I Am Glad I Wasn't


I am fully aware that they are "supposed" to be indestructable and last forever; but for whatever reason, occassionally a CD with data on it must be replaced or re-burnt. I recently had the occassion to need to do that with some of mine. In all fairness, they were simply full and I needed to split them into a different alphabetical system.

As I glanced through them, I found that there were some items that were obsolete or just plain not needed in my line of research. They had since proven to be the wrong lineage then I was researching. As I removed them and discarded the ones that were completely useless to me; I also found some items that I had long since forgotten. I also found items that although they made no sense at the initial time- they were of great benefit now.

This got me to thinking about when I first began researching. Just how eager I was and just how excited I was to find just one little piece of data. I also remembered the laughter and the ridicule that I experienced from others because I saved "practically everything". I was often told that I was wasting resources by saving all these items that didn't connect or didn't make any sense when I saved them. The reader can well imagine the questions I got in creating a folder on each CD called "non-connecting".

But you know what?

I am just really so pleased that I was so eager and naive when I started out. I am finding items right now that fit right into those holes in my research. In all honesty, there are items that I don't even recall who I got them from or where I got them at.

For some time now, I have been attempting to gather everything I have in any given family and put it into a book format that someone else might be able to glean some sense out of. These old forgotten bits and pieces have helped me tremendously as many of my family lines have very few other researchers to swap data with.

I have never looked very fondly on the true pack rat, but in genealogy it is a real boon to be one. I have always preached about;

1) What you throw away is what you will need next week!

2) You most certainly will not find a need for a bit of data "until" you throw it away!

The researcher does have to be discerning though to a point. Don't save things that you absolutely KNOW don't belong to your family lines- just simply to have "a pile". On the other hand, save everything and anything that could possibly fit in there somewhere. Especially if you are working with a database that has several holes in the children of the family.


There are certain items that should NEVER, EVER be tossed away, irregardless. There are other items that can be tossed with no regrets and no hesitation.


Obituaries--especially those that are of your surname and you have major holes in that family prior to the date of the obituary. (Exception-- If you have all of your people without a doubt, and the obituary is for a time frame that you know by then your ancestors were in another part of the country.)

Cemetery Records--no exceptions

Newsclippings pertaining to persons with your surname (same rule as with obituaries.)

Any handwritten items from older relatives or letters.

Photographs-- these can eventually be identified.

Census Record Pages--there might be someone else on the page that you connect to later.

Anything that carries a surname you are researching, but is dated at a time that your research hasn't reached yet.

Wills and other similar Documents


Duplicates--you only need 1 copy of the article of the church picnic or the census record.

Any items that are "past" dated--by that I mean, if for example, your family was in Iowa from the year 1856 (and all known members went with them) and you know this without a doubt; chances are items with any mention of that surname in Indiana in 1865 is probably not your line.

Persons that carry your surname, but are the wrong race (self-explanatory.)

Scratch paper you have used/made that you ask yourself "what the heck is this?" TOSS IT.

ANY ERROR FILLED ITEM--if you have an article, book bio, newsclipping, anything that is filled with errors that you KNOW about; you must ask yourself "what errors are here that I don't know about?" TOSS IT. (if you must keep it, attach a note pertaining to the errors.)

Items that carry data that you CANNOT verify after years of trying.

It becomes extremely easy to determine what to toss and what to keep if you put it in the perspective of how your collection of data would look to another family member who perhaps takes over your research after your death. Would the "saved" pieces make sense to them? Would they badly mislead them? Then you probably don't need them either.