Who Will Watch the Home Place? Preserving Your Family Legacy

About a year ago, my grandson Alex loaded a bunch of new music on the little iPod I use at the gym.  I was working away on the elliptical machine one evening and suddenly in a pretty country voice, I heard the following words:

“Who will watch the home place?

Who will tend my heart’s dear space?

Who will come to fill my place, when I am gone from here?”

{ Listen to the whole song here }

I was moved to tears! Totally lost it. Right there in the middle of the gym surrounded by strangers.

I have been thinking about this in the back of my mind ever since.  And every time I hear the haunting lyrics, they continue to stir my soul.

Via Pinterest

I thought this was worth discussion.  Each family has a story.  Each family has a unique path and set of struggles and successes that have made the family legacy and produced the children and grandchildren who are living today.

Some families have ancestors that came west by wagon train.  Others have relatives that came to the US via Ellis Island.  Some have ancestry that dates back to the native tribes who first conquered the land and survived with much less.  Some survived the Great Dust Bowl starvation period or the Great Depression and the Stock Market Crash of 1929.  Maybe they survived World War II or Hitler’s Concentration Camps.

Who is responsible to gather and preserve these stories?  The children and the grandchildren must do it. If they do not, the majority of the small stories will one day be lost forever.

Documenting family history has been done twice so far in my family.  My nephew, Joel, several years ago wrote a book about the ministry work of my Uncle Fred and also my father and mother in their early years.  It is a treasure on my bookshelf that I have read several times.

Writing by JKim1 via www.sitawit.wordpress.com

My niece, Lynda also did a similar thing when her dad was lingering in the hospital several months before he died. Wayne and my sister Esther had a marvelous life in the ministry, starting churches from nothing and quietly accomplishing amazing things.

Lynda and I talked about the importance of knowing Wayne’s thoughts and memories and recording them.  She totally took on the project. Over months of daily hospital visits, she asked a ton of questions and video-recorded his responses. We all have a copy of what was recorded.  Some day there may be another book, but at least, prior to his passing in May, the precious information was gathered.

Perhaps you have thought about this, too. Your family is losing its older generation as we all are. There are ways to capture your family history if you feel the call to be the one to make it happen.

Here are some ideas that might get you started:

  1. Email all of your relatives and try to get interest in a family reunion.
  2. If you get the reunion in place, send out a questionnaire, asking each person to write the memories and facts they are aware of. Some may produce dates and places of births and deaths you didn’t know about. Have them bring that to the reunion.
  3. At the reunion, set up a place and time to video family members and “interview” them, with a list of open-ended questions that allow for rambling and opinion.  You’ll get lots of wonderful information about your family.
  4. Either pay to have the videos transcribed, or personally do it.
  5. Make a list of the older members of your family who best know the stories of your roots and ancestry.
  6. Contact them for more in-depth discussions.
  7. If you have older relatives who are not well, consider making a trip to them. Let them know you will be asking them to reminisce as you record or make notes of  the conversations.
  8. Consider putting the results into book form.  If you cannot do so yourself, seek out the writer in your family and ask if they will help with the project.

Photo Credit: www.theperfectmistake.tumblr.com

Will you become rich and famous?  Probably not.  But what you will do is huge.  You will protect for future generations the legacy of your very own family.  The treasured memories in your heart can be preserved for YOUR children and THEIR children.  And all because someone took the time and effort to be certain they would know.

What if you can only think of your heritage with pain? What if all your ancestors were pirates, rag-tags, or harmed the innocent, if you know what I mean? Then what?  Remember Oprah’s roots?  Telling even the un-tellable can still help your family find the strength to rise above and change history.

 

If you consider your heritage important, you will convey that to your children.  If you do something like this, you will never have the worry of “Who will watch the home place?”

What you invest into will be valuable, in your eyes and in the eyes of those who follow, … when you are gone from here.

 

Have I inspired you?

What is a special memory or story of your ancestors that you would not want to be forgotten by your children?

Anne

About Anne

The youngest of 8, I was born in a tiny town in the Keeweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan in the late 40’s. My minister parents died 6 months apart around the time of my 5th birthday. My older siblings raised us in the family home until all were graduated except me. Gradually only the boys remained, so at the age of 10 I moved to other homes. My childhood was rich with experiences that sparked my young imagination. When I finally read the Anne of Green Gables series, I totally identified with Anne. I have just celebrated my 46th anniversary with my dear husband, Lou. Our daughter, April, 4 grandchildren and one great granddaughter bring our family a lot of joy and reasons to be thankful. I have worked at O’Connor Mortuary since 1996 where I handle the accounting. The Mortuary has become extended family and it is a source of satisfaction as a job I thoroughly enjoy. We attend the Village Church and that is another wonderful extended family, one who not only worships and learns together, but loves and prays for one another at the drop of a hat. We live in a retirement community and enjoy taking our two dogs, a Bernese Mountain Dog and little Cocker Spaniel, to Dana Point Harbor for Sunday jaunts. I absolutely love participating in the Mortuary Blog. I have found my voice! Thanks for following me.
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  • Carrie Bayer

    Anne, what a wonderful blog & great reminder that we all should know our family’s history. Recording our family’s history is a big deal in my family- it has been traced back almost 500 years! I have family who came from overseas & pioneered across the plains to the west coast. Also, my mother came from Finland when she was 18 years old. There were many surprises I learned about my relatives from the past, some shocking even. But, it it the fabric from which I’m made & I treasure the knowledge. Thank you so much for this! XOXOX Carrie

  • Anne Collins

    Carrie
    500 Years!! I am blown away! I love hearing this! It is exactly why I am talking about. You are way ahead of the rest of us, yet even you can preserve the last generation and their stories.
    Just handled an estate sale for a family and the lady had written a book about one side of her family. What a treasure to read this. I couldn’t put it down. Simple people yet tough as nails, coming through hard times often with more setbacks than the hardiest soul could handle, yet with enduring faith and a sense of humor.
    My late brother’s wife’s roots are Finland. You come from hardy stock! I always felt like “Auntie” was the strongest in the family. Nothing sets her back for long. She has an iron will.
    We all have imperfect families. It is what it is. Our job is to rise above the ashes and make beauty out of our lives as a gift to God of ourselves..
    Thanks for reading and sharing your history!
    Love
    Anne

  • Hi Anne –

    What a great blog! This has been weighing on me for years with my Dad. I have wanted to have him write down is memories and journey for all of us. I will make it a plan to get this moving this year. Joe has ALL the company stories that go back 100 years. Having a new son (2) I want to journal to make sure he knows how much I have been inspired by him. You have inspired me to write my love notes to him! Thank you for the inspiration! You are so talented and gifted!

    • Anne

      Neil
      Hope you listened to the song. Probably with your dad, someone should interview him, get him started. It may work better if someone is asking key questions with a recorder running. It truly would make a wonderful book. Do it before forgetfulness sets in. There is so much he knows.

      Love notes to Jesse. By the time he is grown, you would have a treasure to hand him. Hope you do it.
      Love
      Anne

  • kari Leslie

    Annie,
    My mom and I have talked about this quite a few times over the last couple of years. I so wish that I had a recording of my Great Grandfather’s voice. He was such an amazing man, and genuinely cared about me and my success in this life. I wish I would’ve taken the time to write down more of the amazing stories of my Nana and her life growing up on a farm in Arkansas. I don’t want my kids to loose those roots. So, Momma and I will work on this together. Something to look forward to as she retires and has time to investigate more.
    Bravo Annie, your words are so powerful!!
    oxoxo
    kari

    • Anne Collins

      Kari
      Having lost my own parents when I was just a child, then grandparents before I was born except one and many others when I was too young to know or realize the depth of the loss of information, I truly see the great need to collect and record what we can.
      I hope you guys get a lot of it down. I wish I had a recording of Uncle Fred praying “Great God Almighty!” I can hear that one yet in my head.
      Love
      Anne

  • Anne,
    I love the inspiration of this post and the stories you inspire us to catch. I’m fortunate to have families that value this as well. My mom just recently started asking her mom questions and typing out her responses so that she can send the transcripts to her sisters and my cousins.
    On the other side of my family my aunt has done studies on our family’s genealogy and traced the Turners all the way back to England and a castle in Exeter (http://www.powderham.co.uk/). I love knowing my roots, it’s even interesting to me just how connected I felt to England when I was there – almost like I belonged to it – but perhaps that’s my wishful thinking!
    Anyway, I’m inspired by your post to keep track of stories my own parents are saying and make sure that I record and keep these stories for the days to come.

    Thank you so much for the ideas!!

    • Anne Collins

      Wow! Roots back to England. Good for you Molly. You still have grandma Turner, too, right? Someone needs to get more from her while she can still tell it all.
      We all have a precious past to record. Just think of the marvelous rich tapestry it would all create if each family did this. With the internet and other tools, it would be much easier to record and save it.
      Thank you!
      Anne

  • Lori

    Anne,

    I met with a family a few months ago and the wife is very into genealogy. She encouraged me each time we spoke or emailed to get onto Ancestry.com. She even gave me her password so I would not have to pay the monthly fee. She said it would be wonderful for my grandmother if I was able to bring information to her when I would visit.
    Sadly, I did not move forward on this as quickly as I should have. Now my grandma is in a state that she would not remember anything that I discussed with her.
    I think it is so important, especially for large families, to know their history.
    This is a beautiful post and I thank you for sharing it.

    Love you,
    Lori

    • Anne Collins

      Lori
      You do already have stories and information from your grandmother in your head and your heart. Some time when your days off are not spoken for, start writing and see what you come up with. It may not be chronological or even logical but you will get thoughts down before they slip away.
      There is still much you can do. Others in your family will have information on both sides of your heritage that you don’t yet have that can inspire you to go a little further.
      I wish you well with the next phase.
      Love
      Anne

  • Shayna Mallik

    Annie this blog is inspirational! Definitely makes me think about stories my family has told me, and now I will definitely write them down and keep a book of them. I want to be able to share my families history with my kids one day and not have to hope I can remember all the details. Thank you for being so truthful in your blogs, they are a joy to read and respond to.

    Thank you again Annie

    Shayna

    • Anne Collins

      Shayna
      Thank you. It is nice to know I can inspire young people like you. You are definitely a thinker and I have no doubt you will write some important things down. We all have them. Even I do, although the true personal memories are limited since I was quite young.
      Love
      Anne

  • Patricia Kolstad

    Annie:

    My quest will start soon. I have found some of my family this Thanksgiving, which was so overwhelming for me. I will have more time soon, and I have promised my children that I would dig deep into our roots. My grandmother on my mother’s side was a Crockett, and believed to have been an ancestor of Davy Crockett. What a treasure chest that would be!

    Thank you for your encouragement. I’m on the hunt!

    Pat

    • Anne

      Pat
      I hope you heard the song I linked to this. If you are related to Davy Crockett, the song could’ve been sparked from that “Home Place”.
      I hope you do follow your roots as much as you can. I will bet there are some interesting tales in your family tree just waiting for you to discover them. And you are just the one to write about them!
      Hugs and happy hunting!
      Annie

  • Jean Anderson

    Dear Annie,
    I can’t help but quote my honey here, “I See God”.
    The song was so beautiful, and your words dear Annie, so inspirational. I am truly
    moved by the whole thing. And even seeing “Auntie” mentioned was so emotional and
    humbling for me. God bless you and keep and strengthen you thru this as He has and
    still is helping me. “Fear not tomorrow, God is already there.” You can find the words to
    this song online. I read them everyday. Love & hugs to you and my Louie, Auntie

    • Anne

      Auntie! I did not know you posted a comment here until this moment! I meant it when I said you are the strong one. I am praying I can be half as strong as Lou and I face this daily challenge. I love you dearly. Thank you for your encouraging emails.

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