Have you thought about the legacy you are leaving for future generations?

It’s worth thinking about a legacy that goes beyond cash or wealth as our history and culture are even more valuable than material possessions and who are the holders of this invaluable knowledge and memories? Some of my most treasured memories are of a younger me, sat at the feet of elders who loved to share their stories of how things used to be in the ‘good old days’.

I liked nothing better than hearing about customs, traditions and the simpler way of life in the village as told by older relatives. A time that couldn’t be more different from the technology based rat race that we are used to today.

Our grandparents, or if you’re lucky, great-grandparents and the older generations are a rich source of information and proof that our heritage and cultures stretch way further than is often captured and recorded. In an age where cheap technology is at our disposal, we should really think about capturing the memories, photos and voices of our elders, to preserve them for posterity.

18736527 - senior couple using tablet computer at outdoor café Leaving a lasting legacy: Capturing the ‘good old days’

You mustn’t forget about more recent history too. Our parents can often share a tale or two also. I remember a couple of years ago hearing my mum recount her experiences of the home she lived in being bombed during the last 60s, during the Biafran War (the Nigerian Civil War). Without recording this information, the rich detail of my mum’s experience will be lost forever.

So how can we capture our histories? We spoke to Jonathan Crane, an award-winning BBC TV documentary maker and founder of the Personal Documentary Company to share some pointers and he suggests personal documentaries are the way to go.

22198059 - cheerful african family at home using tablet pc Leaving a lasting legacy: Capturing the ‘good old days’


How can we create a personal documentary?
First you need to choose who you want the film to be about. It could be one person – your grandmother, for example – or a couple – such as your parents. Then, if you want to try making the personal documentary yourself, sit them down on the sofa, bring out your smart phone and start asking them about their lives.  What’s their earliest memory?  What were their grandparents and parents like?  How did they meet each other, or their wife/husband?  Who popped the question, and how?

It’s a good idea for them to have old family photographs with them as you film.  They can act as a reminder of people, places and events – schooldays, weddings, holidays.
Once you’ve finished filming, you can edit out the fluffs and the repeats, add the photos and music – and you’ve got a personal documentary. It’ll be a memento for children and grandchildren in the years to come.


What are the easy wins when capturing information?
Ask your elderly relatives to write down dates and names of all the people in your old family photos. If you don’t, those memories will be lost forever and you’ll finish up with a box full of dusty images that mean nothing to your grandchildren.

If you have ancestors in England and Wales, you can search online all the census’s that were carried out between 1841 and 1911.


What are the tools that we can use? Film, technology etc?
Many families have old home movies from decades back. These can be wonderfully entertaining and informative, but old film can also deteriorate if it’s not looked after well.  So, do two things with your home movies – get them digitised and put onto DVD, and show them to elderly relatives who will be able to identify who the people are, and the places, and the dates.  Then you could always edit them in to your personal documentary.

With photographs, don’t worry if they’re old and faded – they can easily be restored using software like Photoshop.

There you have it. There’s really no excuse. It’s really important to preserve family memories for future generations. After all, we all want to feel like we belong.


Image credits: www.123rf.com.


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