I’ve been thinking a lot about my descendants lately. It got me thinking that the way we pass memories down to our children is changing. For the last 100 years it’s pretty safe to say that parents could pass along a baby book or photo albums at the minimum. Sometimes a scrapbook might have been handed down as well. Now that we are in the age of digital photography what is the best method to preserve our memories?
While it is still possible to pass down a baby book and printed photo albums it is less likely to happen. In the past year or two a major newspaper featured an article with the headline "Aging Parents with Lots of Stuff, and Children Who Don't Want It." The article focused on how to dispose of a lifetime of memories and keepsakes. It makes me wonder, what is the most practical way to share with our kids and nieces and nephews and feel confident that they will keep it and pass it down again?
But there's more at stake here than just flowery china teacups that your children don't want to inherit. The memories you created with your children during their childhood are shared memories. It's not just your memories that your passing on. It's their childhood, their life, as well. With fewer and fewer people printing photographs regularly or creating scrapbooks, how will those memories get shared?
And in addition to their memories, what about the practical stuff as well? I remember my parents kept a file for each of us three kids with things like school report cards and college transcripts. Folders like these can also hold records of immunization and other practical information. When I became an adult my parents gave me the folder - a record of my life.
Regrettably in this article I don't necessarily have the answers for you (but maybe a few suggestions).
Here's what I'm doing and considering for the future:
Photo albums have been replaced by photo books. In this digital age there is no longer any need for printing photos and pasting them into albums. I can go online to any number of websites from my local pharmacy to a dedicated photo site like Shutterfly. I created a book with the best photos from one of our international vacations. It took a bit of work to put together but I could do it all from my desk and computer. Then it was just a matter of waiting for the book to arrive. These kinds of books can be pricey but if you wait for coupons the cost gets better. The best thing is you can create the book once and print as many copies as you like.
I'm not sure if this is still a thing or not but I do have baby books for my kids. The last one I bought 14 years ago. I admit that I have not been very good about filling them in. Perhaps by the time my boys are all in college I will have time to complete them. I still think this is a good idea but I wonder how practical it will be for the future.
I really like the idea of passing on to my children an archive of sound and video recordings where they can hear the voices of the past and laugh at the silly antics of distant relatives in home videos. I have amassed quite a large archive already. But what I worry about is the constant need to update the file formats of the media so that it can still be viewed by the programs of the ever changing present. If I create this collection will my great grandchildren some day be able to access it?
A Digital Vault
The thought that I'm leaning toward the most is to create a digital vault for my children. I have already created electronic versions of the folders that my parents had created for me. I can envision that when I pass these on to my children they will have several components. They'll contain important family photos both from their own childhoods and from the lives of their ancestors. They'll also contain the multimedia archive that I mentioned above. And finally it will be a trove of documents that will act both as a reminder of past work and success but also necessary documents that they will need to continue accessing in the future. I can see myself already handing my boys a thumb drive or portable solid-state drive that acts as a metaphorical "Good luck in the world, son!"
Have you given any thought to how you will pass down your memories to those you love? What are some of the ideas that you have in mind?
Marian Pierre-Louis is a genealogy professional who specializes in educational outreach through webinars, internet broadcasts and video. Her areas of expertise include house history research, southern New England research and solving brick walls. Since the rise in interest of genetic genealogy Marian has become addicted to using dna to help solve genealogy mysteries. Marian is the Online Education Producer for Legacy Family Tree Webinars where she produces online genealogy education classes. Once a month you'll find her as the evening host of Legacy Family Tree Webinars. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.