Upon receiving news that my grandfather in Germany was unexpectedly very ill, my family quickly booked plane tickets to visit. Unfortunately, we were too little too late and when it came time to fly back to Louisiana, there was only a small space in my suitcase to bring tangible items in remembrance of him back with me. In an effort to preserve more memories for both me, my children, and future grandchildren, I’ve been searching for ways to capture family moments to be passed down from generation to generation.
Of the most obvious is using ancestry.com. Essentially a digital family tree, ancestry allows you to enter known information about your family and trace them back centuries ago. There are several package options available for purchase. You can get access to worldwide resources, great for people like me with immediate family abroad. News articles that have been scanned and digitally uploaded will automatically search names of existing familial ties for related articles. Fold3 searches military past military records. Finally, AncestryDNA allows the user to take a DNA test to potentially find other living relatives with DNA matches – whether it’s far removed cousins or past family members and their traveled path in life. A small leaf of the screen indicated a potential family clue as given by Ancestry. If another person has created a family tree with matching relatives, trees can be shared to quickly gather information and enlarge your tree. If you are interested in doing genealogy and ancestry research, the Lafayette Public Library also has a wide array of resources, including Ancestry.com, if accessed from a library computer.
Hallmark Recordable Storybooks
I purchased these recordable storybooks for family members 2 years ago for Christmas and am so thankful I did! For $30, these books can be purchased from Hallmark directly or Barnes and Noble. The user records themselves reading the book one page at a time. When gifted back to the child, the child can “read” the story by themselves and listen to their family member narrate the book with each flip of the page. We love to listen to our nearly 80-year-old Granny (great-grandmother) read to us, complete with her Cajun accent. It’s a treasured book now and will be exponentially more treasured in years to come.
While there are SO many options for companies that create storybooks, I most prefer Costco. For $20, you get an 8 3/4 x 11 1/4 hardcover book or 2 copies of an 8 x 8 softcover book with 30 pages. These 30 pages can have a preselected theme provided by Costco or you can create your own layout. Depending on the layouts selected, your book can contain 30 pictures or up to hundreds. There is an option to purchase up to 100 pages per book, with an additional cost per page (double-sided).
A few additional tips are to caption photos, describing who is in the picture or what was being done. While you may remember these details now yourself, your kids may not know what is happening based on pictures alone when they are 50-60 years old, looking back through these books. I wish I had some additional context of pictures found at my grandfather’s house after he passed. We are doing one book per year, with a goal to add pictures each month so it doesn’t seem like such a lofty project all at once. The last tip is to add information with where the book was purchased, including username and password for the account should any of your kids want to purchase additional copies for themselves in the future. Your kids will thank you in the future for saving them the work of recreating. Maybe one day I’ll tackle years past.
I recently subscribed to Storyworth for myself for $89 for one year. This service gives you the option of choosing prefabricated questions or creating your own. The idea is to answer a question on a weekly basis, include any relevant pictures, and at the end of the year get all responses printed in a hardcopy book for you to enjoy. Samples of questions include: Can you remember a time that you were really upset as a child? Were you involved in any organizations in high school? Where did you go on your honeymoon? Did you have any pets growing up?
I paid for the annual membership to hold myself accountable for answering one question a week. The membership can be purchased for yourself or for a relative. While some of the questions seem basic, elaborating on the answer can provide insight into the life of the writer. Captioning pictures also gives the reader a greater understanding of the picture, even after the eventual passing of the writer. This can also be done on a much cheaper level (albeit less sophisticated) by simply coming up with the questions yourself in a word document and spiral bounding the eventual book at a place like Kinkos. I’m hoping to simultaneously do this with my mama and create extra copies for my 3 siblings as a future gift.
While I certainly hope I have lots of time left in this life, it is never too early to start preserving these memories. Let’s be honest, the majority of these ideas do take some time commitment to complete. But I’m always looking for ways to preserve memories or create family heirlooms.
How are you preserving your family legacy?