I created this altered image from an image I found on Pixabay.com by deysanz. I added special effects and text (my own words) and watermarked the image with the url of this site using the free version of graphic editing software at picmonkey.com.
For too many decades I saved things from long ago, we do it not because the object brought me pleasure but out of a sense of obligation to ancestors that cared enough to preserve the item.
Largely because I am an info nerd and love to study how meaning is generated, it finally dawned on me that I can enjoy the thought of the item when the item is not present.
A thing that is quite similar to the actual thing that creates pleasurable thought can stand in for that thing. I may no longer have the chair in which my mother, grandmother, and even her mother, sat in with their books and learned to read, but I can find one similar to it because it was from a Sears catalog in the 1890s and not a particularly rare item.
The thoughts of my own readings in that chair, and the idea of connection to reading across generations and to matrilineal ancestors I never met, are what make me smile.
The map may not be the territory, but it can remind us of the territory, and that does not even begin to look at how a map is another level of territory in and of itself.
We can tell stories that bring long gone things and times to life for others in a vivid fashion. Sometimes the idea of a thing is more important than the actual item.
Publish & Preserve
There has recently been a flurry of new products related to capturing social media posts, digitizing images and letters, as well as platforms for capturing audio stories. This was discussed in an earlier WLP post.
But which one do you choose as a gift in the short week before Christmas? Turn around time is the limiting factor. What can you still accomplish in such a short time?
Several options are still viable as gifts.
Ancestry.com Gift Subscription
Ancestry.com is the best known commercial genealogical records service. It offers subscriptions that are easy to give. The person to whom you are giving must have an email address and you need to provide a start date for the subscription.
What Ancestry calls a U.S. Discovery gift allows access to all U.S. records:
12 months $169
6 months $89
What Ancestry calls a World Explorer gift allows access to U.S. and international records:
Legacy Box Gift Package
There are wonderful companies out there who help you record a short interview with a grandparent or elder member of your family. Have one made, you will be glad you did.
There are ways to do this yourself. In this age of selfies, and self-produced video, though, there are wonderful, fairly easy, and straight-forward ways to capture moments with and stories of people you cherish.
The big holiday season is underway with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other end of the year celebrations and observances. Take advantage of the opportunity that is people you love gathering together.
- Hire a videographer. How much did you spend on your wedding video? Capturing your grandmother and aunts talking about significant events that they shared may be even more important down the line to you than your wedding day.
- Hire a photographer. Professional candid and staged photos in a home have a warmth that studio photos are extremely hard pressed to capture.
Keep Everyone Busy
- Enlist the assistance of other individuals to capture these moments. Have a way set up before the event, so you can tell people where to find the results, to share what you all have captured.
- Have a tech savvy teen take several good selfies with every person at the event.
- Have the same tech savvy teen also capture portrait shots of every person there.
- Set up a camera with video capabilities in a spot with good overall vantage to capture a meal or after-meal story-telling and have it record the meal or time period.
- Set up phones or recorders in several spots to record audio.
- If there is a budding journalist or writer in the family, enlist that person to interview individuals about a specific topic.
- Help less experienced information gatherers by providing one topic about which you would like for them to have a conversation with each person.
- You might also ask “the interviewer” to come away with one thing from each conversation which they found more interesting or surprising.
Most phones have the ability to record audio. Most electronic phones and tablets have had apps created for them which also allow you to record and even edit. Let people know you are recording to capture family stories and then leave a phone or tablet in various places where people will sit and tell stories. Most people will forget that they are being recorded or warm up to the idea within a short time.
- Do not promise transcriptions of the recording. Transcription is a skill that is time consuming and can be quite difficult and frustrating.
- Save and bundle the recordings together transferring them off of the devices on which they were made. Do this immediately after the event.
- Jot down times and time stamps when especially good stories or important were shared so you can easily find and work with particular bits of audio.
- Put all the data, photos, recordings, etc on a thumb drive, memory stick, or flash drive.
- Give one drive to each family or person as a gift.
Share Print Versions
Every other community business seems to have digital print services that include creating books from your images. If you give digital versions, individuals can make their own print copies, of course, but it is a nice touch to provide print versions to elders that may not be able navigate the ins and outs of contemporary technologies.
Many social media platforms also allow you to gather and print posts in book formats.
Hire a Personal Historian
Personal historians provide slightly different services The individual can collect information from family members at the gathering, curate information you have shared, and determine how to follow up with individuals to gather more and missing information.
Consider contacting schools and programs with instructors and leaders who might encourage students or participants to contact your family members for interviews.
- Anthropology, history, and other social science classes often encourage such projects. So do scouting and youth groups. This is especially good if you hear a story from a relative that you feel should be explored in more depth than you are comfortable pursuing.
- National organizations, such as Story Corps, also facilitates and records personal histories and interviews. And there is a Story Corps APP you can download so you can add your stories to the world database of personal wisdom.
A website or even a Facebook Group (probably with secret or closed membership) can be set up before or after your gathering for sharing family information.
The best sharing happens when clear guidelines are set up and shared before the group or site becomes active.
- Define the type of content to be shared.
- What is appropriate to share? Photos, genealogical information, family stories? Facts only? Opinions welcome?
- Is the information shared on the site to stay on the site or may things be copied and shared elsewhere?
Outlining basic guidelines for participation will help to prevent misunderstanding that are almost certain to pop up when families come together online.
There are as many ways to collect family and community legacy stories as there are individuals doing it.
If you do this, we would love to hear how it went, what you found out, and what you suggest for others wanting to curate their own legacy projects.
The real story of Mother’s Day is beginning to be be recognized. What is so often thought of as a day to be nice to your mother has far more complexity, spirituality, and politics sewn into it than most contemporary people know. No matter how you slice it, the history of Mother’s Day is intimately connected to the grief borne by the mothers of the soldiers and casualties of the Civil War. We are only 150 years removed from the horror that was the War between the American States. Women and peace are at the heart of the acts that led to the establishment of Mother’s Day.
We honor our mothers, buy flowers, take mom out for a nice meal, but we might also want to spend a few minutes contemplating the efforts of our foremothers to create a world of peace and plenty. This is, after all, what all mothers want for their children. One of these days we should give that to them.
Anna Garvis’s mother, Ann Reeves Garvis, was one of the women of the mid-19th Century who worked to create good out of the evil of war and poverty. She and many other women held Mother’s Friendship Day gatherings after the Civil War to bring Union and Confederate families together to heal in a spirit of peace. Her daughter, Anna Garvis, successfully lobbied for official status for Mother’s Day. She lobbied to undo the status, unsuccessfully, when the holiday became commercialized and no longer resembled honor for the type of work her own mother and others of her mother’s generation toiled to achieve.
Julia Ward Howe
Julia Ward Howe was one of the women engaged in such peace-building activities after the Civil War. She wanted there to be an international gathering of women for peace and her proclamation, an Appeal to Womanhood Throughout the World, now called the Mother’s Day Proclamation, is inspirational and has enjoyed a resurgence of recognition in these days of worldwide connection where information cannot long stay buried. The full text of the proclamation follows:
Appeal to womanhood throughout the world
Again, in the sight of the Christian world, have the skill and power of two great nations exhausted themselves in mutual murder. Again have the sacred questions of international justice been committed to the fatal mediation of military weapons. In this day of progress, in this century of light, the ambition of rulers has been allowed to barter the dear interests of domestic life for the bloody exchanges of the battle field. Thus men have done. Thus men will do. But women need no longer be made a party to proceedings which fill the globe with grief and horror. Despite the assumptions of physical force, the mother has a sacred and commanding word to say to the sons who owe their life to her suffering. That word should now be heard, and answered to as never before.
Arise, then, Christian women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears ! Say firmly : We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: Disarm, disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence vindicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of council.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take council with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, man as the brother of man, each bearing after his own kind the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.
In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women, without limit of nationality, may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient, and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.—Julia Ward Howe
A popular, well-circulated, version of the Mother’s Day Proclamation omits the first paragraph, because “nice women do not discuss politics.” Yeah. Right. And the mention of Christianity is also often removed, probably to appeal to secular interests. I firmly believe that when edits are made to great and significant texts, the edits should be noted. For the sake of history, we cannot rewrite it, and should not rewrite what is remembered of it.