Preserving your legacy
Do you sometimes wish you could hear friendly voices of family members from the past? Do you remember an uncle telling stories of the war? Maybe you recall your grandmother sharing how she and her sisters used to make all their own dresses and hats—even their own wedding dresses! Of course they never bought any clothes in the shops.
Can you recall instructions on how to make chopped liver or concoct some secret formula for home remedies to get rid of coughs and colds?
Many of us never get around to recording these voices or memoirs. Sadly, so many stories are lost.
In almost every home, there are stacks of boxes of photos of family members and friends. The faces can barely be identified or remembered, but each picture tells a life story. It may be a story that shows what it was like to experience rationing and frugal living, or it could be one that captures the experience of growing up in the 1950s.
There are also often special handwritten recipe books filled with cuttings and jottings from many decades. These books will be part of your legacy; they are books to be treasured. What seemed like average, normal and daily activities at the time will be part of history for your children.
It is never too early to think about how to keep these memories alive. Best of all, we are lucky to live in an age where the resources are endless for preserving our legacy. Check out these articles for some general ideas on how to preserve your legacy:
- 6 Ways to Preserve Your Family’s Living Legacy, by Jeff Anderson with Senior Living Blog
- Other Creative Ways to Capture Your Legacy, by Margarita Tartakovsky, associate editor at Psych Central
Now that we've whet your appetite, here are some instructions to help you get started.
Write or record your story
Who were your parents? Where did they meet? Where did you grow up? What are your early memories?
Scan through the different periods of your life—childhood, teenage years, early adulthood and so on—then highlight the special moments, incidents or experiences that you would like your family to remember. Perhaps you have a message to pass on about what you have learned along life’s journey. Your memories are a personal gift to your loved ones and those who will remain behind.
For ideas on writing your memoirs go to
- Leaving a Written Legacy, by Margarita Tartakovsky, associate editor at Psych Central
- Leaving Your Enduring Legacy on EasyFamilyHistory.com
If you prefer the idea of creating a voice recording of your life history, then StoryCorps could be for you. You can record an interview directly onto this website, where it will become part of the StoryCorps library. Available for all to access on the web, StoryCorps is an amazing collection of personal stories and histories. There is even a free StoryCorps app you can use to create your own treasure trove of memories.
If you want to keep it personal, then sit down with an old friend or relative and interview each other. Or ask some family members to interview you and record your memories.
Is that still too formal? Then simply have a conversation about your memories with someone who is interested in listening. Just make sure to have a list of questions you'd like to cover.
Do you have piles of photos at home that never made it into albums? What about hundreds of digital photographs on cameras, computers and ipads that are rarely looked at? Sifting through the photos and selecting the best may be a mammoth task, but it's one well worth the effort, especially if they are then made into a beautiful, hard-backed photobook.
There are several websites to help you make your photobook. Try Blurb.com for a web-based option. If you have an Apple computer, there is an Apple website dedicated to photos books. Read more about The best and worst photobook making sites for you in this article by Jessica Dolcourt from Cnet.
Alternatively, a combination of photographs and recorded commentary can bring your photographs to life through the Legacy Stories website. Simply upload your photographs and record something about them. Where were you? What was happening? Who are the people in the photograph? Don’t let those memories fade with the photos.
Personal Desert Island Discs
If you are a fan of BBC Radio 4, you will be familiar with the Desert Island Discs programme, where well-known people select a few pieces of music that they would be happy to listen to over and over again—if they were stranded on a desert island. Music may speak louder than words, and we all have our favourite pieces that remind us of certain times in our lives or have special meaning for us. Sharing your memories through music and recording your thoughts as you hear the pieces can be a beautiful gift to leave for your family.
The journalist Jonathan Freedland made a Desert Island Discs memoir with his sister Fiona, who died in May 2014 at the age of 50. For inspiration, you can listen to Freedland's Desert Island Disc, How My Sister Said Goodbye.
Despite its origins in 15th century England (when scrapbooks were referred to as commonplace books), scrapbooking is a popular hobby in the United States. If you have a creative flair it may well suit you. Rifle through old newspaper clippings, theatre programmes and mementoes you have kept from years gone by and put together a colourful visual memoir of your life. There are even digital options too.
What a treat for your family!
Bury a box
Put some of your special possessions into a box, add some personal notes, seal it up and wait for it to be discovered! Keep it a secret, and know that your family will have a wonderful surprise when they find it one day.
A family cookbook
Perhaps over the years you have collected recipes in a well-used, food stained notebook. Some may be family favourites while others were only attempted on special occasions.
Why not bring these together for future reference in your own personal cookbook, and call it something like, “Just like your Mother used to make”?
It can be a simple handwritten notebook or something from the websites listed below.