• Barbara Mayfield, MS, RD, LD, FAND

Want to communicate with the future? Write it down!

Updated: 4 days ago


An open old photo album with black and white photos

Would you like to communicate with future generations and share special memories with your children’s children and beyond? Would you like your descendants to remember you?


A picture may be “worth a thousand words” but an unlabeled photograph might just be worthless.


If your family is like most, you have boxes filled with old albums, scrapbooks, and photographs. If you’re lucky, someone was thoughtful enough to write down the names, dates, and places. My mother and my mother’s mother were great at this. How fortunate we are.


We recently celebrated my mother’s memorial, and my sister and I spent the week before going through boxes of photos and memories. One take-away from this experience was the value of writing down what we want remembered.


In addition to labeling photos, our mother also saved clippings from newspapers and other special mementos. She had written several original and humorous poems for special family events that now provide a fun glimpse into life at various seasons of our family’s life. Priceless!


When we found the poem I and my siblings had written for our father when he retired, it reminded us of so much we could have easily forgotten. Again, we remarked on the value of recording memories not just in photos, but with words.


Today, our photos are mostly digital and unless we carefully label the image files and folders, future generations may know little more than the dates they were taken. How can we do better?


To save a memory… write it down!

One popular way to save memories today is by creating a photo book using an online site. We did this in 2019 for our mother’s 90th birthday. These books can be printed or saved as electronic copies. In addition to uploading photos, captions can be added to provide the written record that is so valuable. Tell your story with both words and pictures. Write it down!


My sister is the family ancestry expert and helped create this book filled with family history from before our mother’s birth, highlights of the nine decades of her life, and featured all family members. What a treasure trove of information for future generations!


Another good way to save memories is to upload photographs and other important documents onto a site such as Ancestry.com. This makes it no longer necessary to save hard copies of birth and death certificates and prevents permanently losing them.


Don’t assume you’ll remember… write it down!

Moments and events become memories when they are recorded. We may think we’ll never forget them, but it happens all too often. So, when someone does or says something worth remembering, write it down. When you experience a special event or trip, record what you want to remember later. Write it down!


Where? In a journal, on a calendar, in a baby book. Record your memories in or on something you are likely to hang on to and possibly pass on to others. Increasingly, there are creative digital methods for storing and sharing memories. Use them to write it down!


Want to save or share memories… there’s an app for that!

The value of saved and shared memories has been recognized by creators of apps for digital devices. Some of the most popular are:

  • EveryStory – a free app that records your voice over a slideshow of photos on a device.

  • Recently – a subscription app that imports recent photos from your phone and arranges them in a magazine-style keepsake.

  • Steller – a social media app that combines photos and videos on your device with a story you write to save and share about your family events.

  • Tinybeans – an app that works as an electronic baby book tracking important milestones in one place as children grow from infancy through childhood.

  • Tweekaboo – a journal app that creates a baby book for all children in a family with a timeline for favorite photos and videos.

  • Journal apps include Journey, Day One, Diaro, Journaly, and more.


Memory is unreliable… write it down!

Research has shown that our memories are unreliable and it is unwise to rely on memory alone to accurately recall the details of an event.


Ask a group of eyewitnesses to recall a crime or an accident and you can expect as many different stories as people. Reminisce with friends or family about a shared event or experience and you will hear many different interpretations.


If you want something remembered… write it down! Future generations will thank you!


“To be human is to have a collection of memories that tells you who you are and how you got there. ~ Rosecrans Baldwin


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