Monday, February 28, 2011

It’s Your Life - Prove it

Egyptian Tablet - Louvre Museum - Paris (by D.G.Hudson)
Write it down, Photograph it, Do Something!

Humans have always struggled to understand their lives, and to put it in perspective by writing about it, photographing events or making a video of people, places and interesting things. What we know of previous civilizations is due in part to what was left written on cave walls, on stone tablet fragments, or other surfaces which managed to survive.

How do you save information about your life? With technology today, there are many ways to connect and share with your family online. Information about social networks abounds if that is your chosen method. But down the line, will your descendants know what their ancestors did, how they travelled, or interesting facts about the family? Storage is important - whether online or manual. Taking the time to create this information, and deciding what is to be retained will be an ongoing task.  The best time to start is now.

Written Stories:

Family stories - old tales heard at your grandpa’s knee, ghost stories relating to family members or places, what happened to some of the relatives - war, travels, or unique occupations, e.g., captain of a ship, pilot, actress, writer, etc., family tree origins

Interesting Relatives - how ‘Harry met Sally’ (substitute appropriate name of parents or grandparents), identify far-flung pockets of relatives in other places, elaborate on ancestors who ruled the family - a grand matriarch or undisputed patriarch, any ‘black sheep’ who left the fold, or a grandfather who helped track and catch a famous criminal

Interesting Trips - think exotic locations, literary hotspots - Key West (Hemingway), Paris (the Lost generation), New York (the Village), San Francisco (Beat poets & writers), OR adventure trips taken, i.e., sailing a catamaran to the Dry Tortugas - an old pirate hangout, whale watching on a Zodiak in the Pacific, being on site at the southern California grunion spawning - an event which coincides with lunar tides

Work tales - (no gossip please) certain occupations lend themselves to this more than others, e.g., an actor’s experience as an extra or background, railway workers helping farmers during a whiteout, acts of valour, and especially humorous incidents

Music History - concerts attended (set-lists if available), autographs collected, names of musicians, location and dates of events (e.g., Woodstock, last concert at Fillmore East,)

Education Trail - schools attended, specialized courses, any honours or interesting facts, i.e., seven generations at same school, special teachers/instructors who made an impact


Take photographs often at family gatherings, on vacation, and during important events you have attended or hosted. Collect group photos at work, and Halloween photos of kids or adults in costume, but be consistent in identifying all media records and storing them in albums, on flash drives, or memory cards. Don’t wait to do this, as the memory (yours) will fade with time. It gives children a sense of history to see how they have grown or which relative they resemble. Online storage isn’t covered in this post, as it serves a more immediate purpose and will change as technology evolves.


Baby books, wedding albums, needlework birth announcements, memory quilts, and provenance for antique furniture are all forms of collectibles and part of your life. Some have a story behind their acquisition, and some tell a story. Documentation of heirlooms, and rare collectibles should be kept in a secure place, itemized with details of value or where they came from. At least if your descendants don’t care for that type of item, they will have an idea of its value if they choose to sell it.

To wrap up. . .

Think of all this collecting and writing as research. It could be great info if someone decides to write a memoir. Ask those questions - why, when, where and how - while you still have a source to talk to. Sort those photos, and take notes in a journal just to get the ideas going.

It’s an ongoing task with only one deadline.

UPDATE March 8, 2011 International Women's Day:  See post from 2009, Strong Women Role Models