I am the family historian. Over the last five years I have been pretty much able to put together the story of my family and in some case I am able to cover nine generations from a time before declaration of independence to the birth of my grandchildren. And I have collected photographs that go back as for as the 1890s. I am privileged to have photos of all my great grandparents most of whom are buried in San Francisco. And in some cases I have letters that were written as long as go as 1897. The most precious of these were the letters written by Edith, the niece of my great grandmother, Bessie. Edith describes the arrival of my great grandmother in San Francisco as a girl of 19 years having come from small village in the Ukraine (Priluki). Over a forty year, Edith wrote to her brother William who lived in NYC describing her life. It gave me great joy to eventually fine the son of Edith, Bud. He is in his 90s and I was able to read to him the letters that his mother wrote especially during the early part of the last century. A while ago I discovered some old videos taken (in color) by my grandfather which included the engagement party and wedding of my parents, and my early years and the early years of my sisters. I was with my father when he saw these videos some of which were over sixty years old and I watched the impact on him.
Yesterday, I got an email from one of my children proudly point to link on Youtube where he and his wife had uploaded videos of their son and my grandson demonstrating his newly acquired skill of walking. It was wonderful to see this and brought me joy. I then thought about the number of photos that have been taken of my three grandchildren. I have thousands of them. And tens or even hundreds of video and the oldest is just about to turn four. Just think how much there will be by the time the graduate high school. But will any of these last? I know they are digital but I already have files on media that I can no longer read. How long will the video on Youtube be there for us (let alone all the start up companies the will falter and die). And what about the letters we no longer write? Ancestry has just announced a new feature that I think is wonderful. It allows one to make an audio recording via the phone and attach that recording to someone in a family tree. Not only can you the family historian do that but one can send out an invitation to family members and friends asking them to make tell a story via the phone about someone. They get an email with a number to call and a reference number (which makes sure their story gets attached correctly). I am really looking forward to using this. But then I have to ask myself. How long will it be available?
Today is the birthday of my youngest sister, Marlene. She died thirty years ago at the age of twenty seven. She never touch a computer, never took a digital photo nor sent an email but she was loved and she shall be remembered.