Historical Research in the Future

I was going through some boxes of family stuff over the weekend. Most of it was legal documents and letters. Lots of letters. So many letters that I doubt I will ever read them all. But the one thing that came through very clearly in the ones I did read was a picture of the times. Casual references to popular songs, news items, things bought or made. They painted a picture for me. My great aunt talked of all the canned fruit she and her mother (my great grandmother) had just put up. This was in the 40s, during WWII. She mentioned that she wanted to put up some pears, too, but that they were too expensive. It would be interesting to look up the price of pears back then to see how much they cost, which I could probably find out with a bit of Google searching. Dad mentioned a new song he liked by Xavier Cugat. A note from my great grandmother worried about Dad being posted overseas during the war—”What could he have possibly learned in a month of training that would make him qualified to fight a war?” My great grandmother died before I was born, but I felt I got to know her a little bit through these letters.

All of my letter reading made me wonder what people in the future will do to discover us since people don’t write letters anymore. How will great granddaughters learn about their ancestors? Blogs have kind of taken over from diary writing. How will these musings be preserved? Will descendents go through a box of old hard drives and disks to read blogs? What about email? I don’t know about you, but I routinely purge my email. How will people discover what we did and thought a hundred, two hundred years from now? Will all of this tech make us invisible as individuals? I know research is much easier now with all of the search engines available. I could find out the price of pears in 1942 with a little online digging. But that’s the statistical, the impersonal. How will families know where they come from? How will they know that their great grandfather fought in Afghanistan and that his grandmother rode Ride the Rockies?  Something to wonder about. How do you want to be remembered?

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