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How will you pass down your memories?

How will you pass down your memories?

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 Books

Photo albums have been replaced by photo books.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.

Baby Books

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.



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It is on my mind more and more these days! My daughter who will be 50 years old in Aug. Told me a few years back, during a visit. "Mom get rid of all this "stuff", I don't want to have to deal with it when your gone!!" Neither of my children are much interested in genealogy, I have no grandchildren, and few of my siblings express much interest! So, I keep doing my family tree in hopes of one dayhaving one of the younger ones get excited as to what "Aunt Cindy" is doing on her computer!
I'm digitizing as many of the photos and their school memories as I can, it will go onto a thumb drive. Maybe when they get older, they will be interested!
This post is so sad but oh so true, thanks for posting!

I have a codicil in my will as to what to do with my "Stuff" when I pass. Some of the statements include:

I leave all of my genealogical records, both those prepared personally by me and those records prepared by others which may be in my possession, including but not limited to books, files, notebooks or computer programs/data files.......

For a period of five years after my demise, it is requested that you do not dispose of these records.

During this time period, please attempt to identify one or more persons who would be willing to take custody of the said materials and the responsibility of maintaining and continuing the family histories.........

There are other statements in the codicil but you get the idea. I do not want the "Stuff" trashed, and all of my relatives are keenly aware of of the amount of time, travel and money expended in my endeavors.

I agree completely with the above post. I live in the house I inherited from my parents. 58 years of "stuff" here to go through and discard because my kids do not want it. My parents were married 70 years ago and they were depression packrats, my mother-in-law came to live with us 6 years ago and she kept everything! Hubby and I do to and one daughter. The basement needs a bulldozer. Besides I have loved genealogy since 1976-a hobby I did with my dear mom. My kids aren't interested and no grandchildren to pass it on to. I keep external hard drives of everything I can in the safety deposit boxes to protect the data.

Having just gone through my father's house, which he lived in for 40 years and never threw anything away. Having just gone through my mother's condo while she was alive. And having had this conversation with both my children who are vaguely interested in genealogy but expect me to have it all done before I die...we need to make the hard decisions ourselves and to go through things and to clean things out and not leave a mess for people who may or may not have any real connection to what we have saved or to what our parents are saved. I've been going through things and labeling things that I think my children will want and will want to understand the history of. But I have also been brutal. I have digitized lovely old photos and toss the paper copies, as much as it hurt. I've tossed report cards, wedding invitations and digitized my father's Apollo program decals and letters. We owe it to our children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews to clean it up and get it ready for them and to tell them the stories and to write those stories down digitally or otherwise. My grandmother and her siblings threw away hundreds of documents and photos and small items when my great-grandmother died because they didn't know what they were and they didn't cherish them. The basic issue here isn't unique to our generation.

I've found that I am at the point that I need to start writing my stories from all the data I've collected. My siblings glaze over somewhat when I start talking genealogy. Currently, I have created a Group on Facebook for my family. I occasionally post 1 item about an ancestor and add a story about them. This seems to grab them and allows me to share with them, but not at an overwhelming level.

I will check out historical societies in the communities in which I'm researching for donations.

I am working on a comprehensive family history book to be printed and distributed among many relatives. I will also make digital versions of it. I have tried to make stories interesting by including as many personal details as possible about ancestors. It is rare however to get personal information about the lives of generations earlier than your grandparents so I write some of the social history, when available, about the villages in which they lived, for the period they lived there. I have always mainly focused on direct ancestors so the book should be more achievable than one that includes thousands of cousins. I will list all the sources but not provide images of them except one or two which may be particularly interesting to see. I also hope that the State Library of NSW will accept a copy of my book. I may also provide a copy to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. I hope they keep the digital copies updated to new technology. I want to make my book findable for any of my descendants or relatives interest in our family history. I like Legacy because I think it is the most versatile software for producing a printed book as close as possible to the way I want it.

I have read and find this topic of conversation very real today as technology is changing so quickly.
I have compiled many books on all branches of my tree and lodged the main branch with the county in Uk concerned. this I did 20 years ago and they were very greatful. maybe I should update .
my concern is where will all this work end up I am hoping it will be added to as more children are born and married etc.
I like the idea written in the will of being held for 5years .
I think this concerns many family history enthusiasts.
all I can say I did what I enjoyed and hope those who follow appreciate it

Every time my wife and I eat at a Cracker Barrel and after we are seated I start looking around at all the family pictures on the walls, I think to myself, those pictures are some ones family. Surely at some point in the future people will want to know their family history and its sad to think that part of their family history is on display at a Cracker Barrel.

Some libraries will accept family information. We have a local history and genealogy room which collects significant local family history. it may depend on organization of the material. It is a good place to make it available to others that are searching for family information.

I too started 2 years ago with digitizing the treasure trove of VHS tapes of my young family and ended up with 50 DVD's. I made copies of 35 of then each for my children and gifted them to them.
I am now digitizing the printed photos and when done with the family albums I will have copies dating back 100 years, huge project but like most no one wants to take over preserving my families history.

I have a reunion coming up soon. I am sending out a blanket email to gather interest where I will show off both the digitized versions on a laptop and also bring a few banker's boxes of original content to see if I can drum up at least one potential future genealogist to take over while I still have the facilities to assist.

I also love the 5 year codicil idea. Thanks!

Respectfully some of the comments above expect others to take care of our genealogy stuff! Why? Do the job now, don't burden your loved ones with a job. I watched my sister spend a great deal of time and effort taking care of our Aunt who was single, lived in a one bedroom apartment, was not a horder, cleared out many of her things. Please do the right thing fellow genealogist. All my neatly organized binders have a note on the cover - RECYCLE this book has already been donated!

I felt it was my job to find the family member (s) who were interested in my genealogy. I clearly state in my will "all material related to genealogy have been posted on the internet and or books have already been donated. You are free to dispose of all materials you find of my genealogy work." I did this because I spent decades traveling and spending money on my research. Why in the world would I impose on any person to do what I was unwilling to do?

In addition to external hard drives, make sure your research can be found on line so that anyone in the future can find it. For me that means ancestry.com, FamilySearch.com, Internet archives, Scribed, We Relate, Wiki tree, My Heritage, Find my Past, NEHGS .. you get the idea!

I have a question about your "digital vault." Is that on DVDs or in the cloud or specific software?

I have digitized all of the genealogy from my dad (eight 4" notebooks he did in the 1980s) and all of the old family pictures. i have shared pdfs with family. I have made a list with pictures of all of our heirlooms and the stories behind them hoping it will mean something to the various family members.

I had added this all to the Family Search memories tagged relatives as well hoping it will help those in future generations but am intrigued with the vault idea. Can you elaborate?

I guess I am really worried about all of the hours of research, the information and stories being preserved.

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