IF I THROW IT AWAY, I'LL NEED IT
by Richard A. Pence
As every genealogist knows, you can't be too careful when it
comes to throwing things away. No piece of paper, book,
periodical, pamphlet, program, syllabus, clipping, letter, postcard whatever should be thoughtlessly discarded. You never
know when you might need it.
I sensed trouble when it turned warm the other day. Every spring
the cleaning bug takes a bite of my wife and eventually she
reaches my office. This time, when I saw she had the stepladder
with her, I knew it was big-time trouble!
Over the years I have developed some pretty good defenses to
counter these annual spring-cleaning rites. One method has been
the "high-shelf shuffle." Way up high, beyond her reach, is
where I put all the stuff that is beyond verbal justification.
She moved in, quickly got up on the ladder and began calling the
roll: "Program for the 1987 NGS Conference?"
"I was on the program. It's got my name in it."
"There's a great article on finding ancestors in South America."
"You don't have any ancestors in South America."
"You never know."
"What about this pamphlet on GENEALOGY RESEARCH AT THE INDIANA
STATE LIBRARY? It's dated 1986."
"That was the last time I was there. During Indy week."
"Summary of Your 1971 Employee Benefit Plan Options?"
"I was saving it in case I needed the notebook cover."
"For 30 years?"
"Here's a W-2 form for 1984."
"So that's where that went."
"What about these two boxes of genealogy magazines and
"There's good stuff in them!"
"When was the last time you looked at one?"
She had me there. "Well," I stalled, "I just can't throw them
away without checking. Someone may need them."
"Maybe the library?"
"Call them. I'll get the number."
Trapped. My only hope was a sympathetic ear. Librarians know
about saving things. If I can't keep all this stuff, at least I
can find a decent home for it.
After pressing a couple of buttons, I got right through to the
librarian in the Genealogy Room.
"Do you need any back issues of the NGS Quarterly?" I asked.
"I've got about 25 years worth."
"Yeah. How did you know?"
"Third offer today."
"What about the Quarterlies?"
"Are you kidding? Not only do we get several offers a week,
we're trying to get rid of ours. We have it all on CD-ROM now."
"Come to think of it, so do I," I mumbled.
I was getting desperate. "You've got to help me. My wife is in
my office and she's throwing genealogy stuff away!"
"You could do what I do."
"Wait until the others are in bed and go out and salvage what
"Worth a try, but she'll probably check."
"Maybe you could try some of the other libraries near by. You
can see what they might need by checking their online catalogs.
Or I can give you a list of libraries to call."
"Finding Your Ancestors in the Mississippi State Archives?"
"What about this stack of 'This Month at the Library's Genealogy
Room'? There must be 200 of them."
"Wait a second, I'll check with the library."
If we can just get through spring without a flat tire, it may
work out. By then I'll have most of the stuff I salvaged during
the midnight foray back on the high shelves and we'll be able to
find the spare in the car trunk.
As for next year the other day I saw an Office Depot ad for
file cabinets with locks on them.
[Richard Pence is retired and up to his eyeballs in his one-name
PENCE family study http://www.pipeline.com/~richardpence/. He thinks he should have gotten the big bedroom when the kids
moved out not the tiny one he now has to use as a combination
office, library, archives, and computer center. His wife, only
recently retired, divides her attention between creating a
showcase guest room out of the big bedroom and scouting for
fresh territory into which she can introduce those huge trash
If I Throw It Away, I'll Need It appeared in MISSING LINKS: RootsWeb's Genealogy Journal Vol. 6, No. 15, 11 April 2001.
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