How to ensure your family history stands the test of time

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02 July 2020
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As family historians, we’re all about preserving the past and recording stories. But how do you ensure that your discoveries stand the test of time and can still be enjoyed by your descendants?

Whether you’re new to family history or have decades of experience, none of us like to think that our hard work will come to nothing. After all, part of the enjoyment of family history is imagining future generations knowing about where your family came from and its different personalities, locations and occupations.

Read on for our top tips on giving your family history research the best chance of standing the test of time.

1. Make it accessible

Your paperwork, photos and other genealogy paraphernalia stand the best chance of being preserved if they don’t look too overwhelming to the person sorting through them. So, label up files and organise photos, back up your digital notes and images and make a note of where the back-up is located.

Try your best to keep everything in one place (a great excuse to create a genealogy corner somewhere in the house!) so that whoever takes on the role of the next family genealogist can carry on your good work.

2. Discuss it with the family

Although we can’t expect everyone to love family history as much as we do (are they mad?) it’s worth mentioning that you’d love someone else to join in on your genealogy journey. We’ll come to this more in point 3, but if you can identify one or two family members who enjoy reminiscing, and/or are well organised, then no matter how old they are, they could become the family’s future story keeper.

If you’d like your research and the family’s history to be passed on to the next generation then let the family know that, and where they can find your work.

3. Make your research irresistible!

The chances of your family history continuing down the generations increase greatly if it becomes part of family life and traditions. Why not get together for a good old reminiscence every Christmas? Or at a get-together you could tell family stories about ancestors who share the interests or traits of a particular family member, or perhaps pass round an album of photos showing bygone Christmases and holidays.

Although genealogy is based on the past, it can and should be part of your present-day family life and this way, your relatives are likely to be more willing to take up the baton.

4. It’s not all about the paper!

Remember that family history isn’t just about the names, dates and documents that you collect, it also includes family memorabilia passed down through the generations such as clocks, medals, china, linen and certificates. Whether you use and enjoy these items often, or prefer to preserve them with the rest of your family history research, they are all part of your family’s history.

5. Don’t forget your own story

Wouldn’t you love to read a diary written by your great-grandmother as she shared her emotions about the family’s move to a new area of the country? Or look through photos of your grandfather opening a grocery store? What seem like fairly ordinary occurrences in our own lives could be fascinating nuggets of family history information to your descendants. So do your bit for future genealogists by keeping records of your own life and times and caring for these along with your own precious research.

Looking for inspiration, family history projects and help & advice for compiling your family tree? Try Family Tree magazine and see our special offers here.