First, I’d like to thank Jenn at Your Growing Tree for the idea of Future Friday. The idea is to get us thinking about helping future generations to know *us*. I’ve taken some time to evaluate all of my current genealogical “goodies” and have picked one particular area of focus: family stories and biographies.
More and more, genealogy-related documents and transcriptions are making their way online. Twenty years from now, finding facts about individuals in our family trees will probably be easier than ever. But finding personal information about these people – likes, dislikes, habits, hobbies, personality traits, life experiences, etc. – will be equally as hard without someone recording this information now. To address this in my own family, I have set a few of goals for 2011:
1) Take the time to jot down a few notes about my more “recent” ancestors, those whom I knew personally, or knew through family stories. To keep this goal a realistic one, I am not going to write formal biographies, but instead will concentrate on recording as much as I can about as many people as possible. I (or someone else) can always take the time to write a more “polished” biography in the future.
2) Complete a personal biography. No amount of documents can help you get to know an ancestor like an autobiography. I had resisted doing this for my own life, primarily because I don’t think I’m that interesting. However, several of the personal biographies I have begin with, “I’m only writing this because my daughter insists,” or “I don’t understand why anyone would ever want to read this, but...” so perhaps it will be the same with my story and my descendants. I was inspired by OurStory.com, a free site that allows collaboration among people in getting stories and timelines recorded. (I have no affiliation whatsoever with this site, nor its creators.) While I don’t feel compelled to put my stories online, they do offer a number of “question sets” that were easy to use and were very effective in reviving old memories. I started writing my story several years ago, and set it aside when life got busy. This coming year, I’m going to attempt to get it up to date, or at least make some significant progress.
This would also be a great “group activity” if you’re getting together with siblings, cousins, etc., for the holidays. What great fun it would be to get a bunch of them together, with a pot of coffee, a digital recorder, and one of these question sets! The result would be a priceless gift for our descendants.
There are many other ways in which a family historian could assist future generations, but with a limited amount of time available, this is what I will be tackling. Did I just make a New Year’s Resolution??