You’ve spent countless hours researching, documenting and refining your family history. And finally, the big day comes where you are ready to share with your children, or even your grandchildren. You sit down with a big book of historical information, but the kids just are not interested. Ah, the frustration. You were certain they would want to know everything about where they come from. Most children will grow up and want to know more about their history, but sadly, it could be after you are gone. Children just aren’t ready for the download of information at the time you are ready to share. So, how do you safely package the information for consumption and understanding when they are ready?
First and foremost, begin having conversations with family about how valuable and timeless the memorabilia and detailed history is to you personally. The last thing you want is a box of photos to land in their hands and simply tossed in the trash, not understanding its value.
Second, though it takes time and effort, create one or many true stories from your research. It’s easy for an individual not familiar with genealogy to destroy countless death records, obituaries and even certificates when it’s just piled together with mounds of other paperwork. Whether it is through scrapbooking, blogging or even just documenting a single story to pass on to a key individual that shares similar interests or has experienced the same hardship. Relating the information to your children personally makes the information so much more valuable.
Identify the Successor
As you talk with others, it becomes obvious which of your children are most interested in your family history. Take advantage of these conversations. Begin with single important documents and providing them to your child overtime. Then, continue passing the collection along with new stories and documents. You don’t want to wait until they are providing the filter when going through piles of the information, but rather, start creating the importance in small packages, so the large bucket of information becomes even more important (and recognizable).
Some items to consider:
- Provide access to genealogy websites and blogs: continuing the story just adds value to your own work
- Document a complete family tree and provide to all family members: most will not be ready to treasure the family photo from the 1800s, but a family tree provided to each child could prove as a good single source of information for future investigation and research. Bonus: provide some details on the back of the family tree for important items they should look at – it might spark an unknown interest.
- Think current: good genealogists are so focused on history, they forget the importance of their own story. What are the pieces of information you wish you knew about your great-grandparents? What are the holes in their story? Write down your stories, bind them in an important book and pass the information on.
- And for those files you are not yet ready to hand off, make sure they are stored in a well-labeled and documented location.
- Remember, your children might not be the best successor. You might have a younger cousin or niece who is interested in the information. Pass it along to them and when your own children are ready for the download, they know the source to contact.
Donate to Libraries
If you are not able to find someone who truly wants to take on the ownership and continue the legacy, donate your historical information and collections to a local genealogy library or historical society. Remember, a library will only want to hold on to information that is of true value and clearly cataloged. It would be beneficial to have a prior conversation with the library including a discussion around providing funds to help store and catalog the documents.
Ensure that your years of information gathering can be put to good use by a fellow genealogist, maybe even in a great-grandchild in the future will uncover your work and continue the legacy.