Alan's Blog

 

Living

 

What we Leave Behind

I have a very small library of books in my home. I was reading of one of them recently and it brought some thoughts to mind totally unrelated to the book in my hand. What makes some of these books particularly special is that the authors of many of them are now dead. This makes them extra special because, unlike most of us, these authors have left something of themselves in this world for us all to continue to enjoy long after their passing. They have made their mark on this world that will be forever theirs. Isn't that wonderful? How many of us can say that? Future generations will be able to read these texts and learn from the experiences of these writers of the past. To be able to leave something of yourself for future generations to learn from and enjoy must be one of the most rewarding things one can achieve during a lifetime.

This doesn't only apply to writers, of course. It applies to the many disciplines of the art world and other fields of human endeavour such as engineering. How wonderful it would be if we were all blessed with the talent of being sufficiently creative that we could leave something worthwhile of ourselves to future generations – something we would be permanently remembered for – for ever.

Perhaps we should all ask ourselves, and answer, this question "What can I leave behind for future generations that will be of interest or value to them?"

For many of us lesser talented mortals, the answer may be the research we've carried out on our family history – all those hours spent researching and documenting our past.

One of the things that we can all leave behind – and share now - is photographs (and videos – even films - of family events). In particular, family photographs. A few days ago, I found some old photographs. The earliest of these were taken during the Whitsun Holiday in 1966 – well over 50 years ago. I would have been aged just 17 at the time. They showed some of my family on holiday in Kent. These were taken on a Kodak Brownie Vectra camera which was just a plastic box with a plastic lens. It was in no way adjustable for the lighting conditions and it took 127 size film. A 'toy' camera when judged against modern digital cameras. I scanned these prints and e-mailed them to those folks who were still alive. None of my family members who were in the photographs had ever seen them. How delighted they were to receive them. What a great surprise they had.

Also amongst the collection of old photographs were some old black and white negatives which I copied and sent to the various friends who were recorded on them. I didn't use a scanner for this task (refer to URL: http://www.alsblog.co.uk/digitising_photos.html) as scanning negatives and transparencies is far too time consuming even with a purpose made scanner.

It was quite a job tracking down some of my old friends after all these years but, thanks to the internet, I succeeded in this task for many of them and, once again, they were delighted to receive these old photographs. As one of them said "At last I can now prove to everyone that I used to be skinny". She is aged almost 72 now and the photograph showed her at the age of 19 or 20. Something to add to her family history too.

Some of my most important possessions are old photographs of my family, some going back to the early 1900s. All the people in these photographs have already departed this life but their memories live on in the photographs. I knew quite a few of the people in these photographs. The photographs have been digitised and will be passed on to my children, who only have these photographs and our family tree with which to remember them – not a lot, but it's all we have, and that's a whole lot better than nothing. Just make sure you identify the people in the photographs and record their names.
Another way of recording your family history for passing on to future generations is to record interviews with those who are still alive, which may be recorded as sound files or, better, video recordings. Ask them about their life in 'the old days' when they were children / students / apprentices or whatever they did as young people. Don't forget to record your own history too!

I have found many other old photographs and have already sent out copies of some of them to those who are in, or have a connection with those people in the photographs. I have thousands more to digitise and distribute around the world. It's a huge task and I can only pray that I have time enough left in this world to complete it. This will probably be the only mark I will leave of my life in this world and it may be of no consequence to the vast majority of the population, unlike the works of the great artists and engineers, but, in my own small way I may be remembered by my family, if no one else, for generations to come for recording some of our family history in photographs and videos – without which there would be no record of our passing through this life and of our world during the time we were here.

 

 

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