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.
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.
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!
Many times, taking a step back from stories allows us to truly understand them. Until we separate ourselves from events, we see them only through our own eyes. We know what happened, but we don’t know what it really means. We don’t realize all the implications.
Taking a step back can also help us see how our stories connect to each other and how they continue to influence our lives.
It’s hard to know where to start writing your ancestor stories. Sometimes it helps to look at potential stories from different perspective. Instead of looking at the plethora of facts and deciding what to write, look at the following first lines for story ideas.
Which relative or ancestor do they remind you of? What stories could you tell about them? Choose a few prompts and try writing a vignette or two. If you were born before 1950, many of these will also work for your own memories.
Remember the excitement of back-to-school? Getting your teacher assignments, supplies, figuring out if your best buddies were in the same class as you? Wondering if you’d like the teacher? Years (decades) later, we remember a few of those teachers who made a difference. For good or for bad.
That’s a universal experience. It bonds us—just like the memory of the smell of mimeograph paper and the feel of the paper-bag book covers for those of us that went to school in the 60s and 70s.
Until last weekend, I had forgotten how poignant reunions can be. Whether it’s family, school, or something else, reunions allow you to reconnect with the past. Not only are they great places to re-color some of those faded memories, they refresh the soul.
If you’re like me, chronic and invisible illnesses come towards the bottom of the list of things you’d like to write about yourself. It’s not just immersing yourself in the negativity. Although the term “invisible illness” applies “to any medical condition that is not outwardly visible to others,” according to Social Work Today, some illnesses (heart disease, cancer) seem to generate support from loved ones, while others leave sufferers socially isolated.
Many with invisible illnesses frequently encounter people who, although they’ve never had a license to practice medicine feel beholden to second guess other people’s health status or dispense dismissive medical advice.