Stop Keeping Family Secrets!
By Cheri Hinchman Widzowski
Many of us are sitting on a treasure-trove of information – photographs, legal documents, diaries, etc… – that is either lying forgotten in an old attic trunk or boxed away in a musty basement. Think of these abandoned gems as nuggets of family knowledge that only have value if they are shared rather than stored away. Family lore and history are doomed to disappear if they are kept private. Sharing valuable family documents with others in your ‘clan’ helps ensure the survival of your genealogical wealth. Stop keeping the family ‘secrets’ – share your family genealogy before it is lost forever!
“But what to share?” you may ask. Anything related to your family’s story and/or history can be of value. Photos (labeled please!), stories handed down through the family, legal documents such as deeds, certificates of birth, death, and marriage, newspaper clippings, church or cemetery records are all examples of family information that your current (and future) family members will appreciate. But remember that it is best to send copies, not originals.
“Why should I share?” is another question you might pose. One benefit is the chance to get to know other family members better or to find those relatives believed to be ‘long-lost’. Even more valuable may be the opportunity to obtain family information that is missing from your own records. The best interactions involved an exchange of ideas and information. Another benefit of making your family data available is that it may help you to discover more about your own heritage and to preserve it for your own children.
By now you’re most likely eager to share, but “How?” pops into your mind. With the technology and resources available today, obtaining and sharing genealogical information has never been easier. A number of family genealogy organizations, websites, and supply companies (such as myancestor.com and geni.com) exist to help you on your way. For the Hinchman Heritage Society, information can be shared via the HHS website (www.hinchman.org), the newsletter, The Chronicles, or in upcoming editions of the book, The Hinchman Family in America (see submission information below). Hinchman family materials may also be archived at Marshall University in Huntington WV. A simple, but effective, means of sharing information is simply to begin an email correspondence with all known current family members – brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents – letting them know that you have family information to share and that you’re interested in receiving likewise. Scanned photos or documents become computer files which can easily be attached to your outgoing family email. Another idea is to collect these computerized family treasures and save them in CD or DVD formats. Data on disks can be easily copied and sent to other family members by regular mail. A third alternative to sharing digital versions of family information is to post these files on personal, family, social, or genealogical websites for others to access.
For more suggestions on sharing your family ‘secrets’, see the Internet articles, Making Genealogical Connections, 5 Ways to Get People to Share, and Top 5 Ways to Share Your Discoveries by Kimberly Powell at http://genealogy.about.com
To share Hinchman family information via the HHS:
1. Send by E-mail or regular mail what you would like to share with others in The Hinchman Family in America book and / or The Hinchman Heritage Society newsletter The Chronicles to the editor Mary Hinchman, 2857 Majestic View Walk, Lexington, KY 40511, [email protected]
2. Copies can also be sent to – Hinchman Archives MU-SCD #637, Special Collections, c/o Mr. Lisle Brown, Marshall University, 400 Hal Greer Blvd, Huntington, WV 25755. See www.hinchman.org.