Human beings respond to ritual. It is a vital way of providing a framework for our lives and giving us a sense of tradition and stability. In Biblical times, the only way of preserving cultural traditions and family history that had been passed down through the ages was orally. That may seem unusual to us today.
Up until relatively recently, much family history was still available through anecdotal story telling and carefully preserved journals and diaries. The problem with memories, however, is that they are notoriously subjective and may become distorted over time. Thankfully, preserving treasured family history to share with family members is much simpler today.
You may wish to incorporate some of the following in your own genealogy project.
Writing a journal is an instant way of preserving information for posterity. You may even wish to create a unique family book. A great place to start is to compile a recipe book of all your family’s favorite meals including biographies of the people who were responsible for creating them. Many families have a mom or an aunt who makes fabulous apple pies from recipes handed down through generations.
You may even wish to take it one step further and write the story of your family in the style of a memoir or an epic saga. Think of all of the colorful characters you’ve discovered in your genealogical research. Ambitious authors can create an e-book for intrigued family members to print on demand.
If you’re not sure where to begin with this aspect of your genealogy project, a wealth of resources is available to stimulate your creative thinking. The Association of Personal Historians believes that everyone’s story should be told and is an ideal starting point.
Scrapbooks are an entertaining way of preserving family history. Poring over old photos and newspaper cuttings is also great fun. Today you can also create your own e-scrapbook. Include all the images you have of family heirlooms, jewelry, special occasions such as weddings and photos of your favorite family celebrations. The result will be a vibrant and colorful virtual album for your entire family to enjoy. You can also continue to add to the memories through the years.
Create Your Own Family Website
As an alternative to constant e-mail updates, try setting up your own website to preserve those cultural traditions online. It’s something the whole family can participate in by sharing their favorite anecdotes, memories and photographs. Creating your own website is both cost-effective and straightforward. Websites such as MyHeritage offer facilities for you to do just that in one secure place.
Creating a dedicated medical history section is an additional option for your website. According to medical research, a significant number of diseases and conditions–from cancer to heart disease and blood pressure–can be traced back to genetics. What more could you offer future generations than advice on potentially inherited health risks? It may literally prove to be a lifesaver.
As an alternative to websites, a blog is also a straightforward option. Choose from setting up your own using sites like Blogger or WordPress or use one of the specialized genealogy project websites such as My Family. Blogs are also simpler to create than websites for those who are not “IT savvy.”
Record Your Own Story
There’s no excuse not to in today’s digital age. Use videotapes, digital recorders and audiotapes to preserve as much information as you can for posterity. No family celebration will ever be the same again as you film your family gatherings. All material can be recorded onto either a DVD or CD, or both. If you prefer to leave it to the experts, non-profit organization Storycorps tours with soundproof booths allowing people to record their family or personal stories.
Preservation of Photographs and Memorabilia
All of your old photographs, priceless family heirlooms, legal records and items such as jewelry should be carefully preserved, preferably in acid-free boxes or albums to prevent further deterioration. Scan all of your photos and record everything you have on file with a date and as much associated information as possible (for example, the names of all of the people in the photographs). Light, moisture and excessive heat have destructive effects on photographs and fragile items. Store everything in a cool, dry, dark place, clearly labeled. Professional conservators are available to restore any sentimental objects that may have suffered excessive damage.
As our family lives become increasingly fragmented it is essential to ensure our descendants understand as much of their heritage as possible. Your family tree will prove to be an enduring legacy for future generations, enabling them to understand their lineage, their medical history and their ethnic background.
It also helps provide an understanding of the quirky mysteries of why certain names are traditionally carried on within the same family from generation to generation. It may also even enlighten you as to where your strange family sayings have evolved from!
Researching your family tree is a complex but worthwhile process. As a result of your hard work, future generations will be able to understand and preserve both cultural history and family tradition. Think of this genealogy project as building your own family museum that will become a treasure trove over time. You can begin building now for future generations to enjoy for years to come.