Genealogists and historians look backward at the past. What they hope to find are people who did the opposite and looked forward to the future.
In 200 years or so, one of your descendants could come looking for you. What do you want them to find? Just your name and the dates you were born and died? Aren’t you about more than that?
Think forward about your descendants. Remember that your life too, is part of the historical record. Preserve your stories – in your own words. Write those stories down!
You don’t have to tell it all — the lessons from thirty, fifty, eighty years of living can seem a daunting prospect to write, or even remember. To convey a sense of who you are or what is important to you, write about significant motivators in your life — what your passions are, what lessons you have learned, or who you have loved.
If your goal is to leave a legacy to your descendants or future historians, your writings may become a primary source – a historical term that means you were present at a particular event or during a specific time. For instance, if your great-great-great-grandfather voted against Lincoln in the presidential election of 1860, or fought in the Battle of Gettysburg, or helped runaway slaves escape on the Underground Railway, or was a friend of Jefferson Davis – wouldn’t you like to read his own words on the subject? Well, who might be reading your words in 200 years?
We make wills to ensure our possessions are passed on to those who cherish them or can use them. But possessions are just things. Stories are alive. One of the greatest gifts you can give your descendants is the story of who you are. What were your hopes, your dreams, your fears, your griefs? What did you learn? What did you teach? Who did you love?