The other day, we were having dinner altogether as a family. My dad pulled the steak off the Traeger and my mom pulled the baked potatoes out of the oven, as we sat down my dad goes you know what my grandma used to always called this meal, “meat and potatoes.”
And as silly as it is, that started a whole conversation about my great-grandma, and who she was, and who her mother was. We talked about where she grew up, how many siblings she had, her work, the family she raised, her heartaches and hardships, and so on and so on.
And after dinner, my mom quickly pulled out a photo of our family tree, photos that my mom had collected and saved from 3-4 generations before my parents, on both sides of the family. And I thought it is such a gift that she preserved all of this. To be able to hear stories, and see the faces of the women that have lived generations before me. People I may have never even had the chance to meet and yet the way they lived, has shaped my life.
I’m really grateful for the way my mom and grandma have worked to preserve our family’s legacy so well and the way they pass the stories on and share them. It’s a gentle reminder that our time on earth is short, but the life we lead matters and it impacts generations to come.
I’ve found that when you preserve your family legacy, it naturally turns your house into a home. It gives a sense of history and belonging to the people that live within its walls. And it makes you feel welcomed the minute you enter the home. And each home shares a different moment of the story based on the perspective of the homemaker. But more on this later…
In this blog, I’m sharing ways that you can work to preserve your family legacy and treasures, a few of my favorite resources to do so, ways to display them in your home, and how to leave a life-giving legacy through your photos, videos, treasures and memories.
Preserving Your Family History
Start with collecting as much family history as you can. Interview family members, maybe even record it for an audio record keepsake. Put together a family tree (Etsy has some nice options for displaying your family tree). Find any special photographs, journals, letters, special treasures, keepsakes from trips, bibles, etc. This is a great starting point to preserve your family legacy!
My sister has a pretty special collection of letters that she’s sent and received from our grandma over the years, each written in their own hand. Just simply catching them up on each other’s life, she has them all saved in chronological order and she’s able to go back and peek at what life was like for each of them.
Any old films, reels, photo, DVDs, cassettes, etc. that you can’t get into because the technology is dated, you can send to Legacy Box and they can update and digitize it so that you can access it once again. We sent in a handful of my parents and grandparents old VHS tapes to Legacy Box. We have sat down a couple of times and LOVED watching all these old videos! We watched my parents graduating from ASU, getting married, and old videos of my Dad and Aunt growing up… so much fun seeing these stories that we have heard of forever come to life!
Another resource that is great for collecting your family’s stories that my family has been using is Story Worth. You can gift a loved one with a subscription and they will email them a question every week for them to answer with a story from their life. After a year, Story Worth will compile all the stories you and your loved ones have written and told, you can add photographs and print it into one nice hardcover book.
A year ago for Christmas, we gifted my grandma with a subscription to Story Worth (which really is more of a gift of us)! I call her every Monday night and we talk all about the story she just shared and the one that is coming up! And let me tell you this has just been the best ever! We have heard so many stories that we didn’t even know about! She answers everything nowadays “You can read all about that in my book!” I can’t wait to someday get all her stories printed in a book to have forever… signed by the author of course!
Displaying Your Legacy Throughout Your Home
Like I was saying, I feel that this is where you can begin to see different moments of your family’s history and legacy highlighted throughout different houses in one big family.
My mom has her grandmother’s fine china displayed in the kitchen. And then she displayed my dad’s grandfather’s hat and old bible with notes scribbled in the margins in the family room.
My cousin’s home shares another side of the same story. She received other treasures after my great-grandmother passed away that are showcased throughout her home. And it brings just as much joy when we walk through her house.
My grandmother has a hutch full of albums and special moments in her home. She even has the top of a post with our family name on it from the Lakehouse in Michigan on display. And then she has a special collection of small things that she’s saved from her childhood, all throughout her home.
Go through your treasures that have been passed down from generation to generation and see if there are any that bring you lots of joy. And then find where to display it.
That may be stacking old journals or Bibles that have been passed down to you on your bookcase. Maybe you put out blankets, hang paintings, keep old photo albums out for everyone to flip through. Displaying china sets. Create a gallery wall with some of your favorite photos or notes that have been found. Display your grandma’s old recipes and cookbooks in the kitchen.
Get creative with this.
A little tip: Framebridge might be a huge help if you’re looking to frame something that won’t fit into a traditional photo frame.
Find ways to display anything that brings you joy when you look at it! Fill your home with the history and memories of your family. And let it serve as a gentle and quiet reminder of how good God has been to your family and how their life has shaped and impacted yours.
Leaving Your Life-giving Legacy
The problem we run into when it comes to leaving our own legacy is that we have way too many photos!! Like WAY too many!
Nancy Ray talks about how we cherish our grandparents’ photos because there are so few of them. Now we have a completely overwhelming amount of photos!
It wasn’t long ago when we used film cameras and you had to decide what was ‘photo worthy’ because you could only take 24 or 36 photos before you ran out of film.
Now, we snap photos all the time! And we don’t think about it! Next thing we know we have 10,000 photos that we LOVE living on our phones! (Which by the way weren’t ever designed to be storage devices… This isn’t new news but, your photos aren’t safe there!)
But if we don’t do something with all these photos, our children and grandchildren will be left to sort it all. Or worse, never even deal with them!
So, how do we clean up our digital mess and begin actually enjoying our photos?
First, download all your photos off your phone. Save and organize them on a hard drive AND back them up online. You can do this in dropbox, google photos, or another online software.
Nancy Ray has actually created a course called The Legacy Photo System where she walks you through how to sort your photos, get them off your phone, and how she organizes her old photographs that have been passed down to her! It’s such a simple course that you can easily follow along with her! Definitely worth looking into as a good first step for preserving your family legacy!
Once your photos are sorted and safe, find ways to actually enjoy them.
Here are a few ideas:
- Print family yearbooks (maybe even group 5 years together at a time to make it less overwhelming) and scrapbooks.
- Take professional photos every year and purchase an album from the session. This is such a simple way to actually enjoy them. (My mom took our family photos every year growing up; they are such a treasure!) You can do this by simply reaching out to me HERE, and we can take your photos and them in a beautiful heirloom album in no time!
- Print both your professional photos and your iPhone photos and have those around to enjoy
- Organize your videos and have them sent in to a professional and made into home movies of your year. I follow Vanessa Shenk and she announced just a bit ago A Story Film, where she turns your iPhone videos into home movies! And they are sweetest thing ever!
I’ve created a free checklist to walk you through printing and *actually* enjoying your photos! You can grab the checklist here:
Lastly, the other tip I have is just simply to simplify.
I mentioned this already, but this is a big project sorting through literally thousands of photos!! And honestly, nobody really wants to have that many photos.
Nancy Ray suggests that you sit down and realistically write out what albums and photos you want to have at the end of your life. Which ones are the most important? And which ones can go? Write out a goal that is doable.
My poor future husband…I’m so Type A, I have this list written out and saved. It looks a little something like this:
Okay, I’m Wrapping it Up…
I hope this helps you to just simply get your gears turning when it comes to leaving a legacy. This is worthwhile, friend. And the thing is, there is no one way to preserve your family legacy! You can approach this however.
I know that just the thought of jumping into a project like this is SO BIG! But here’s the thing, even one small step is progress and makes a difference. Start small, do what brings you joy, tweak it to your family and what works best. Anything (big or small) is good and you will be glad you did it!
If you have any questions or just simply want to share what has worked well for you and your family, feel free to leave it in the comments below. Or you can email me at email@example.com.