Who Will Watch the Home Place? Preserving Your Family Legacy

Who Will Watch the Home Place?  Preserving Your Family Legacy

About a year ago, my grandson Alex loaded a bunch of new music on the little iPod I use at the gym.  I was working away on the elliptical machine one evening and suddenly in a pretty country voice, I heard the following words:

“Who will watch the home place?

Who will tend my heart’s dear space?

Who will come to fill my place, when I am gone from here?”

{ Listen to the whole song here }

I was moved to tears! Totally lost it. Right there in the middle of the gym surrounded by strangers.

I have been thinking about this in the back of my mind ever since.  And every time I hear the haunting lyrics, they continue to stir my soul.

I thought this was worth discussion.  Each family has a story.  Each family has a unique path and set of struggles and successes that have made the family legacy and produced the children and grandchildren who are living today.

Some families have ancestors that came west by wagon train.  Others have relatives that came to the US via Ellis Island.  Some have ancestry that dates back to the native tribes who first conquered the land and survived with much less.  Some survived the Great Dust Bowl starvation period or the Great Depression and the Stock Market Crash of 1929.  Maybe they survived World War II or Hitler’s Concentration Camps.

Who is responsible to gather and preserve these stories?  The children and the grandchildren must do it. If they do not, the majority of the small stories will one day be lost forever.

Documenting family history has been done twice so far in my family.  My nephew, Joel, several years ago wrote a book about the ministry work of my Uncle Fred and also my father and mother in their early years.  It is a treasure on my bookshelf that I have read several times.

Writing by JKim1 via www.sitawit.wordpress.com


My niece, Lynda also did a similar thing when her dad was lingering in the hospital several months before he died. Wayne and my sister Esther had a marvelous life in the ministry, starting churches from nothing and quietly accomplishing amazing things.

Lynda and I talked about the importance of knowing Wayne’s thoughts and memories and recording them.  She totally took on the project. Over months of daily hospital visits, she asked a ton of questions and video-recorded his responses. We all have a copy of what was recorded.  Some day there may be another book, but at least, prior to his passing in May, the precious information was gathered.

Perhaps you have thought about this, too. Your family is losing its older generation as we all are. There are ways to capture your family history if you feel the call to be the one to make it happen.

Here are some ideas that might get you started:

  1. Email all of your relatives and try to get interest in a family reunion.
  2. If you get the reunion in place, send out a questionnaire, asking each person to write the memories and facts they are aware of. Some may produce dates and places of births and deaths you didn’t know about. Have them bring that to the reunion.
  3. At the reunion, set up a place and time to video family members and “interview” them, with a list of open-ended questions that allow for rambling and opinion.  You’ll get lots of wonderful information about your family.
  4. Either pay to have the videos transcribed, or personally do it.
  5. Make a list of the older members of your family who best know the stories of your roots and ancestry.
  6. Contact them for more in-depth discussions.
  7. If you have older relatives who are not well, consider making a trip to them. Let them know you will be asking them to reminisce as you record or make notes of  the conversations.
  8. Consider putting the results into book form.  If you cannot do so yourself, seek out the writer in your family and ask if they will help with the project.

Photo Credit: www.theperfectmistake.tumblr.com


Will you become rich and famous?  Probably not.  But what you will do is huge.  You will protect for future generations the legacy of your very own family.  The treasured memories in your heart can be preserved for YOUR children and THEIR children.  And all because someone took the time and effort to be certain they would know.

What if you can only think of your heritage with pain? What if all your ancestors were pirates, rag-tags, or harmed the innocent, if you know what I mean? Then what?  Remember Oprah’s roots?  Telling even the un-tellable can still help your family find the strength to rise above and change history.

If you consider your heritage important, you will convey that to your children.  If you do something like this, you will never have the worry of “Who will watch the home place?”

What you invest into will be valuable, in your eyes and in the eyes of those who follow, … when you are gone from here.

Have I inspired you?

What is a special memory or story of your ancestors that you would not want to be forgotten by your children?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Molly grew up in and around funeral homes her entire life. In 2009 she began working for O'Connor Mortuary and found a bridge between her passion for writing and her interest in grief and bereavement. In 2016 she earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. She is honored to be able to write about these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective.


  1. Carrie Bayer says:

    Anne, what a wonderful blog & great reminder that we all should know our family’s history. Recording our family’s history is a big deal in my family- it has been traced back almost 500 years! I have family who came from overseas & pioneered across the plains to the west coast. Also, my mother came from Finland when she was 18 years old. There were many surprises I learned about my relatives from the past, some shocking even. But, it it the fabric from which I’m made & I treasure the knowledge. Thank you so much for this! XOXOX Carrie

  2. Anne Collins says:

    500 Years!! I am blown away! I love hearing this! It is exactly why I am talking about. You are way ahead of the rest of us, yet even you can preserve the last generation and their stories.
    Just handled an estate sale for a family and the lady had written a book about one side of her family. What a treasure to read this. I couldn’t put it down. Simple people yet tough as nails, coming through hard times often with more setbacks than the hardiest soul could handle, yet with enduring faith and a sense of humor.
    My late brother’s wife’s roots are Finland. You come from hardy stock! I always felt like “Auntie” was the strongest in the family. Nothing sets her back for long. She has an iron will.
    We all have imperfect families. It is what it is. Our job is to rise above the ashes and make beauty out of our lives as a gift to God of ourselves..
    Thanks for reading and sharing your history!

  3. Hi Anne –

    What a great blog! This has been weighing on me for years with my Dad. I have wanted to have him write down is memories and journey for all of us. I will make it a plan to get this moving this year. Joe has ALL the company stories that go back 100 years. Having a new son (2) I want to journal to make sure he knows how much I have been inspired by him. You have inspired me to write my love notes to him! Thank you for the inspiration! You are so talented and gifted!

    • Anne says:

      Hope you listened to the song. Probably with your dad, someone should interview him, get him started. It may work better if someone is asking key questions with a recorder running. It truly would make a wonderful book. Do it before forgetfulness sets in. There is so much he knows.

      Love notes to Jesse. By the time he is grown, you would have a treasure to hand him. Hope you do it.

  4. […] the older generation. Ask questions. Get together with cousins to share stories. You can read this blog post for […]

  5. Jean Anderson says:

    Dear Annie,
    I can’t help but quote my honey here, “I See God”.
    The song was so beautiful, and your words dear Annie, so inspirational. I am truly
    moved by the whole thing. And even seeing “Auntie” mentioned was so emotional and
    humbling for me. God bless you and keep and strengthen you thru this as He has and
    still is helping me. “Fear not tomorrow, God is already there.” You can find the words to
    this song online. I read them everyday. Love & hugs to you and my Louie, Auntie

    • Anne says:

      Auntie! I did not know you posted a comment here until this moment! I meant it when I said you are the strong one. I am praying I can be half as strong as Lou and I face this daily challenge. I love you dearly. Thank you for your encouraging emails.

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