Illinois Ancestors: Not too late to add codicil to will

Illinois Ancestors: Not too late to add codicil to will

It's truly a sad sight to see family records and/or photos in a yard sale, or worse, on a trash pile! Often materials are rescued by other researchers and find their way to a genealogical library. What will become of your genealogical records?

Most people realize the importance of writing a will, but often a genealogical collection is not specifically identified in that document. However, it is not too late to add a codicil to a will, providing instructions for the care of materials that probably had been gathered for many years or decades.

Webster defines a codicil as "an instrument made subsequently to a will and modifying it in some respects" or "an added provision; appendix."

The Van Buren (Michigan) Regional Genealogical Society has created a helpful codicil form, which is available at It reads, "My Genealogical Will For Preserving My Family History / Genealogical Codicil to My Last Will and Testament: / To my spouse, children and/or heirs, guardian, administrator or executor: / Upon my death, it is requested that you DO NOT dispose of any or all of my genealogical records, both those prepared personally by me and those prepared by others, which may be in my possession. This includes but is not limited to books, paper, and/or computer files, notebooks, correspondence, audio/visual items, photographs, and documents, for a period of two years.

"During this two-year period, please attempt to identify one or more persons who would be willing to take custody of said materials and the responsibility of maintaining and continuing the family histories.

"Parties to contact regarding the assumption of the custody of these items include but are not limited to Institution Name / Address (Contact Person) / Telephone" (Lines are provided for up to three possible recipients, to be filled in by the person making the will.)

"Please remember that my family history studies consumed a great deal of time, travel, and money. Therefore it is my strong desire that the product of these efforts be preserved and allowed to continue in a manner that will make them available to others in the future."

There are lines for signature of will maker and date, and a witness' signature and a date.

It is not necessary to use this or any specific form as long as the document states what is to be done with all manuscripts as well as published works. It would be wise to check in advance with the intended recipient(s) to determine if the material would be welcome. The signed, dated and witnessed (to keep it legal) codicil should then be kept with your will.

Michigan website

The website of the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society has other helpful genealogical forms on its website. Visit and click on "Research Tools." The forms and worksheets available include a U.S. Migration Map, How to Calculate a Birthdate, Person Research Worksheet ("for research on long-lost relatives or 20th century ancestors"), Ahnentafel Table (how to create one), and census forms 1790 through 1940 plus 1940 supplement (questions, symbols and explanatory notes). The above-mentioned codicil is accessed by clicking on "Do you have a genealogy will?"

The society's home page also has links to extensive genealogical materials pertaining to the southwest Michigan counties of Allegan, Van Buren and Kalamazoo.

Library of Congress offers guides

The Library of Congress has several guides to its extensive collections that are helpful to genealogists and other researchers, and provides a website where one can access these guides by selecting the desired link. At one can choose from a variety of categories such as General Resources, Directories, Indexes and Finding Aids, Ethnic Groups, and U.S. Local and Military History.

For example, this latter category provides a link to a 92-page booklet, "Civil War Diaries and Personal Narratives, 1860-1994." Each of the 291 individual narratives and 17 collected narratives — both Union and Confederate — includes complete bibliographic information so that one may search for such a reference online or in other libraries in addition to the Library of Congress copy.

The International Guides pertain to English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, French, and East Central European (Austrian and German; Croat, Serb and Slovene; Czech and Slovak; Hungarian; Jewish; Polish; and Romanian) genealogical research.

Queries, genealogical questions from researchers and genealogical materials readers would like to share will be printed in this column free. Joan Griffis may be reached via email at or by sending a letter to Illinois Ancestors, c/o The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.

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