Anyone who enjoys genealogy realizes that four basic things are required when preparing a family tree: a person's name, place of birth, date of birth and position in the lineage. An historian may expand this search to include specific titles or accomplishments as well as personality factors which were unique to those being studied.
For many years I have been gathering information about my grandparents and other ancestors. I have taken pictures of tombstones, interviewed nursing home residents and spent hours on the internet searching for details from the past. It is so interesting to realize that some interests and abilities such as music or spirituality can be traced ten or more generations.
Sometimes there is a great deal of information available about an ancestor and sometimes very little. For example, all I learned about my paternal great-grandfather was that he smoked a pipe and was always losing his glasses. What a legacy!
One of my relatives has completed the research for my maternal roots back to 1066 AD Norway. He claims that it is much easier to go back in history where the tree narrows than to keep track of the new births in the family where the tree is continually broadening!
I find it very interesting that even though we tend to place so much emphasis on accumulation of wealth during our lives, seldom do we discover records of personal net worth in genealogical searches. Obituaries do not include profit and loss figures or lists of personal assets. Even when history books indicate that an individual was financially "well-off" there is usually no indication of the amount that person has earned or saved. In fact, emphasis is usually placed on the amount that individual has given away rather than on what was kept.
Each of us has our own idea of what a legacy is and how we will establish one. Some set up trust funds for charity. Others build monuments or scholarship funds. Many pass family heirlooms to the next generation.
James Rohn, a motivational speaker, claims that the best legacy consists of your library, photographs and personal journals.
A Legacy is a way of communicating your values to your descendants. In order to set up a legacy it is therefore important to examine your own beliefs and then develop a plan for passing them on.
A long time ago, I decided that there are really only two things that I can do for my children. One is to pray for them and the other is to set a good example. Leaving them money will not help them mature or develop skills and may actually set up a situation that leads to conflict or resentment. I prefer to see families focus on good memories and role-modeling that involves treating others and self with dignity and respect.
What would you like to be remembered for? What organizations do you believe in and support? Fifty years after your death, will there be reminders to society that you had lived?
How would you feel if the only thing people remembered was that you smoked a pipe and always lost your glasses?
It's time to think about the legacy you will leave. There will be one - whether or not you plan it.