We always talk about business documents, best practices for document creation, and how to eSign docs, but we rarely talk about the important documents that impact our day-to-day lives outside of work.
Documents aren’t just at the foundation of business transactions. Most defining moments throughout history have some type of a document associated with them.
Think about it, everything from the United States separation from Great Britain to the birth of your first child (two and four-legged ?) to the day you walk down the aisle has a specific document associated with that given day.
We recently polled over 1,000 professionals from different industries about significant historical and personal documents that have impacted their lives, and here’s what they had to say.
Lesson 1. Documents are the foundation of history
Survey respondents recognize America’s Founding Documents as the most important historical documents of all time. Nearly half of the respondents (45.3%) stated that the United States Constitution (and Bill of Rights) is the most important document in history.
They also considered the Declaration of Independence (31%), Magna Carta (12.3%), and Emancipation Proclamation (11.3%) as important historical documents. Each document played a hand in establishing what is now known today as civil liberties and basic human rights.
Lesson 2. Not all leaked documents are bad – sometimes they are leaked in the best interest of the greater good
We can’t talk about historical documents without acknowledging that some significant documents were never meant for the public’s eyes.
The most famous leaked doc in history is, no doubt, the Pentagon Papers. But if you’ve watched the news recently, the Facebook Files or the Pandora Papers may be of top of mind.
In the spirit of understanding the influence of monumental documents, we asked participants which leaked document from a list of five had the most significant impact on American history.
Surprisingly, although 42 years apart, the Pentagon Papers of 1971 and Edward Snowden’s NSA Global Surveillance Program investigation of 2013 were neck and neck for the top spot, 22.2% and 22%, respectively.
The other leaked docs that held significance to participants include:
- Wikileaks: Iraq and Afghanistan war documents (14.8%)
- Wikileaks: 2016 stolen DNC emails (13.5%)
- Panama Papers
Lesson 3. If someone leaked the recipe for Coca-Cola and Britney’s Conservatorship docs, no one would complain
The survey asked participants about the documents they were most interested in reading. Responses include the Declassified Area 51 reports (28.2%), Britney Spears conservatorship documents (10.2%), and the Declassified reports on the Jan. 6 Insurrection (14.7%).
Just an FYI, the CIA recently declassified the Area 51 report of 1992, so if you want to read about “aliens ?” and UFOs now’s your chance. The 392-page report titled The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and OXCART Programs, 1954-1974 is available to the masses here.
Spoiler alert: ET and his space traveling friends do not make an appearance in this document.
Some non-traditional documents our survey respondents would love to get their hands on include: Coke’s recipe (11.1%) and other top-secret recipes from their favorite restaurants (14.2%).
If we had to take a guess, participants are dreaming of the day that the recipe for Disney’s Churros and virtually anything from Chick-fil-A’s menu appears on their news feed.
Lesson 4. Not all documents are meaningless pieces of paper
Merriam-Webster defines a document as “an original or official paper relied on as the basis, proof, or support of something.” While it’s not uncommon to hear people say, “it’s just a piece of paper,” some documents, though small in size, have sentimental value.
According to participants, their child’s birth certificate (32.8%) holds the most sentimental value. Followed by marriage certificate (26.9%), loved one’s death certificate (11.5%), and first house deed (11.1%).
Some participants even reported that their first paycheck (9.3%) held sentimental value.
When asked how they store these important documents, most respondents (48.2%) said they use a safe. Additional respondents said they create digital copies of their documents using a scanner (33.4%).
Other ways of storing important documents mentioned in the survey results include: hiding them in an unsuspecting place (23.8%) and filing them away in an unlocked drawer (30.1%).
Almost all of the participants (71.7%) said they have photos or photocopies of important documents.
Lesson 5. COVID-19 vaccination cards and other medical records are among the documents most have a fear of losing.
Vital documents are government-issued docs that serve as national identification. In the United States specifically, these documents prove who you are and where you live.
Most vital documents fall into two categories based on usage: daily and occasional.
Daily use docs include your driver’s license and COVID-19 vaccination card, which most people keep in their purse or wallet. Occasional use docs only come out as needed; this includes your passport, social security card, and birth certificate.
Most people take great precautions to hide and protect these documents from the elements (i.e., fire, water, theft).
Not only are these docs your lifeline, but if they fall into the wrong hands, your identity can be stolen. We asked our survey participants about some of these documents.
Our research indicates that most respondents are afraid to lose their social security cards (23.4%).
They have good reasons to worry. Your social security number is used for almost everything – school registration, job applications, retirement benefits, and more.
Not to mention, unlike other vital documents, there is a limitation on how many times you can replace your social security card in your lifetime.
You can only get a replacement card three times in a single year, and once you’ve hit your 10th replacement card, you’re out of luck.
The research further shows that participants are also afraid to lose their financial account information (15.7%), birth certificate (15.1%), and passport (13%); medical records and house deed tied for the fifth and final spot with 6.9% each.
No one is perfect, so it comes as no surprise that even though participants use various methods to protect their documents many of them have lost one or more important documents in their lifetime.
Our research shows that some participants have lost their documents to theft (21.1%) and fire (20.2%).
However, a majority (47.4%) have lost their documents by simply forgetting where they put them. Some of the documents they’ve lost include social security card (20.9%), birth certificate (18.5%), car title (16.5%), and paycheck (14.7%).
As time progresses, one thing will remain the same. Documents (both physical and digital) will continue to be at the core of personal and professional defining moments in our lives.