Family History Held Hostage – Don’t Let This Happen To You

UPDATE: the Chicago Tribune is now reporting that arrangements have been made to return the items to the family.

As I am getting ready to write my post for Data Backup Day tomorrow, I come across a local story here in the Chicagoland area that just makes me sick.

It appears that several items including personal effects of the first servicewoman to die in the Afghanistan war were bought during a storage company auction. And now the new owner is holding them hostage and trying to sell them to the highest bidder despite pleas from the fallen veteran’s family. Click here to read it, if you can.

The story of Sgt. Jeanette Winters is one of service to our country and her passing is a loss for her family and a sad story. But when you add the tactics used by a local businessman, Mark Perko, to the story, the story becomes tragic.

Put yourself in the place of the Winters family: what if your own genealogy research or your own personal effects that were significant to your family’s history were to be misplaced, sold off at auction, or worse yet, thrown out with the trash.  Think it can’t happen? Perhaps you should read Michael John Neill’s powerful story Cleaning Mother’s House for another perspective.

So tomorrow as you back up your data (you will back up your genealogy data, right?) start to think about a New Year’s resolution for January 1st involving who will inherit all your hard work and research. If you don’t currently have any estate planning documents, make plans to do so now.  And if you have made such preparations, please make sure you’ve mentioned what should happen to your genealogy research and family keepsakes in your possession.

©2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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