What good is the past? Are there benefits to looking to the past? Absolutely! Here’s why the past is infinitely important to me: My grandparents lived there. I learned lessons there. I fell in love, got married, and had babies there. My grandparents passed away before any of my children could know or remember them. If I want my children to know where they came from and know those sweet people they didn’t get a chance to know, I need to take them back to the past. The best way I know of to bridge generations is using photos and memories. Photos bring people to life and put faces to names. My memories of my grandparents make them real people to my kids and provide opportunities for connections, even though they’re gone.
Having lost all my grandparents, and now more recently my mother, photos mean a lot to me these days. They’ve always meant a lot to me, I admit, but now they’re kind of everything. This statement by Mehmet Murat Ildan is true. Remembering those special people in my life is like giving them life again. I love sharing memories and photos of my progenitors with my kids because it makes me happy. It gives them a sense of belonging, yes, but it really just makes ME feel good, too!
Scott Hamilton gave a little more perspective to generations in his keynote address in this year’s RootsTech.
Without our past, our present has no meaning, and our future is worthless. ~Scott Hamilton, former US Olympian
Wow. Have you ever thought of it that way? Connecting with our past puts us in a good place in the present, and it makes our future meaningful.
Who were your grandparents? What would your children benefit from knowing about them? What about your parents? I’m always struck at how my kids only know me as a 30-year-old/40-year-old person. They don’t have any inkling of what I was like as a college student or as a little kid–unless I tell them. It’s the same thing with grandparents. My parents as 40-year-olds were a lot different than they were as 70-year-olds when my kids knew them. Because I knew my parents in both of those stages of their lives, I’m a valuable resource for my own children as they learn about their grandparents.
Story and Photos and Memories
Telling family stories is fantastic! Writing them down, however, is even better. That’s because the written version becomes a source to go to for remembering the whole story. If you have photos to add to your story, all the better! Photos make a story come alive.
I remember seeing for the first time a picture of my fifth-great grandmother. Photographs in the 1800s, of course,were not what they are today. Nobody smiled. It seems my fifth-great grandmother’s “resting face” was a bit frowny. For a long time, I didn’t really think about her much. She didn’t LOOK that interesting. But then I read her story! Part of her story is rather miraculous and touching, and knowing this about her changed everything for me. Now I look at that picture with great pride, loving that I come from stock like her.
Using photos and stories to connect generations can happen in many ways. In February, I shared some of my favorite ways to preserve and tell stories. If you missed it, be sure you click that link. There are story maps and guides for how to start recording a life story, and ways to professionally publish your books for a fraction of the cost. Remember, too, that you can tell stories and share photos that bridge generations through other means besides written pages and published books, such as cookbooks and DIY playing card decks (like family matching or family trivia games) and everyday reminders like canvases or posters. You can find these creative ideas for sharing stories here.
Life stories and family stories both connect generations, but don’t forget that your own memories are a huge part of that. What do you remember or know about your own parents or grandparents? Is it recorded somewhere? Who knows what you know besides you?
Bringing Them to Life
Oral traditions, or oral literature, has always been a part of the human experience. We tell stories. Downfalls of oral traditions, though, come through age and time. What if I forget the story? What if I remember the story but forget to tell it?
Right now I teach an early-morning scripture class to a great group of high school juniors. My daughter happens to be in my class. Several months ago in a discussion, something came up that reminded me of a really scary experience I once had where I had to decide in a split second if I was going to be brave and stand up for what was true (even though my life was in danger, actually!) or if I was going to run from the situation. As I was about to tell the story, I realized that my daughter had never heard this story! She didn’t know this about my life. She didn’t know this about ME. It almost seemed impossible that she didn’t know this, but there it was–the fact is that even though she and I are very close, I had never thought to tell her that story.
Giving our stories a place to live– outside of our own heads and supplemental to an oral tradition –brings them to life. Add photos and you’ve got the whole experience captured, ready to re-live, learn from, laugh at, appreciate, and cherish.
Build the Bridges
Take your family back to the past, back to where your grandparents lived, back to your most trying or heroic times, back to your graduation day. Put faces to names and names to stories. Use photos and memories. You don’t have to tell the entire history of your family, or even your whole life like this cute book. “Memories of Grandpa” or “Growing Up Stories” are just as valuable. Just record what you know and then share it.
Using photos and memories to bridge generations is one of the easiest, most powerful ways to do it! It’s a quick source for happiness, too.
Bridges between generations are not built by accident. … Not one of my children has any recollection of my grandparents. If I want my children and grandchildren to know those who still live in my memory, then I must build the bridge between them. I alone am the link to the generations that stand on either side of me. It is my responsibility to knit their hearts together through love and respect, even though they may never have known each other personally. ~Dennis B. Neuenschwander
- Heritage Makers. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.heritagemakers.com/jenniferwise
- Neuenschwander, Dennis B. (1999). lds.org. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1999/04/bridges-and-eternal-keepsakes?lang=eng
- Pinterest. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/511721576392969890/
- Roots Tech. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.rootstech.org/
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/si/seminary
- Wise, Jennifer. (2018). Evolve. Retrieved https://www.livegrowgive.org/favorite-story-products/
- Wise, Jennifer. (2017). Evolve. Retrieved https://www.livegrowgive.org/creating-family-stories/
- Wise, Jennifer. (2017). Evolve. Retrieved https://www.livegrowgive.org/4creative-ideas-for-sharing-family-stories/
- Wise, Jennifer. (2018). Life Tales Books & Personal Publishing. Retrieved from https://lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com/p/how-to-get-started.html
- Wise, Jennifer. (2017). Life Tales Books & Personal Publishing. Retrieved from https://lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-benefits-of-memory-keeping-or.html
- Wise, Jennifer. (2015). Life Tales Books & Personal Publishing. Retrieved from https://lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com/2015/08/our-brains-crave-storytelling.html