Will We Be Remembered?

Photo courtesy of Ian Cochrane

This painting was made thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of years ago. Why did the artist paint it? Did he or she expect it would survive for millenia? If they did, did they have any idea how it would impact on those who saw it all those years later? Did they care? Could they even comprehend that someone could be looking at this painting thousands of years in the future?

We don’t know anything about this artist. Which is tragic. What would they have shared with us had they the chance? Though we know nothing about the artist as a person we do know, that at some point in history, they were here. This painting is evidence of that. They were born, they lived, they survived, they painted and eventually they died. Tragically we will never know anything more.

Who Are The People That Today’s History Remembers?

Ambras Castle’s portrait of Vlad III (c. 1560) (aka Vlad The Impaler)

For the most part they are of royal blood, religious leaders and even scoundrels or criminals. History doesn’t provide much in the way of records of ordinary, everyday people. We’ve almost all heard of “Vlad The Impaler” the ruler of Wallachia (and the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”) and much has been written about him. But what do we know about the thousands of soldiers who fought in Vlad’s army? What do we know about their families and personal struggles? And what of the average citizens of Wallachia? History doesn’t have much, if anything, to say about these people. Something is wrong with that.

Henry of Bolingbroke, flanked by the lords spiritual and temporal, claims the throne in 1399. From a contemporary manuscript, British Library, Harleian Collection

There are extensive records of the British Royal Family. These date back generations and include not only Rulers themselves but also members of their extended families. Brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, in laws even mistresses in some instances; the list goes on and on. During this time millions and millions of Britons were instrumental in building The Empire. They worked the land, served in the Army and Navy, opened new worlds, developed new science and technology and managed every aspect of the extensive Empire. Most toiled in obscurity. Yet millions who are alive today have descended directly from these “anonymous” people. Wouldn’t it be incredible if history had recorded their life stories so that those who are descended from them would have a better understanding of these ancestors and, thereby, a better understanding of who they are based on where they came from?

What Can We Share With The Generations Who WIll Follow Us?

Portrait of American gunman Billy the Kid (1859–1881)

Much time and effort is spent trying to trace our ancestry. We have a driving need, bordering on obsession, to understand where we have come from. And this drive is not likely to subside. But what about doing the opposite? While looking for evidence of where we have come from, why don’t we do what we can to reach out to the generations who will follow us in order to give them a detailed accounting of who we were. In other words, a new means of “paying it forward”. Think how much easier this would make it for those future generations to understand where they came from.

We have the tools to do exactly that today. Tools that no generation that has come before had access to and tools that most of them could not even have imagined! But what’s the point of having all these tools if we choose not to use them?

What would your reaction be if you happened to stumble upon a videotaped interview with a distant ancestor you had discovered while researching your family history? Excitement? Disbelief? Anticipation? How about gratitude?

Unfortunately video technology has only existed for about 80 years so it’s unlikely such a video record could actually turn up. But your reaction to believing that such a record could exist is perfectly valid. And it is that reaction that matters. The way you imagined yourself feeling by turning up a recorded video biography of one of your ancestors is exactly how your descendants will feel when they learn that you have sent them exactly such a message from the past.

Find out more on how to do this here.

“Let us make future generations remember us as proud ancestors just as, today, we remember our forefathers.”

-Roh Moo-hyun

So, will we be remembered as proud ancestors?

That’s up to us.

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