If you’re a regular reader, you know I’ve embraced the idea of minimizing paper in my genealogical research. I never print out the documents I find online. Instead, I download them, immediately rename the file according to my file-naming protocol and, once I’ve gleaned all the information I can from the document and created a source citation, I file it within my folder structure. My blog post called How I process a downloaded document takes you step-by-step through my digital workflow. And there’s lots more information in the Paperless Genealogy Guide, the 44-page downloadable guide that Brooks Duncan of DocumentSnap and I wrote as we prepared to speak on that topic at RootsTech in 2017.
As someone who espouses letting go of paper, I’m often asked if there are papers that those who are trying to minimize should keep. I usually reply by saying that documents that are impossible or difficult to replace–even if they’re scanned–are worth hanging on to. That means, for instance, there’s no need to hang on to census records but original birth certificates are worth keeping in a file or binder.
I recently came across a post on the Abundant Genealogy blog from Melissa Barker, The Archive Lady, on this very topic. (Melissa was the subject of my How They Do It Interview in August 2017.) Her Abundant Genealogy post, called 5 Genealogical Records You Should Never Throw Away, goes into some detail about five types of records that you should hang onto. It’s definitely worth reading. (Spoiler alert: The five types of records are original records, diaries and journals, scrapbooks, old letters and photographs. Read the blog post to find out why.)
I would have a hard time throwing away hand-written letters and, in fact, though I carefully scanned it, I still have the epic 36-page letter my grandfather my wrote my grandmother right before they got married, in which he confessed the family secrets. That will be passed along to my niece or nephew or, perhaps, a cousin. But will I keep all old photographs once I’ve scanned them? I’m not so sure.
What about you? Are there are any records you would add to the list of keepers? Any that you don’t think belong there?