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February 18, 2009

Genealogy and Family Hope Chest Step 7: Memories & Stories

Can you believe there is still more to talk about in our plan for creating a Genealogy and Family Hope Chest?

Your memories and family stories are invaluable. The story your grandmother told you of riding in her dad's Model T in the rumble seat may be lost forever unless you preserve it. What about the stories your mother told you of her dad's love of practical jokes? And Grandma telling you about how much she loved her mother's dumplings. These are precious memories that deserve to be passed on to future generations.

Any family lore about your ancestors' origins or personalities may also disappear with the next generation. That story of your Great grandpa Sam making dandelion wine and getting drunk on it is priceless! The family lore that Great Grandma Lizzie was considered the blacksheep of the family and eloped with your great grandfather against her parents' wishes - it's all you have to make her come alive as more than a name and some dates.

Maybe your family never told you any stories but that's okay because you have your own memories of them! What do you remember of your grandmother? Your grandfather? There must be something and your memories are worth sharing.

The first step is to share those stories and your memories verbally. Tell your family, your children and your grand-children. If they roll their eyes you know they've heard the stories before but that's good! It might be fun to pick a traditional time of year, such as Christmas. Go around the table and have everyone tell their favourite story of an ancestor or family member at the table.

The next step is to write your stories and memories down. That doesn't mean write them in your genealogy progam and you're done. That doesn't mean write them down and file them in your overstuffed filing cabinet and you're done. Nope, you have to write those stories and memories down in such a way that they will be saved and carried on.

There are different ways to accomplish this - you can write them as part of your own Memoirs. They can be inserted gradually into a daily journal or diary that you keep. They can be written as part of the notes about an ancestor and a Genealogy Booklet created to be shared with other family members.

But here's a few tips - if you are writing your memoirs or keeping a journal, choose a book to write in that looks important, expensive or old. It's all pyschological but if you write on scraps of paper or in a cheap Daily Planner, the odds are those writings will be tossed out.

I use handcrafted leather books that have handmade paper from Iona Handcrafted Books - they look like something that should be kept, not discarded. My handmade leather bound journals also make me feel like writing in them! I talked about these journals in an earlier post called Keeping a Journal for History & Genealogy The idea is to make your journals look important and worthwhile so that the next family member is reluctant to throw them away.

If you are creating a Memory Booklet to share with other family members, be creative in its title. Pyschologically people will save something called "Memoirs" even if not interested but will probably toss "My Story".

Think about it - most of us are reluctant to throw out a Bible even if we are not interested in the Family Register pages within. But if we are not interested in such genealogical items we would not hesitate to toss out individual pages titled "Family Register". I like to think about my audience and not all my descendants will be as passionate about genealogy and the preservation of family stories and data as I am.

Subconsciously, something handwritten is considered more worthwhile and important than something typed. Handwritten is unique. Typed may be mass produced.

We tend to save items that we deem important, thus the handcrafted leather journal with handmade paper filled with my messy handwriting has a better chance of surviving through several generations then something I type on 8 1/2 x 11 paper, coil bound. So why not do it all? Type it up and share it. Write it out by hand and keep it in your journal box.

I talked about storing documents and original papers in an earlier post Genealogy and Family Hope Chest Step 5: Original Documents.

I love antiques so I have a collection of various size boxes and trunks. I use them for my document and journal boxes. This little set of three assorted boxes has come in very handy for me. The bottom one is my Journal Box, the middle one is for my mother's journals and the top one stores CDs right now. That will change as I think of more family genealogy items I want to preserve and store.

My Document Box is full so I have a separate Antique Box where I store my journals. I like to keep them separate anyway. You can see that my earlier journals weren't always these nice leather-bound books! What a hodge-podge. But since I have them all together in one nice antique box, I think there's a good chance they'll be kept and preserved by future generations.


Thomas MacEntee said...

Great ideas Lorine! My one concern with the old chests is not being able to protect against any type of water damage. I would either make sure that the contents are in some sort of waterproof bag or I would simply have plastic sealable tubs within the chests to hold all my materials.

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Excellent point Thomas! In fact I am going to place my docs and journals inside waterproof containers this weekend and THEN put them back inside my boxes.