how important it is to make a will, it's all too easy to forget about one of our greatest assets, the family history research that we've compiled over many years of earnest endeavour.

We don't all have someone younger and fitter who can take over the reins and continue our research, but there's always someone who we can trust to safeguard the research for the benefit of future generations. Often there will be a relative that we can pass our research to - but that's not the only option, because local archives, family history societies, and even the Society of Genealogists might be interested.

Of course, nobody knows their way around your family tree like you do, and that's one reason why it's important that we record the sources of the information we collect, whether it's a primary source (such as a census page or a parish register entry) or a secondary source (such as a relative or a transcription). After all, you wouldn't want to do what the great mathematician Fermat did, when he wrote in the margin of a mathematical book that he had a proof of the conjecture printed there, but that it was too large to fit in the margin (it was to be 358 years before Fermat's Last Theorem would finally be proved by the Cambridge mathematician Andrew Wiles).

For many of us the most practical solution is probably to write a letter to our executors recording what we would like to happen to our research, and to keep a copy with our will - but if any of you have a better solution please pass it on, so that I can share it with other members.

From Lost Cousins Newsletter Feb 2011