- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2000

Before yesterday's memories are lost to the past, many parents and grandparents are organizing priceless photos, stories and other items into family heirlooms to be passed down through generations.
Whether by organizing photos and stories into a scrapbook or recording childhood memories on a cassette tape, grandparents and parents are saving the memories of their childhoods and of special events in their children's lives, archiving them to help present and future generations keep in touch with their relatives.
Judy Whitehouse, a retired schoolteacher in Hamilton, Va., has been working on family scrapbooks for about two years.
"When we put my husband's mother in a retirement home a few years back, we found boxes and boxes of photos," Mrs. Whitehouse says. "I took a deep interest in giving these memories a sense of order and place."
Some of the photos belonging to Mrs. Whitehouse's mother-in-law, who is in her 90s, have dates and names on the back, and through her own recollections and conversations with her mother-in-law, Mrs. Whitehouse slowly is building memory books that chronicle her husband's family history his parents' lives and his childhood up to the time when she met him.
"After my mother died, I realized I didn't really have any relatives on her side I kept in touch with," Mrs. Whitehouse says. "Those memories she had and the stories of her growing up are lost to me and my children and grandchildren. I didn't want that to happen on the other side of the family, also."
By organizing, getting photos restored and learning the proper procedures in scrapbooking, Mrs. Whitehouse is sure she will produce a project that achieves heirloom status.
"The children growing up today can't fathom what their grandparents and great-grandparents went through," Mrs. Whitehouse says, "but when they see it backed up with pictures, it becomes a little more real."
Allison Brochu of Sterling, Va., teaches classes and holds seminars on scrapbooking and memory preservation. The mother of two is a consultant for Creative Memories, a company that specializes in materials for archival scrapbooking.
"In the heat of the moment, when something wonderful or funny happens to us, we always use the phrase, 'I will never forget this,' " she says, "but memory fails us, and that one wonderful event gets lost in the daily wear and tear of life. That's why it is so important to take the time to organize, write down and preserve life's experiences."
Mrs. Brochu believes scrapbooking and creative archiving is a way to link past, present and future generations within a family.
"There are experiences in all of our lives that future generations can draw from whether it be hard times or a humorous situation everything we go through is part of our family's identity, part of our heritage," she says. "But when these memories aren't shared, they get lost and forgotten. And that 50-year-old picture in the attic simply becomes a bunch of faces without names without a story."
With a stack of about 10 boxes surrounding her, Agnes Murdock, 60, of Burke, holds up a handful of brown-colored photos: "I don't know what I was thinking when I just threw all these photos in a box," she says. "I don't know if I will get them organized before I die, but I hope I can make some sense out of them so my children and grandchildren can enjoy them."
Mrs. Murdock, a widow of 10 years, became obsessed with organizing her childhood photos as well as those from her children's growing-up years shortly after her husband died.
"I want my children and grandchildren to be able to look back at these books and say, 'I know what my grandmother looked like see, I have her nose,' " she says.
Although scrapbooking is a newly acquired interest for Mrs. Murdock, she has always been one to record her memories in diaries and journals.
"My parents used to say I reminded them of [children's book author] Laura Ingalls Wilder," she says with a smile. "My stories may not be sitcom-quality, but when I sit down and read one of them, I can close my eyes and see the events just as if it was yesterday."
Mrs. Murdock hasn't been as faithful as she wishes in her writing, but a trunk containing about 20 notebooks gives her children some interesting evening reading when they visit.
"When I get these photos organized, I can actually back up some of my stories with the pictures," she says. "It may be a far-fetched goal, but I am trying. And, through this, a little of my history will stay behind long after I am gone."
Although scrapbooking is a popular form of archiving that combines photographs and journal-type writing, some grandparents prefer to leave behind a spoken history.
"We think this is the most personal way for us tell our stories," says Robert Williams, 55, of Dale City, Va. Mr. Williams and his wife, Wilma, use a tape recorder to tell their favorite life stories.
"This way, our children and their children and all the children to come can hear about our life in our own words and voices," says Mrs. Williams, 54.
The two were turned on to the idea of recording their life histories and family memories while attending a class at a senior center.
"It is something we hadn't given any thought to when we first attended the class," Mr. Williams says. "But once [the instructor] mentioned the importance of it, it made good sense. We are leaving something behind that can stand the test of time. Every generation of our family, when they listen, will know a little about us and can carry it with them."

More information

"Legacy: A Story of Your Family History to Pass Down From Generation to Generation and Keep the History Alive," by Cheryl Pryor, Higher Priority Publishing, 1994.
m"The Complete Idiot's Guide to Scrapbooking," by Wendy Smedley and Jody P. Schaeffer, illustrator, Macmillan, 1999.
"Joy of Scrapbooking: Creating Keepsakes," by Lisa Bearnson and Gayle Humpherys, Leisure Arts, 1998.
"Creating Scrapbook Quilts," by Ami Simms, C&T; Publishing, 1997.
"Scrapbooking Made Easy," by Jill A. Rinner, Time-Life Publishing, 1999.
"The Simple Art of Scrapbooking: Tips, Techniques, and 30 Special Album Ideas for Creating Memories That Last a Lifetime," by the Scrapbook Guild and Kathleen Jayes, Dell Books, 1998.
On line
www.reminiscing.com This Web site is dedicated to giving information on how to preserve family history on audio tape.
www.mattersoftheheart.com This site offers materials for scrapbooking, including a family history kit.
www.creativescrapbooking .com This site offers information and inspiration on how to create beautiful and original scrapbook pages.

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