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It's A Gray Area: Live and preserve your heritage

May 14, 2011|By James P. Gray

At this point in my life, I have lost my grandparents and parents and all of their siblings. So as far as who the "elder statesmen" are on my side of the family, my sister and I are now the ones.

Fortunately, before they died, I was able to tape record my mother and her siblings singing the songs that I heard her and them sing when I was a child, and also my father telling some of the stories and poems he had recited during my childhood. So their voices and some of our heritage have been preserved.

In addition, my father also took the initiative during the later years of his life to prepare what he called his "letter to his grandchildren." This consisted of about 12 volumes of photo albums and scrapbooks with his written explanations tracing the history of many of the ancestors on both sides of our family, providing some of their letters and mementos, telling some of their stories, and identifying their pictures that had been kept in shoeboxes for years.

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What a gift, because once my parents and their siblings were gone, the bare pictures and effects would have meant almost nothing to us. But with my father providing their names, dates and backgrounds, an important part of our heritage was preserved. This was so important that we caused the letter to be transferred onto CDs, with each of our children receiving a copy. (The original "letter" was donated to the Bancroft Library at the University of California, as they are interested in preserving California history of all kinds.)

I strongly suggest that you take similar actions to preserve your heritage. While there is still time, interview your grandparents, if you are still fortunate enough to have them with you, as well as your parents, their siblings, and other important people in your lives. And record the interviews in audio, or even visual form, while they tell about your family's history, noteworthy stories, songs, or whatever they and you feel would be interesting. I guarantee that you and your family will always be grateful to have those recorded memories and conversations!

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Upcoming Heritage Festival

And speaking of living your heritage, remember my Feb. 6 column in which we discussed the upcoming Heritage Music Festival? Well, that event will be held from noon to 7 p.m. May 22 at the Heritage Museum of Orange County. Please be sure to join us and be a part of a truly wonderful and bonding family occasion that will increase your family's heritage.

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