If you’ve ever explored your family’s genealogy, you know how frustrating it can be when you reach a dead end for something that seems so simple. Where was Great Aunt Margaret born? Why did your grandparents decide to move to Arkansas? Who is that person in the photograph with Great-Grandpa George? As senior family members pass away, it’s easy for a family’s history to slowly disappear, leaving behind mysteries and absence. In this way, legacies can easily be erased and beloved people forgotten. To ensure that your family’s heritage is passed on to younger generations, review our tips for preserving family history.
Tips for Preserving Family History
Organize and Label Old Photos
Do you have an old box of family photos? Take an afternoon to go through them and organize them generally by date. Write down the names of the people in the photos, and consider including the approximate date (and approximate ages of the subjects) as well. If you have the energy to put the photos into a scrapbook, that’s wonderful, but simply sorting and labeling them is also incredibly worthwhile. As you do so, check out this guide from the National Archives. It includes tips for handling, repairing, storing, displaying, and digitizing your family’s old photos and papers.
Write a Memoir or Journal
Don’t consider yourself a writer? That’s not a problem. Your memoir doesn’t need to be fancy or well written. The important thing is to get the memories down on paper (or on a computer) in your own voice. You could write about significant moments in your life, funny memories, or basic details you remember about family members. If you aren’t sure what to write about, use these 500 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing.
Record a Video
If you’re more of an oral storyteller, consider recording a video about your family history. You could discuss childhood memories, significant events, advice from older generations, and much more. To make this a family affair, enlist the help of a younger family member to interview and record you. And if you’re struggling with what to talk about, check out this list of great questions from Story Corps.
Compile a Recipe Book
Does your family have a number of delicious recipes in its arsenal? To ensure that those recipes are passed on to younger generations, compile a recipe book and enlist the help of all the great cooks in your family. As you’re typing up (or writing down) the recipes, don’t forget to include special notes (like “Grandma June liked to make this recipe in the summertime with peaches instead of apples” and “Uncle Scott requested these muffins every year on his birthday”), memories (“On Mother’s Day 1992, Laura’s kids made this recipe but accidentally used salt in place of sugar!”), and handy tips (“Aunt Sara likes to make this recipe a little healthier by replacing half of the butter with a ripe banana”).
Finally, we can’t discuss preserving family history without talking about the importance of going digital. Although tangible items can be exceptionally precious (the photo handed down between five generations, the letters your grandfather sent while at war, your mother’s cherished copy of Little Women), it’s important to recognize the fragility of these items. They can be ruined by water damage, burned in a fire, or slowly degrade in quality over decades. So we encourage you to have all your family videos and photos digitized and stored on your hard drive, uploaded to cloud storage, and sent to other family members as a back-up. Also, consider taking pictures of items in your possession that can’t be made into digital files (clothing, quilts, recipe cards, jewelry) and storing those as well.
You, like all the other members of your family, are safe-keepers of your family’s heritage. If you want to ensure that memories are passed on to future generations, do your part to keep those memories alive.
At Springhouse Village, we know how important it is to enjoy your retirement in a lively and welcoming environment. We make it easy for our residents to be active participants in our community. Whether that means encouraging residents to shop at local farmers markets or assisting them in starting a garden club, we strive to help our residents thrive. To learn more about the amenities and services we offer, contact Springhouse Village today.