Leaving Your Enduring Legacy

Legacy: A gift – something transmitted by
or received from an ancestor

Everyone has a story to tell.

Some people may mistakenly believe they have nothing of importance to pass on to others...no legacy they can leave. You don’t have to be wealthy, famous, or talented to leave a meaningful legacy for your descendants. Some of the most inspirational, enduring legacies are from people outside of history books and newspaper headlines. Everyday, plain ordinary people are creating and passing down inspirational, historical legacies. And you can also.

One Hundred Years from Now,
Will Anyone Know Who You Are?

Knowledge you have acquired about your ancestors instills within you values that give direction and meaning to your life. Whether you realize it or not, you have profited in your lifetime by the experiences, achievements and heritage of your parents and fore fathers. Do not suppose otherwise that your acquired knowledge, values, achievements and life challenges that you have overcome will become of great benefit to your descendants.

What legacy will you bequeath to your heirs? A life that is not documented will largely be lost to memory within a generation or two. If you do not record your life, the memory of your life will be largely lost at your death. You have a wonderful opportunity to leave an enduring, historical legacy to your kin. The whole world is in your hands – the legacy of your life (or the life of a family member) may be determined by what you do today. Are you up to the challenge?

One hundred or two hundred years from now, your descendants can know who you are. And they may find their lives forever changed for the better because of the legacy of uplifting, faith-promoting strength you left them. You should record your life history and experiences for your children and grandchildren, and beyond. In this way, they can benefit and learn from your life. Even if they have never met you, they can come to love you and “turn their hearts” to you. Through keeping journals and writing personal and family histories, you can give your posterity the opportunity to turn their hearts toward you. Here’s some ideas to assist you in leaving an enduring legacy for your descendants.

Your Journals Will be a
Source of Inspiration

“Any...family that has searched genealogical and historical records has fervently wished their ancestors had kept better and more complete records. On the other hand, some families possess some spiritual treasures because ancestors have recorded the events surrounding their [life] and other happenings of interest. ... People often use the excuse that their lives are uneventful and nobody would be interested in what they have done. But I promise you that if you will keep your journals and records they will indeed be a source of great inspiration to your families, to your children, your grandchildren, and others, on through the generations.”  Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, Oct. 1978

Our Posterity is Interested
in All We Do and Say

“We may think there is little of interest or importance in what we personally say or do–but it is remarkable how many of our families, as we pass on down the line, are interested in all that we do and all that we say. Each of us is important to those who are near and dear to us–and as our posterity read of our life’s experiences, they, too, will come to know and love us. And in that glorious day when our families are together in the eternities, we will already be acquainted.” Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report, Oct 1979, p.5

Provide Uplifting,
Faith-Promoting Strength

“Much of what we now regard as scripture was not anything more or less than men writing of their own spiritual experiences for the benefit of their posterity.... we ought to write of our own lives and our own experiences to form a sacred record for our descendants. We must provide for them the same uplifting, faith-promoting strength that the ancient scriptures now give us.”  Theodore M. Burton, Ensign, Jan. 1977, 13

Hidden Benefits of
Keeping A History

Gawain and Gayle J. Wells provide us with excellent insight on the many hidden blessings that come from these record-keeping activities: 1) gathering and reading histories of our progenitors, 2) writing our own personal history, and 3) keeping a journal. Here are some excerpts from a wonderful magazine article they wrote:

“Many unanticipated joys and blessings come from keeping a history. The blessings come not only from completing the records, but also from the process of writing them. What are some of these unexpected blessings?”

We Are Strengthened

“It can be a great thrill to discover a diary or journal written by a grandparent or loved one. For example, the record of a great-grandmother’s experiences as a bride and young mother can touch the heart of a granddaughter and cause deep love, even though the two are generations apart. ...We greatly benefit from the testimonies of our own ancestors as they recount for us their trials and sacrifices. But many of our parents and grandparents left no written account of their lives for us to read. Even so, it is possible – and important – to obtain a record about them. ... Discovering our family and our heritage can help us discover ourselves.”

Reliving Each Experience

“As I began recording my earliest recollections for chapter one of my personal history,” Gayle recalls, “I found myself reliving each experience. Details and images came into my mind that I hadn’t remembered before. I became so absorbed that I found myself weeping—and laughing—as I recorded certain incidents. It was as if I were actually stepping back in time. ... I was experiencing my own past, but observing it now with the advantage of maturity and perspective. ... We can also gain a greater appreciation for our parents as we write about them in our personal histories. Recalling our lives’ formative events from an adult point of view helps us recognize how often we depended upon our parents for emotional support as well as physical help.”

Touching the Lives of Others

“Writing in a journal is the best way to keep our personal history current. But a journal can best play its important role in our lives if we use it consistently. We might consider our journal as a map of our past, present, and future. We can look back to see where we have been, and then, with greater understanding and perspective, go forward, strengthened by our own experiences. ... We are and must continue to be a history-keeping people. As we are blessed in reading records kept by ancient prophets as well as our own ancestors, we...may touch the lives of those who follow us. And...we will experience greater joy and meaning in our lives.” Hidden Benefits of Keeping a History, Ensign, July 1986, 47-48

Be inspired by others. Check out your local library for other people’s family histories. Reading the works of others may inspire you in your own writing.

Resources For
Writing Your History

Writing our personal and family histories may sometimes seem discouraging. We may not know where to begin, or what to say or how to organize our thoughts. Here are some ideas and excellent resources to help you get started and organize your work.

Getting Started
Keeping A Journal

Keeping a journal is not necessarily difficult. But does take some discipline. Here are some suggestions:

Choose a Convenient Method

Select either a book to handwrite your journal or a computer. By choosing a method that is convenient, you will be more likely to follow through. Specialized computer software is available (see below), or you can use just your word-processing software if you choose. You could consider turning the writing into a ritual. Choose the right book to write in, and with a pen that feels good to you and looks good on the page.

Establish a Schedule

Like any new habit, keeping a journal is something that you must work at, especially at first. You will discover more about what you are experiencing if you write in your journal at the same time in the same place every day or every time. Decide how often you will make entries: daily, weekly, monthly, etc. When will you make the entries—early in the morning, at bedtime, on Sundays? With todays busy schedules, we often find ourselves rushing from one task to the next. By scheduling a little time to record your personal history, you are allowing time for yourself to reflect on the day and on your life as a whole. This may be very therapeutic for you. When you have decided, stay with it.

Decide What to Record

A journal is a record of your day-to-day life, but it is more than just a diary. It deals with your experiences and how you handled them. It deals with the values and principles you have learned and how you applied them in your life. It should also record events in your life, such as education, employment, marriage, and children. It should be something you can reflect back on...and learn from. Allow your mind to roam freely through the present, the distant past, and the shifting future. Don't deny whatever comes up as you are writing, no matter how silly it seems. You remembered it for some reason.

Take It Easy

Writing your personal history may seem overwhelming at first, but if you do it a little at a time, it’s much less intimidating. If you focus on short periods of your life, it will seem much more manageable. And you don’t have to write in chronological order. You can write about any event or period of your life as your memories are stirred.

Ideas Help Stimulate

Include news events that were happening at that time in your life which not only help set it against the circumstances of the times, but also make your story more interesting. You may also find that by remembering historical events, you will be stimulating more of your personal memories. Memorabilia can also help bring back memories, such as: music, photos, letters, talking with family or friends, even familiar smells and sounds.

Be Personable

Record your triumphs over adversity, your recovery after a fall, your progress when all seemed black, your rejoicing when you had finally achieved. Share your thoughts and feelings; give your descendants a glimpse into the real you.

Be Creative

Have fun creating your memoirs and most likely others will enjoy reading it. You can include interesting things like photos, maps, news articles, receipts, favorite quotations and jokes, cards, etc.

Let your memories be a reflection of you and your devotion to writing your family history. But do it!

Your journals and records will be a great source of inspiration to your children, your grandchildren, and others through many generations.

Helpful Software and Websites
for Writing Your Story

Personal Historian.com - www.personalhistorian.com $
Software which assists you in writing personal histories about yourself and other individuals. It breaks this seemingly monumental task into small, manageable pieces and then reconstructs it into a complete, publishable document. It includes an extensive library of timelines, historical facts, cultural trivia, and memory triggers which give color and context to the history. You can publish your completed history to your printer, word processor or PDF file. $29.95

Write Your Life Story! - http://home.netcom.com/~genealogy/life_story.htm $
This is a software program that was created after talking to a group of writers. When asked “how do you even begin…” they all replied, “Make an outline of each year of your life.” With this program you are guided through creating your basic outline right through to the finished manuscript. It can be difficult to organize the various data you have collected and generate a life story. The software can help you organize the details of an ancestor's life or your own.  $19.95

Writing the Journey - www.writingthejourney.com
This is an online writing website that includes ideas, information about journal-keeping software, a free newsletter, an online workshop, exercises to improve your journal-writing skills, and more. The heart of this website is their online journal writing workshop. You can explore some of the concepts important to journal writing, and complete exercises designed to teach you new journal writing techniques. They believe that journal writing is one of the great tools for listening to your heart. They developed this website to share information about how to get the most from your journal. With your heart to guide you, your life is a spiritual adventure!

GenWiters - www.genwriters.com
Writing for Future Generations. A source to find ideas and resources to bring your family history to life.

Association of Personal Historians.org - www.personalhistorians.org
The Association is an organization dedicated to helping others preserve their personal histories and life stories. Here you can search out a professional to help you record your own (or a loved one's) life stories. You can also find tips on the many different ways you can capture your own memories. Discover the joys of preserving personal history. Producing life story legacies through books, oral histories or videos - with thoughts, feelings and memories - this site helps enrich lives for generations to come.

Story Preservation.com - www.storypreservation.com
Can you remember what's happened in your lifetime? Here’s a nostalgia website called The Center for Life Stories Preservation which has great pages for triggering memories and historical events and dates. It has lots of entertaining and useful links.

Cyndi's List.com - www.cyndislist.com/writing.htm
Start with the collection of websites under the “Writing Your Family's History” section.

Librarians’ Internet Index - www.lii.org
A publicly-funded website and weekly newsletter with a searchable database for the best of the Web organized into 14 main topics and nearly 300 related topics.

Internet Public Library - www.ipl.org
A convenient service called Ask an IPL Librarian in which their dedicated online volunteer staff answers reference questions. Do a search for “writing family history”.

Lifestory Writing - http://heartandcraft.blogspot.com $
Paperback book by Sharon M. Lippincott contains tips, guidelines and observations to help ordinary people learn to write extraordinary stories defining their own lives in their own voices and their own terms. $16.95

Keeping a Journal - www.wofford.edu > Search “Keeping a Journal”
Articles and a workshop on keeping a journal from Wofford College.

Writing Resources on the Web - http://web.mit.edu/uaa/www/writing/links
MIT online web link resources for general and technical writing.

Writing.org - www.writing.org
This non-commercial site offers how-to articles for writers (and especially for new writers). The goal is to help you break into the writing business and avoid being victimized by scam artists.

Books to Consider

You need some reference books at your fingertips. They’ll save you lots of time in your pursuit of creating an enduring legacy.

Producing a Quality Family History $

This is one of the best-written guide books for anyone looking to create a useful, lasting history of their family. Patricia Law Hatcher guides you through the steps required to create an attractive, functional family history report, and have made understanding the organization and creative process simple. It covers every aspect for the beginner and focuses the attention of even the advanced family historian and experienced writer on what is needed to generate a high quality publication. $19.95

Joan R. Neubauer Books $

Award winning author and acclaimed speaker has written several books about writing and journaling.
Dear Diary: The Art and Craft of Writing a Creative Journal - How to use a journal to accomplish goals, achieve spiritual growth, and keep a great family record. $5.95
From Memories to Manuscript: The Five-Step Method of Writing Your Life Story - Steps to create your autobiography and teaches you the full process of publication. $5.95
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Journaling - How to get started, the benefits of journaling, elements of a good journal, and helps you decide what to write about. $16.95

Writing Family History Made Very Easy $

Noeline Kyle offers practical and innovative suggestions to writing family histories and beautifully preserving your legacy for centuries to come. Features varied samples and styles of writing to effectively capture family traditions and memories. All aspects of the writing and researching process are explained, from choosing a format to publishing a family history. $14.95

Preserve Your Family History: A
Step-by-Step Guide for Interviewing Family
Members and Writing Oral Histories  $

To preserve your family stories, all you need is a list of people to interview, a tape recorder and a copy of this book by LeAnn R. Ralph which contains more than 400 questions on 30 different topics. $11.95

You Can Write Your Family History $

How to record the fascinating tales of your ancestors by Sharon Carmack. The best methods for: Conducting historical and thematic research, organizing materials, outlining and plotting a story, illustrating with pictures and charts, and making money writing the histories of other families. $19.95

George Morgan’s
Web Articles

George G. Morgan is the internationally renowned author of the "Along Those Lines ..." weekly genealogy column at Eastman’s Genealogy Newsletter, www.eogn.com, (previously at www.Ancestry.com), president of the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors (www.rootsweb.com/~cgc), and author of scores of articles for magazines, journals and newsletters across the U.S., Canada, and in the U.K.

Books by George Morgan - http://ahaseminars.com

The Official Guide to Ancestry.com
How to Do Everything with Your Genealogy
Celebrating the Family
Your Family Reunion: How to Plan It, Organize It, and Enjoy It
English Genealogical Research in the Major London Repositories
The Genealogy Forum on America Online: The Official User's Guide

Among the scores of magazine and journal articles, George wrote articles about connecting with your ancestors. Here’s a brief review and the web links to a few of his Along Those Lines... articles.

Picturing Your Ancestors - www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/george/6574.asp
What family history would be complete without descriptions of your ancestors? George Morgan discusses photo options: when great photographs are available, when photographs cannot be reproduced, and when there are no photos. What do you do? After you develop your family history, and having researched history, geography, social conditions, environment, personal images, etc., now weave it all together into a compelling story.

Picturing their Environment - www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/george/6553.asp
It’s important to place your ancestors into the context of the times, places, and events in which they lived.  We all are influenced by the environment in which we live. One way to add details to your written family history is to paint a picture of the environment in which they lived. He examines the details that can be developed to add “color” to your family's history, as well as some resources that may help. Our ancestors had nothing more than quills and ink to write with, and they traveled by horse and wagon, steamer ship, sailing ship, handcart, etc. It’s hard to imagine what that must have been like. Study the places where your ancestors lived and the conditions at the time: transportation, food, medicine, agriculture, industry, home life, clothing, religion, politics, government, weather, etc. We can weave those details into the descriptions of our ancestor’s environment and better understand them.

Defining Local Context - www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/george/6533.asp
In this article, George examines some of the resources which may be available to add accuracy, depth, and a greater interest to your written family history. He said that although it’s useful to know details of their life, it’s more important to know any stories and details of the influences in their life. Our ancestors may have lived in dramatic and historic places and times, and placing them into a global or national context is essential to understanding and writing their stories. Delve into the place they lived and gather the most concise picture you can in order to paint an accurate biographical, historical and social picture.

A Contextual Timeline - www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/george/6511.asp
It’s essential to build a historical and social context for your ancestors. In order to unravel mysteries and flesh out their stories, research the times and places your ancestors lived. Everyone's life is influenced by where they live and the events occurring around them. You must delve into the everyday lives of your ancestors if you are to understand who they were and why they made the decisions they made. The ordinary day-to-day activities help define who they are and are a reflection of their lives and times. George discusses the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and HOW of a story. “Researching the time period is essential so that you know what historical events were transpiring and what everyday life was like: food, clothing, transportation, communication, socialization, etc.”


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