“Whenever an elder dies, a library burns down.”
Most of us have heard the above saying in one form or another. If there is any truth to this saying (I believe it holds much truth) then perhaps the above picture is of monuments to these lost libraries. If you are the family historian, genealogist, archivist, or family story teller, some responsibility falls on you to try and preserve some of the knowledge held in these libraries. Far too many people will only be known as a name and two dates on a gravestone, with their life story soon forgotten. Most family historians believe that family lore, if not preserved, will be lost within three generations. In the case of my family as my research has shown it happens much sooner.
We have many ways to save and pass on our family’s history. We can publish a book or an e-book or both. We can make a family scrapbook, better yet more than one and give them out to the family. Interview and record our family members. Create a family website. Update our photographs by digitizing and printing copies, making sure names, dates, and places marked. Make copies of your family tree in your computer software and pass them out to the family. Make sure historical societies and libraries in places your family lived have copies of your family tree and whatever else they may be interested in. We have many ways to do this, and I am sure all of us can think of many different ways to do this. You can make all of the above suggestions as simple or complex as you like. The main thing is to do something that will tell your family’s story to future generations.
“Heirlooms we don’t have in our family. But stories we’ve got.”
The principal lesson I have learned while researching my family is how events and family dynamics have echoed through many generations to influence myself and in turn my family today. This is something I think most of us who labor on their family history soon see for themselves. What better understanding could we have than the knowledge of how and perhaps why our families continue today? It comes down to nothing less than respect and honor for those who have come before us, to know and save their story. It does not matter if you have hundreds of years of family history to tell or only a few generations. You need to conserve and tell the story. Some people have told me they can only go back a few years and so they do not have much to say. I believe that not only is it easier to tell shall we say a short story but perhaps it is the story that needs to be told the most. Perhaps someone in a future generation will find it and will be able to build a much greater family story from this first small effort. Perhaps if someone had taken the effort the picture below would not have been sold at a flea market.