Who Is Your Guardian Of The Past? Support Your Family Historian

by Randy Murray on August 6, 2013

This last fall my Aunt Glenna died. She was in her early 80′s and although active and healthy, she was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed quickly. The personal loss to us in the family was great, but there was another role that she filled. She was the linchpin of our family: she was our historian.

Glenna had a keen interest in family trees and went about the data collection methodically. She was an active participant in the local genealogical society. But she also collected the photos and stories of the family. Her archives are dense and detailed. They’re also almost all on paper, most of them typed or hand written. The archives include physical objects, too, like my great-great grandfather’s civil war discharge certificate.

And now she’s gone and the task falls to me. She had pre-selected me for the job. After her funeral we loaded our vehicle with box after box of binders and albums. There is a massive amount of information there.

For now, they are housed and carefully preserved. I’ve made a few minor notations as other family members have passed, but I haven’t extended her research. Not yet. But I will. My most important job has two parts: let others know that I have the stories and records, and share these stories with them frequently.

But perhaps my most important job is this: I need to find the next historian to carry on after I’m gone.

A family is a living thing. It is most vital in its current, living relationships. But a family also has a past and  stories. It’s a big job to pull them all together in a way that makes sense and is accessible to other family members. For too many families the stories and connections die when a family member passes.

It’s something that you may want to consider. Who is your family historian and genealogist? Who guards those precious threads, those stories that could very easily be lost?

And if that person isn’t you, what can you do to support the family member who is willing and able to take on this daunting task? What do you know that isn’t written down, that other family members don’t know, that isn’t preserved in the archive? It may not seem important to you now, but it may be very important for those in another branch of the family some time in the future.

Don’t be reckless with this legacy. Horse thief or dishwasher, those who came before us are a part of the family (the horse thieves tend to be more interesting). Don’t neglect the things that might make life richer for yourself and your family.



The Who Is Your Guardian Of The Past? Support Your Family Historian by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jon Siddle August 6, 2013 at 10:13 am

Both my father and paternal grandfather have taken time to record and trace back family history but each for different reasons. It’s been very interesting to see the results of the research and history, whether it has been learning about my father’s crazy Uncle Moon and him making his own moonshine or learning from my grandfather where some of our bloodline runs from.

Great post Randy, as usual.


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