Can you give the gift of hope? My pastor would probably say no. He recently gave a sermon in which he argued that hope doesn’t come as a gift, neatly wrapped up. It requires discipline and endurance.
In her ongoing Remember the Descendants blog party, Elizabeth O’Neal asks family historians how they plan to preserve genealogical research for future generations.
The question is well-put for all memoirists and family storytellers. We’re creating a legacy. Even if you don’t know much about your family’s genealogy, preserving what you do know is important.
Preserving Roots, Not Just Branches
Knowing where you came from matters. We hear stories, again and again, about how knowing one’s roots has made a difference. LeVar Burton had a particularly poignant one. I have a couple of my own, which you’ll find peppered throughout this blog.
The Global Family Reunion party I hosted two years ago also brought this home. Though few of the attendees were hard core (or even light core, for that matter) family historians, most showed up with a precious stack of papers, notebook, or chart that Aunt So-and-so had put together years ago. My friend Judy had a single sheet of paper with what her father, then 93, could remember about family names and places.
These unremarkable-looking treasures were heirlooms which connected them to their roots.
Including Family History in Your Legacy of Stories
There are a multitude of ways to preserve that you know about your family’s genealogy. Below are just a few ideas.
You can look at the tutorials on this site or create your own design. Almost every craft store has family tree or family history pages and layouts. When you need inspiration, Stacy Julian’s “a very fruitful tree” site is packed full of great ideas that merge scrapbooking and storytelling. I’ve also pinned quite a few layouts on my Scrapbooking Pinterest board.
Family Bible or Holy Book
Writing names and birth and death dates was a tradition born of necessity before the advent of hospital births and birth certificates. Wouldn’t continuing to honor this tradition make a wonderful gift? Whether it’s a new Bible you purchase for a young person or using your best penmanship (or even a calligraphy pen) to preserve information in your aunt’s dog-eared tome, loved ones will appreciate it.
Remember the Descendants by Writing a Family History Book
You don’t have to have a file cabinet full of genealogical information to start thinking about compiling a family history book. This allows you to combine the stories with the facts. (Hmm. I feel a blog series coming on.)
Digitizing Old Films so the Whole Family Can Enjoy Them
Disclosure: I represent Legacy Republic (affiliate link), a company that does just that. It’s not simply a matter of preserving old VHS tapes that are degrading to put them back in the same closet in another, albeit longer-lasting, format. You can remember the descendants by making your past accessible to them and sharing it with them. Those old photo albums and 8mm films can work as story prompts.
Journaling isn’t what it used to be when I wrote in my diary in high school. Or at least, it’s not necessarily that. Though it can be the portal through which you dump your deepest and most embarrassing thoughts, journals also make a great way to preserve memories, stories, and love for the next generation. Pinterest, of course, makes a great source of inspiration. But keep in mind, it doesn’t have to look like Martha Stewart’s staff put it together for it to connect. My grandmother’s journal was barely legible (I’m not endorsing that, mind you), but we love it immensely.
Need more Ideas?
Below are just a few posts in which family history and storytelling intersect.
- Why You Should Tell Family Health Stories
- Of Trees, Beauty and Family Stories
- Writing Your Family Story in Your Memoir
- 12 New Apps for Family History & Storytelling
- How to Form Emotional Connections to Family Members You Don’t Remember
- Cemeteries: A fata morgana of stories?
- What’s in a name? Sharing Surname History
- What’s Your Fathers’ Day Story?
- Emotional Genealogy: Are You Visited by Ghosts of the Past?
- How to have Conversations that Matter this Holiday
How do plan to preserve genealogical information for your descendants? Leave me a comment or join in Elizabeth’s Remember the Descendants Blog Party (open through June 2017).
Finding your tribe, the group of people that supports you, or supports a cause you’re invested in, can make all the difference. Knowing you can let your hair down and be yourself is comforting and exhilarating. When it happens, it’s worth writing about.
I experienced this during the last two weeks. A group of family historians came together, interested in maintaining the blogging resources at Geneabloggers.com as curator Thomas MacEntee moved on to other endeavors.
Having one foot in the writers’ community and one foot in the family history crowd, the question surprised me. I don’t think it would have come up in an authors’ group. Writers look at it as both, not either or. Probably because “platform building” has become a necessity as authors’ are increasingly forced into functioning as entrepreneurs. They wield whatever tools they can put their hands on and use effectively. Blogging and Facebook come immediately to mind.
In the hyper-awareness that comes with loss, quite a few bittersweet moments have embossed themselves on my heart and memory. Snapshots of love, grief, and faith, gathered over the last two weeks.
I thought the dearly departed would have enjoyed some of them, were he watching. Perhaps he was. My insights aren’t unique, I’m sure. Such bittersweet moments happen in families all the time. But I found comfort in writing them down. Considering them together, I realize that they tell a story that is as much about the departed as those he left behind.
I hope that by my sharing them, you’ll record a few of your own.
Romance stories aren’t only for the young. We’ve always known that. But still, it’s the stories of youthful innocence and falling in love that make the best seller lists. The stories of couples entering their seventh decade of marriage make the back pages.
But those long relationships started somewhere, a lot of times with young love. And these stories get better with age.
Last week I sat in a hospital room with two people I dearly love, both in their mid-eighties. A palliative care professional was trying to get the man, recovering from a stroke, to think about “outcomes” and “interventions.” She asked, “How would you feel about it, if you couldn’t go home? If you had to go to a nursing facility?”
Though poignant, stories of forgiveness can be difficult to write. They call for us to reveal the dark times of our relationships with our family, friends, or even faith. Telling heartfelt stories of forgiveness push us even further than the proverbial long honest look in the mirror. They require us to admit to the world what the reflection revealed.
Stories of Forgiveness
Perhaps because of forgiveness’ elusiveness or our own limited ability to harness its power, stories of forgiveness make for compelling reading. If you doubt their popularity, just do a Google search. Readers’ Digest, Real Simple, and The Huffington Post all offer compilations of stories of forgiveness, as does The Forgiveness Project.
As a newly minted Legacy Republic consultant, I seized on the opportunity at RootsTech 2017 to get to know the company’s leadership better. (Disclosure: I’m a Legacy Maker or consultant. As such I receive financial compensation from orders placed through me or my personal Legacy Republic site. That said, I believe in Legacy Republic’s mission and services. They are the reason I joined.)
During Rootstech2016, Legacy Republic’s president Brian Knapp was busy unveiling their new Studio scanner, the 2nd place winner in the Innovator Summit. This year, things were a little less hectic. However, Brian was no less enthusiastic about the company’s mission. In addition, he had time to explain Legacy Republic’s commitment to helping family historians tell stories.
View the interview below to hear more about how Legacy Republic helps family storytellers highlight the moments that matter.
Legacy Republic and Storytelling
Sharleen Reyes, the company’s VP of Marketing impressed me as well. She took time to sit with me and give me insight into how Legacy Republic translates their mission into a marketing strategy. Sharleen isn’t what my former life in international business would have lead me to expect out of a VP of Marketing. She’s unpretentious, open to new ideas, and has a mile-wide creative streak.
She doesn’t believe in scare tactics. Though it’s true that media is degrading, particularly VHS media, Legacy Republic frowns on scaring customers into getting every linear foot of video and film in the house digitized. The mission is to get important memories out of closets and to share them with family.
Which is why, Sharleen explains, Legacy Republic prefers the person-to-person relationship model rather than a traditional sales force. In fact, Legacy Republic trains their Legacy Makers to back away from “selling.” Instead, they are coached to simply help customers and trust that sales opportunities will develop organically—or not—out of trusted relationships.
Choosing the Moments that Matter
Sharleen and Brian gave a presentation at RootsTech on choosing those moments that matter. In it, they stressed that the moments that matter are not necessarily the ones in which everyone wears in coordinated outfits and stands in front of an attractive backdrop. It might not even be the one with perfect focus and composition. Rather, they’re the ones that express a moment of personalities and relationships. The ones that give rise to stories. That’s a valuable takeaway for storytellers.
There are stories lurking in your closets. Look back at media—still or film or video—and choose a couple of ones that have stories which flow from them. Now go tell those stories!
Who’s your personal hero? Who’s protected you physically? Who inspires you to be a better version of yourself? One of my heroes has never been in a situation to do the former, although I’m sure she would. I can’t count the times my personal hero inspired me and taught me that love always wins.
I met Gail in 1998, on the day before my parents’ funeral. The daughter-in-law of my mom’s best friend, she didn’t know my parents well, but wanted to help. Her two boys were the same ages as my boys, two and four. She offered to provide childcare, whenever we needed it.
TapGenes, an application that helps families compile their health information, won the 2016 RootsTech Innovator Summit. Last month, I caught up with CEO Heather Holmes to see what difference a year makes.
(In case you’re wondering, I am not affiliated with TapGenes. I just like the platform. Much of TapGenes is free to use.)
How TapGenes Helps Families Tell their Stories
TapGenes explains that they use “the idea of “crowdsourcing” to help “families create a more complete and accurate family medical history, together.” That little word “together” isn’t an after-thought. As families accumulate information, they have conversations about what they know. Not only does this help inform all members of the family, it also fosters honest conversations, a key to preventing important health topics from getting swept under the rug. (See Why You Should Tell Health Stories)
Despite all the fanfare about genetic testing, the information already known to your family provides crucial information for doctors. Think about it, before you even see a doctor, you fill out forms about your own and family health history. Unfortunately, a lot of us can’t remember everything in that 10 minutes during which scribble on the forms as we wait to see the doctor. The website is HIPAA compliant so it’s a safe way to accumulate data
You can also fill out your own information, then opt to share it with family members. Perhaps knowing that you suffer from borderline-diabetes or anxiety and depression will make other family members more comfortable sharing their own or taking actions to treat those conditions.
Assessing your risk
In addition to assembling family health information, TapGenes wants to help “families connect the dots between their known risks and … discover where they can impact and influence better health. One way they do that is through questionnaires that assist with risk assessment. Throughout these Q&As, TapGenes weaves in advice regarding life-style choices, such as taking multi-vitamins, exercise, and alcohol consumption.
The ability to change the ending of your story
My colon cancer risk assessment surprised me. It also forced me to be honest with myself.
I think of myself as active, but my exercise is on a weekly basis, not daily. Clicking through the friendly interview, I had to admit the multi-vitamins are nearing their expiration date in the kitchen drawer and that the closest I come to taking a vitamin D supplement is using whole vitamin D enriched milk in my coffee. And it didn’t even ask me about that polyp they found at the last colonoscopy and how long it’s been since I had a follow-up.
By making me a little uncomfortable, TapGenes reminds me that I have an opportunity to influence how that story ends.
All of the above is available under TapGenes free subscription. However, their upgraded membership includes unlimited documents and access to their genetic section and pharmacogenetics alerts.
If you’d like to join me in trying that out, Heather is offering TreasureChestofMemories.com readers a 50% discount on the upgraded membership (from $79 to $39 for a one year subscription). After signing up for a free account, use the code (treasurechest50) to get the promotional discount for the premium account.