The Ex-Files

I have a confession. Like many other people these days, I’ve been divorced. We had a long marriage, especially by today’s standards: almost 21 years. We had four great children together during that time and are now sharing our first grandchild. The divorce was almost 13 years ago now, and in that time we’ve both remarried, hopefully having learned from past mistakes. I’m happy to say that my wonderful husband Dennis and I will celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary this month.

Anyway, I’ve found that when you’ve shared 21 years and four children with someone, there are a lot of leftover connections. As any married person will tell you, you don’t just marry the person, you marry the family. And since one of my primary motivations for researching my family history is to have a legacy for my children (and half of that legacy belongs to their father) I find myself in possession of the Ex-Files.

Shortly after I began the this genealogy journey, my kids told me about some notebooks their father had full of research done by his grandmother and uncle. I vaguely remembered that Big Grandma and Uncle Bob were interested in their family history, but, being young and foolish, I paid little attention at the time. (Side note: There was also a Little Grandma. My advice to all the soon-to-be grandparents out there … as soon as your child tells you they’re expecting, pick your own name and vigorously enforce it. If you don’t, the oldest grandchild will, and YOU could end up Big Grandma. Just sayin’.) Anyway, I asked my ex if I could see the notebooks. I was not prepared for this:

family history collection

family history collection

Two huge notebooks stuffed with pedigree charts, old family photos and assorted documents. There is even a letter written by my ex’s grandfather just before he went to Europe to fight in WWI. And, horror of horrors, much of this memorabilia was saved in “magnetic” album pages. Now, I may be a newbie, but even I know that you don’t put priceless family history in magnetic albums!

So I made a deal with my ex. If he would trust me with these notebooks, I would transfer them to better storage materials while digitizing and organizing everything for our children. He graciously agreed.

I had made some progress on this project when a few weeks ago I discovered The Practical Archivist website and Sally J. There I learned I had scanned everything in the wrong format (JPG’s instead of TIFF files) and stored them using materials of questionable archival value.

It had occurred to me at the time I purchased these “acid-free” items at the hobby store that maybe I shouldn’t trust the labeling of products coming from China, but what can I say? I was in archival denial. So now I get to pretty much start over. Good thing I’m a procrastinator and hadn’t actually gotten very far. Hey, sometimes procrastination can work out for you!


Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Nancy Shively of Skiatook, OK. Read all her posts at Family Tree University.

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