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A Genealogist In The Archives: A Deed of Gift? What is it?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A Deed of Gift? What is it?

One of the most exciting aspects of being an archivist is when a person walks in the archives with a box of records they wish to donate.  Every archivist will admit that their heart skips a beat when they see someone walk into their archives with records to donate.  

 Houston County, Tennessee Retired Teachers Scrapbooks Donation

A lot of archives would not be an archive without donors and the records they bring to us.  We depend on people to help us save our history by donating family records that are not wanted, finds at garage sales and purchasing records at estate sales.  A lot of small archives like the Houston County, Tennessee Archives does not have the budget to go out and purchase records, photographs and memorabilia at auctions or anywhere else. 

When someone donates anything to an archive, the archivist should present the donor with a document that is called “A Deed of Gift”.  This document is a legally binding document between the donor and the archive that transfers ownership and legal rights of the records from the donor to the archive. 

Houston County, Tennessee Lions Club Records and Memorabilia Donation

Once the archivist has examined the records being donated and determines that the donated material will be a good addition to their collections, the archivist should produce “A Deed of Gift” document to complete the donation process.

Most archives will not accept a records donation without a signed deed of gift. 

Information included in the deed of gift can be:

          -name of the donor and archive

          -description of the materials being donated

          -terms of the transfer of ownership

          -any restrictions imposed by the donor

          -signatures of both the donor and the archivist

For more detailed information on a deed of gift, see the Society of American Archivists “A Guide to Deeds of Gift”

While a lot of genealogists prefer to keep their documents, photographs and artifacts and pass them down to their descendants, it might be that they don’t have any interested descendants to pass them down to.  If you find yourself in this predicament, consider making preparations as to where you would like your records to be donated. You have worked very hard, for many years gathering and researching your family, don’t let it get thrown away.

Saving your family's history for future generations is a good thing!

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  1. A question about this. A number of years ago my wife and I purchased a box lot at an auction. I can't even recall what it had in it we were interested in...but in the box were also a number of family photos from decades ago (probably early 1900's). Many were identified, and all seems to be from locations and photographers in Berks County, PA. From time to time I've researched some of the folks in the photos to see if I can find ancestors who might be actively researching them. No luck so far. Anyway, I've wondered if I should donate them to an archive in Berks County, but I haven't been able to find anything which seems suitable. As an archivist, are you part of a network/organization that could give me some guidance about where to do/how to do this? Thanks.

    1. Hart, Thank You so much for wanting to save history by donating those photographs! I would suggest that you contact the Berks History Center there locally in Berks County. If they do not want the photographs, they should be able to steer you into the directions of a repository that would take them. Hope this helps. Thank You for reading my blog!