- Write as you have never written before at DearMYRTLE's Genealogy Blog
- The Ancestral Golden Arches of Genealogy at Genea-Musings
- Are We Entering the Genealogical Dark Ages? at Elyse's Genealogy Blog
- The Coming Genealogical Dark Ages Parts 1 2 and 3 at West in New England
- Why there will not be a genealogical Dark Ages at Genealogy's Star
- I'm Changing the Purpose of My Blog at Grace and Glory
- Genealogy Dark Ages Coming? at Genealogy Geek
- Will We Have to Go Dumpster Diving for Our Records at The Ties that Bind (warning: music automatically plays at link)
What do I have to add to the conversation?
There are basically two parts to the article.
1) Disappearing vital records
"I believe we have a crisis in our midst," Witcher said. "We have left the care of our written records largely in the hands of disinterested strangers." He said these records include everything from birth records to tombstones — and more and more they are disappearing.
Libraries are limiting hours and public access to materials. Courthouses are engaging in "radical sampling," where they take a few samples of large collections of old records and destroy the rest. "This is going on now," Witcher said.In my belief, libraries limiting hours and public access is a factor of the economy. When the local governments have more money to spend, they will keep the libraries open longer. The concept of 'radical sampling' I hadn't heard about, and it is disturbing if it is happening. What I have heard about is courthouses digitizing all their records, and then destroying the originals. Which may be OK, if the digital counterparts are all backed up, and re-backed up regularly, and are moved to new storage mediums as new storage mediums are invented. Maintaining digital records takes less space, but is more work than maintaining paper records.
Digital records will be lost. Most people have probably suffered hard drive crashes where we've lost important documents. This will happen to some digital records preserved by the government. Just as some paper documents have been lost to fire. Every means of storing information has an achilles heal. We, as a society, need to learn the weaknesses of these new storage systems, and what we need to do to avoid them.
Looking at Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, and other genealogy websites, I can't look at the phrase "Genealogy Dark Ages" without laughing. Some records will be lost. But overall, the technology of computers and the internet is preserving records, and making them more accessible, not destroying them or making them less accessible.
2) The Decline of Letter Writing
Records are also disappearing on a personal level. "Who is writing letters anymore?" Witcher asked. "When was the last time you received a letter?"
But even if letters are a thing of the past, Witcher worries about e-mail. "Do you organize your e-mail well? All those Christmas greetings? All those family stories that have been exchanged through e-mail? How are you doing with that file management? It's a part of living history."This isn't a new complaint. I've written twice on this topic.
Decline of Letter Writing (Apr 29, 2008)
Decline of Letter Writing (Feb 27, 2009)
and now it's July 31, 2010
Let me sum up my major points in those two entries:
1) It is not email's fault. People like to blame email for the decline of letter writing, but the things that I usually get in my email box from friends and family aren't the things I see in letters my ancestors and their kin sent. Silly jokes, and are you interested in breakfast/lunch/dinner/happy hour?
About the only thing that gets sent via email that got sent via letter, is the enclosed photograph. (And of course, the technology of the internet is making this easier, so more photographs are being sent -- and likely being preserved -- via email than via post office in the past.)
If laying blame is important, it is most likely the fault of the telephone and free long distance. Why write a letter to the relative who lives a few states away, or further, when you can pick up the phone and talk to them directly?
2) Instead of being the cause, email is the cure. Those letters are now easier to send. As long as the emails are preserved, but that's the way things were with the letters too. Many letters weren't saved. Many emails are being deleted. Those who care about preserving their family history need to learn not to delete those emails, how to print them to pdf documents (and/or print them to their printer), how to make backup copies. These are new storage techniques that must be learned, but it's not like it can't be done.
While I may not agree with the "dark age crisis" mentality, I do agree with the suggestions.
To counteract the trend, Witcher encouraged people to write. "Write as you never have written before." This writing can be about memories, describing a family photograph or center on themes such as a family's rituals.
After something is written, Witcher said to share it with others. Otherwise, he said "many of those precious pieces of living history go into landfills."As I said above, it's always been this way. If our family history wasn't written about, it got lost. If it wasn't shared, it got lost. This isn't a new trend. What did Joe the Caveman think, feel? We don't know. It wasn't written down. I have boxes of letters my maternal grandparents preserved. Very few from or to my paternal grandparents. I doubt they didn't receive the same amount of letters. They just didn't preserve them as well.
What's new is it's actually now easier to write and share. So, yes. Let's do it.
Have you heard about my Amanuensis Monday project? Combined with the popular "Sentimental Sunday" and "Memory Monday" memes, there is a lot of weekly preservation going on in the geneablogger community.