We read an article a few days ago titled “How to Discover the Life-Affirming Comforts of ‘Death Cleaning’” Despite the morbid title, it’s a thoughtful discussion of cutting down clutter so your loved ones don’t have to later.
The article also got us talking about the types of papers and other documents we want to leave to our descendants … and those which should be trashed.
The company I founded is all about preserving and sharing core genealogy data, genealogy stories, and family photos on paper, which is the only proven long-term storage medium that’s relatively affordable and easy to use.
For instance, we have copies of a handwritten family tree and other notes written by great-grandmothers, cousins, aunts and uncles, some of which has survived close to 100 years. If they had computers in the 1930s, we doubt any of this would be available now, any more than we can easily read a floppy disk from the 1980s, a computer punch card from the 1960s, or a defunct online genealogy forum from twenty years ago.
But what about other types of information stored on paper that might be cluttering your basement right now? Consider the following:
- Report cards
- School assignments
- Business records
- Holiday cards
- Used notebooks
- Bank statements
- Tax returns
- Property deeds
While there might be mild curiosity over these papers 100 or 200 years hence, such documents do not fall under the umbrella of “core genealogy.”
Unless there is something truly remarkable or special about an individual document in the list above, they should not be preserved or left for your loved ones to deal with. They are bulky. They are difficult to sort through. In some cases, these documents are redundant to information that will be readily available from other sources such as school yearbooks, business directories, or census returns.