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Letting Go by Nancy Battick

17 May 2021 1:24 PM | Anonymous

The following article was written by Nancy Battick and originally published in The Piscataquis Observer newspaper and web site. The article is republished here with the kind permission of the author.

By Nancy Battick

My husband and I are in the process of renovating parts of our 196-year-old farmhouse. You don’t realize how much you can accumulate until you tackle something like this.  

Over the years our house has been the repository for various relatives including parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and who knows how many others. Out of loyalty I’ve kept many things I didn’t really like, want or need. After all, they’re family pieces and letting them go is hard. I feel guilty, though the more I shift things out of the house the less guilty I feel. I know family members expected me to keep and treasure their unwanted items forever, but I can’t anymore.

And then there are my genealogy records. I started genealogy before personal computers and genealogical software existed, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Everyone kept paper records. With the advent of personal computers and genealogical software I dutifully entered the genealogical information and filed the original material as a backup. Then I had so many files I divided them by family surnames. 

As I acquired more I organized them into binders by individual family members, mainly because the software was limited and you couldn’t scan in a great deal of material. Now it would take the rest of my life to scan everything into my software. Not happening. So I’m faced with a lot of binders, way over a hundred. Each relative has a family group sheet, original records, photos if they exist and so on.  

Then there are the family physical items, large and small, such as the berry set given to my grandparents when they married in 1905. The set was from my grandmother’s aunt and is the only item of hers anyone in the family has. Pretty but never used, it takes up space in one china cabinet — but if I ever have to seriously downsize what happens to that? What do I give up to keep it? Or the large crayon portraits of my great-grandparents and grand-aunts and uncles? My husband has his mother’s afghan crocheted by her uncle, a Catholic priest. My stepsons won’t want it. What to do with it?

As genealogists you will probably have to face the same sort of decisions I’m trying to resolve now before I get older and may have to move into smaller space. I certainly don’t want someone else making these decisions for me.     

Letting go is hard. I’ve sent things out of the house recently and I know Mom, a Depression baby who kept everything, would be appalled, but what else to do? 

If you’re also facing this kind of task, my advice is don’t throw everything away. Keep what you use, need, or value highly. In my case it’s still too much and I’ll have to wrestle with my conscience but eventually just let things go.  

We all have to do it no matter how painful it can be. But as for my genealogy, it remains where it is.  

Nancy Battick is a Dover-Foxcroft native who has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society, author of several genealogical articles and co-transcribed the Vital Records of Dover-Foxcroft. Nancy holds an MA in History from UMaine and lives in Dover-Foxcroft with her husband, Jack, another avid genealogist. You can contact Nancy at


  • 18 May 2021 6:27 AM | Anonymous
    Yard Sale
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  • 18 May 2021 8:08 AM | Anonymous
    I have been gradually scanning into my computer all the paper genealogy records. My data is saved to the cloud. I am trying to get rid of all the paper that I have that isn't of archival quality--for example I will keep my great great grandfather's marriage license--and even then I have a lot of "stuff". Well, that will be up to my kids to sort out and give away.
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  • 18 May 2021 9:54 AM | Anonymous
    Don't forget your local historical society. If you don't want family heirlooms to go to some rando person at a yard sale, donate your items and stories to your state or local historical society. They will keep it safe and you will have piece of mind (hopefully) that it is not gone forever.
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  • 18 May 2021 10:55 AM | Anonymous
    As you note, there are digitisables and non-digitisables. I've been at this 50+ years and my mother and her mother before. I inherited almost all family items.
    Digitisables (paper, audio/videos and photos. These should be scanned etc. and put into FamilySearch Memories. It would take me two lifetimes to do this but I'll try...leftovers will go to my daughter who will have the time, know how, and energy needed.
    Artifacts are not digitisable currently, so the best solution (and I did it) was to distribute all artifacts to children, siblings, cousins with documentation.
    Finally we have genealogical "products" including hatched, matched, dispatch...and relationships and anecdotes. These I put into Family Search Family Tree. Best, George Waller.
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