Sunday, August 13, 2017

An Unofficial Guide to Family History: Build a Foundation for the Future

It's been a long while since I posted about family history. I'm sorry. I said before that I will be posting as I am working, and right now I have been hitting dead ends.

One thing, though, that is often overlooked in family history is the future. It makes sense because it isn't called family future. Something that is very important, though, is record keeping.

You can browse family history documents, like censuses and marriage licenses. That's not what I mean though. I mean journals, photos, etc.

One of the most important things I have received while working on family history is a book of poems by a great-grandma.

I've never read a poem that touched me nearly as much as this.

I've also gotten the opportunity to help my grandma mount her travel photos, which comes with stories of the places she has visited. After an afternoon of mounting, I cannot stop smiling.

Photos, personal writings, they are what bring your ancestors to life again in a way official documents can't.

What does that have to do with the future? Well sometime, you will become the past. You are laying a foundation for the future. Someday, your descendants will want to know who you were, not just where you lived. It's important you start building that foundation.

But writing in a journal can be really hard to maintain. I understand. There are many ways you can keep a journal, though. You don't need to write down the events of each day in order to keep a good journal. In fact, sometimes less is more.

It's easy for me to sit here and tell you to write in your journal. After all, I write in mine. From ages 8-16, I wrote in my journal daily. While that is great, it isn't necessary (especially if you ever have to move, journals weigh a ton). You only need to write what matters most to you. Did you see something amazing? Did you hear a song that made you smile? Did you talk to someone who touched you?

Sometimes we aren't good with words. That's alright. I have a journal that I fill with words, but then I also have what I call my adventure journal. Instead of loading it with words, I load it with items from "adventures" I have. Then I jot a quick sentence about what I loved, or hated, about the experience. There are a lot of movie tickets and playbills in there. My descendants will know how much we enjoyed entertainment.

Here, this is what my adventure journal looks like:

As you can see, it's just a blue book (bonus, it's the "Diary of River Song" if you watch Dr. Who). The pages inside are just blank, not lined, nothing fancy.

Then I use acid free mounting tape to attach the items. When it comes to tickets, I tape them on one side so they can "open" up like a small door. Underneath I write what I enjoyed.

These definitely aren't "pinterest" worthy photos. My journal is far from those beautiful creations people post online. But that's alright. A journal is personal. If you want a fancy journal, with beautiful handwriting, then do it! If you don't care, then don't sweat it. The most important aspect of journaling is the information. It's meant to be a preservation of your memories, not a showpiece for the world.

Right now, you are living in what will be considered the past. You are making memories that will mean the world to someone who isn't even born yet. If I had a journal of the lives of my great-great-grandmas, I would be in heaven. I am here because of "average" people living their lives. I am here because one day someone probably took a road trip that changed their life, or maybe they met a funny stranger. Who knows! One day, your descendants will thank you for taking the time to jot down "I really hated that Justin Bieber song". Give them a chance to get to know you. Let your memories survive the eternities. Write in a journal.

P.S. I started writing this post in September of 2016, and finished in August 2017. Just in case the first and second halves seem disconnected.

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