The distance between two people is measured by how well they know each other. In a living relationship, distance is closed by communication; but generally speaking one’s ancestors aren’t a tremendously communicative bunch with us, their living descendants. However, there are things we can do to bridge that gap, to find out what they did and where they lived, but nothing can bring you close to an ancestor like a journal. As it’s currently not possible to travel back in time and tell our ancestors to get cracking with journal writing, the next best thing we can do is start journal writing ourselves. It will help our children remember us, our grandchildren know us as more than just “old people,” and our descendants have something to put to a set of dates and places.
Here are a few ideas for getting the family involved in journal writing adventures:
- Keep travel journals about the people you met and things you saw on your journeys, and tours you went on.
- To get small children involved in journals, have them use pictures to describe their day. You can have them draw and add helpful caption or you can buy old magazines at a used book store to build up a collection of images. Make sure your adhesive of choice is archival.
- Collect recollection questions (like “What was the name of your first dog?”) and write them in the tops of journal pages for a family member to fill out. Try filling one out yourself and presenting it as a gift. These also make excellent gifts to the up-and-coming generation. To cut down on writing time, type up each page and print out as many copies as you need to put in sheet protectors in a binder.
- At a family gathering, have everyone write a page about the event and family memories. For example, if it’s a wedding anniversary, have the family write their memories of the wedding, or their favorite memories of Mom and Dad together growing up.
- As an activity for once-a-year celebrations, like birthdays, Christmas, or New Years, have the family write a letter to their future selves, and be sure to keep the letters. You can even include a letter to your children telling them about your impressions of their growth.
Keeping a journal doesn’t have to be complicated or labor intensive, it’s simply a way to leave a bit of yourself behind. Everyone has something to say, advice to give, a joke to tell. Let your descendants hear it.