Family history, the alternative guide – leaving a footprint behind


01 January 2022
Paul Chiddicks asks - what is left behind for our descendants after we’ve departed and how can we ensure the family name is remembered?

Is there anything to show that we even existed, long after we have gone? This started me thinking about the long-term goals of pursuing this hobby and what we leave behind, for future genealogists to discover. Of course we leave the records that our ancestor’s have also left behind, our genealogy BMD, but what else is there?

Can we leave anything more permanent?

Today we live in a fully digital age that captures almost everything we do, on a daily basis, but do we really need to upload an Instagram shot of our dinner every day though? Surely there is more we can do to leave a legacy. We obviously leave behind our DNA footprint which passes down generation to generation, but what is there once our genealogy line dies out? There’s not a lot else is there?

So this all made me think of what can I do to preserve “The Chiddicks” name in some way. The Chiddicks family have led a pretty ordinary life, nothing outstanding, we are not the pioneering sort, more the run of the mill ag.labs in truth. Going back six direct male ancestors and we find that I am the first of my line, since 1760, to even leave the county of Essex, so explorers, we are clearly not.

However, we really do make up the community with which we live, hard working and honest, we have always made a contribution in our own town and with this thought in mind, I contacted the local Council of Thurrock, to see if it was possible to name something in honour of my humble ancestor’s, who lived and worked in South Ockendon.

After some time, I had almost given up hope, I was duly contacted by the Council planning department who were delighted to tell me that a new build of flats were being built in South Ockendon and that they had decided to name the flats “Chiddicks Court”. I was absolutely delighted and honoured that my family would be remembered in this way.

What is your family history goal?

Now I am not necessarily advocating that we all go off and get a street named after our ancestors, far from it. What I am suggesting is what mark have we left for others to find and follow? Do you have an end point or ultimate goal with your own family history?

Some people have captured their family heirlooms in a time capsule, which is a really novel idea and something to consider, maybe? 

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A memory box, like your family tree, is a growing project and something that you can add to over the years. It’s also a great way to encourage younger members of the family to join in and become involved with finding out about their ancestors. The young people of today are tomorrow’s genealogists.

DNA and genealogy

DNA is fast becoming the latest big thing in genealogy, you could consider leaving your own DNA for others that follow, to try and find a match. There are numerous online sites offering DNA testing, ancestry being one of the largest. DNA testing will certainly play a large part in the future of genealogy, so why not consider making this a New Year’s goal, to take a DNA test.

Memorial plaques and memorial benches dedicated to loved ones, are also popular, you could consider maybe something like that, in a special place, for a member of your own family.

For some of my own family members, I have purchased a tree for them to place in their garden, again with a plaque to mark a special occasion or anniversary. One silver birch tree already stands over 30 ft tall and will hopefully be around long after I have gone myself. Have you considered writing a book, or maybe even publishing your family tree on your own website? There are lots of different ways you can present your work.

So consider now, what have you already left behind for others to find and consider what in the future you could leave for those that follow us to leave your own mark. We each touch a number of people in our lives and we all leave our mark, in our own distinct way, however small it may seem. How will you be remembered………??

Paul Chiddicks

Follow Paul on Twitter and his blog.

Researching the names: Chiddicks in Essex; Daniels in Dublin; Keyes in Prittlewell; Wootton in Herefordshire and London; Jack in Scotland.

Originally published December 2017. Reviewed August 2022.

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