One of my mother's last requests of me was that I gather up her genealogy records and keep them safe.
This was no easy task.
My mother began her research in the late '70s when we lived in Washington, D.C. She would go to the National Archives and bring home large faded photocopies of U.S. Census records. While we ate dinner, she'd get so excited sharing all of the facts she had found about our ancestors.
Along with Mama's census records were legal pads with handwritten notes, photographs, letters, old report cards, funeral programs and delicate newspaper clippings and obituaries.
The thought of gathering all of these documents together and making sense of them, organizing and storing them in my tiny home was overwhelming. But everything is here, and I am steadily doing the research and getting everything in order.
I recently became a grandmother, and this new family status has me thinking about my legacy. I don't want my children and grandchildren to inherit this mountain of paperwork I now possess. My goal is to digitize photos and documents, contribute our family information to online family trees and write down and share as much oral history as possible with my extended family.
While I love the idea of passing this role down to my son, daughter or granddaughter, I realize that this work might not interest them. The stories could be lost, and my promise to my mother could be broken.
But if I toss our stories out to everyone, they will be treasured by those who want to know our history. And they just might land in the hands of a family member with the passion to keep the story going forward.