Ancestors are the family you get to know without the inconvenience of having to visit for Sunday lunch – George Revere
Do you ever get really annoyed with your ancestors? I mean it’s not a calculated ploy on their part, I’m sure. They didn’t set out to deliberately aggravate you or even mildly exasperate you, but I’m sure like me you have ended up cursing them for all their lackadaisical efforts at keeping even the most basic of records. I mean how hard could it have been, just to keep just a few fundamental records for your descendents, not that difficult surely? I’m not talking about the basic building blocks of genealogy, the Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates, the Census, they speak for themselves. I’m talking about all the other more personal objects, the letters, the family bible, medals, household bills, wage slips, pretty much anything that could have helped us, the interested progeny, to more thoroughly record their lives.
And to be perfectly honest, they weren’t that great at the basics either. How many times have you trawled through the Census or the BMD registers, in the hunt for that elusive name? What do we blame it on, laziness, illiteracy, ignorance, cost? To tell the truth it doesn’t really matter because in reality it could have been anyone of those reasons plus a hundred more. What it does mean though is that we, the descendant or genealogist, are left picking up the pieces to try and solve the puzzle another way and to be honest that’s what makes our profession/hobby so fascinating.
But this did get me thinking, are we any different? What have you put in place to make sure your descendants have it a bit easier? Sure, the Census is a lot more detailed now, but the 2011 version could well be the last one, and that won’t be available for 100 years! Birth, Marriage and Death certificates are compulsory now, unlike the first 37 years of registration, so that is an improvement, but how much will they cost? What about letters or diaries? Our ancestors, despite my previous procrastinations, did actually write to each other and keep diaries about their daily lives and those that survive are a great source of information. Do we write letters? Well not so much, we most likely use the modern equivalent, email, texting and any number of social media platforms. In essence we are communicating through the power of the written word, albeit mostly in sound bites. These basically are small chunks of information that if put together would create such a vivid picture for our descendents that they could actually walk side by side with us on our journey. How great would that be?
Of course the only problem is what happens to these small, almost insignificant chunks? They are out there, on some unknown server on the other side of the world, but have you got them, have you stored them anywhere? I know I haven’t! I’ve been on Facebook for 10 years now; I’ve been on Twitter for 7 years and how many emails have sent in the last 15 years? I have nothing, nil, nada, zilch, up to this point I have totally let my descendants down, everything I have ever sent electronically is now floating in the ether somewhere probably never to be retrieved. It’s sad and I imagine this is the same for most of us.
However there is hope out there, if you are so inclined. For all your big social media accounts, you can now download archives, usually from the settings page. There are any number of tools that will allow you to save your info, as well as organisations dedicated to help you or your company save all that precious data.
So when you next can’t find that elusive ancestor, just reverse the situation and think what you are doing to preserve your memory, what you need to save and how you are going to save it. And then make an effort to keep those electronic chunks of information. Remember; think of your descendants like you wish your ancestors had thought of you.