Avid genealogists share whatever information they have – whether on their family or on someone else’s. Wonderful tips and suggestions pour over our computer screens on a daily basis. We willingly share memories and stories to try to bring the past to life. It can be a desperate attempt to re-create the past in order to gain some sense of our ancestors.
My hope is that each one of you will seek to carry that sharing on to your own families, to future generations, to those not yet born. Take the time while you are still here, and while the memories are real, to write down your worries, your frustrations, your joys and your sorrow for future generations so that they don’t have to re-create YOUR story with generalities. Take the time to provide a personal history lesson for your family.
Think of how thrilled you are when you come across an old letter or postcard from a now deceased relative. Why not provide that same feeling for your descendants? Time seems to be such a rare commodity in today’s hectic world. And yet it is important to take the time to preserve your stories and your history for those you have shared your lives and your love with. Leave them your legacy not just in labelled photos, birth certificates and marriage records, but in your own words. Tell them your story. Share with them how fearful you were when war broke out, how much you loved to go to your Gran’s house because you knew she would make your favourite meal. Share with them the state of the world you lived in. We have lived through major moments in history.
When does your memory and awareness of certain events (i.e. JFK’s murder, the first man on the moon, the Watergate Scandal, Lady Di’s death, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Obama being elected) kick in? Where were you when you learned of the news? How did you respond? Do those events trigger memories of what life was like then? What society was like? What values and principles were important then?
Think of the inventions you’ve seen in your life time. Remember when YOU were the remote for the t.v.? How you used a wringer washer? Life before microwaves and electric can-openers? Milk delivered to your home in glass bottles or jugs? Think of a time before space shuttles, when trains or boats were the main form of vacation transportation.
Recall your annual family road trips to your favourite vacation destination. Think of the things you did on those holidays that you didn’t do at home and why those holidays were such a special retreat from the real world.
Just think how you would feel right now if you were able to open your grandmother’s diary, or her scrapbook. A memory of her early life – in her own words – and with her own thoughts and emotions within the story. Think how appreciative you would be, not just because you would know your family story from a first hand source, but because of the love and dedication that went into the telling and documenting the story. What a wonderful treasure to be handed down generation after generation.
I want my children and grandchildren to know their Nana (my mother) and Granny (my grandmother) not just as dates on statutory records, but by their traits. I want them to know what a great storyteller their Nana was and that she got that trait from her mother. I want them to feel the fun we had the night 14 of us slept together in a three bedroom cottage and lay awake all night listening to family stories and endless jokes as they passed across the rafters from brother’s bedroom to sister’s bedroom and back again.
I want my children to remember that we spent countless summers travelling across the continent with them, providing unique experiences along the way. I want them to know their Nana spent countless hours acting out nursery rhymes and that my granny was an “ever- ender” when her children played skipping ropes. From these stories, my children and grandchildren will come to learn that playing and spending time with children is a family value that has been passed down generation after generation.
Resolve to leave your legacy in your own words, with your own emotions woven through the story. Be not afraid! Document your own history. It will make fascinating reading to those who wish that they could reach back 100 years and touch you, share a coffee and chat with you.
Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. It is YOUR story that they are interested in. This is not an English class. No one is going to mark your grammar, but your family will treasure the love and feeling that you leave for them and for generations yet to come.
If you are looking for questions to motivate you to know what to write, here are some websites to visit:
“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo a Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr
Scottish born, Canadian raised, Christine had the best of both worlds, growing up immersed in Scottish culture. Realizing that others of the Scots diaspora were not as fortunate, she started her business, Genealogy Tours of Scotland to allow others researching their Scottish roots the opportunity to return to the land of their ancestors, conduct family history research and deepen their sense of belonging to their ancestral kin.