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).