Preserving Your Family’s Legacy
Pass family stories and wisdom to future generations using these unique services
Photos Courtesy of StoryWorth and Wisdom Will
If hindsight is 20/20, wouldn’t it be nice to give our children and grandchildren a master document or book explaining every valuable lesson we ever learned? Now, thanks to online services that allow users to securely enter life lessons and memories in one place, it’s possible to leave a beautiful, organized and printed legacy behind for generations to treasure. Here some ways you can accomplish this.
Charlotte-based small business owner Jeff Davis, who has three teenage children, launched a new product last spring called Wisdom Will — both a product and service designed to be presented to a younger person during a milestone in his or her life, such as graduation or marriage. Unlike a traditional will, theaWisdom Will is not a legal document and it is not meant to replace a person’s last will and testament.
Davis created this online resource to help people document and organize all of their wisdom and life lessons, no matter what age they are or stage of life they are in.
“It captures all the things you’ve learned about life that would be so powerful for your kids to know as they lead their own lives,” he says. “I believe that if you educate a young person about things that did or didn’t work out for you, then you are giving them one of the most valuable gifts imaginable … you are arming them with hindsight and helping them navigate some of life’s biggest challenges.”
The service features 16 categories, including parenting, education, dating and marriage, money, career, habits, faith, and specific topics, like drinking — “areas that all young people are sure to encounter in life,” Davis says. Users can even create their own topics.
A Wisdom Will costs $59.95 per year and memberships are for one-, three- or five-year periods. When a user completes a Wisdom Will, software converts all of the information entered into one master PDF. Davis hopes to someday offer a printed and bound version of this document. During December, he is offering 25% off the full price if you use the code “HOLIDAY25” at checkout. Learn more at wisdomwill.com.
StoryWorth is a service that prompts users with weekly emailed questions to answer throughout the year and compiles a keepsake book filled with a story of that person’s life at the end of the year. If you give this as a gift, the recipient’s story can be shared with you, and then either you or the recipient can upload the stories — as well as photos — via email, an app or the website. Users can choose from one of several book templates. The service and book costs $99. Learn more at storyworth.com.
Photo courtesy of StoryWorth
If your goal is to capture your family’s history in a truly unique keepsake book, Legacy Books promises precise attention to detail as part of its mission to display your life’s journey in a custom-crafted, high-quality hardbound book. This service includes the availability of designers, writers and researchers who work with you to obtain your approval every step of the way. Prices vary depending on the level of service and quality of materials you choose. Learn more at legacybooks.com.
Photo websites such as Shutterfly and SmugMug offer keepsake photo books that make wonderful gifts as well. Choose from a variety of templates, pages sizes and paper quality to produce a more customized book. Text is minimized, since these are photo books, so these services are better options for relatives who may prefer telling stories with pictures rather than words. Learn more at shutterfly.com/photo-books and photobook.smugmug.com.
All of these services and/or products make for unforgettable holiday gifts, so keep them in mind when shopping for loved ones who appreciate preserving their family history.
Bonus Section: The Story Behind Wisdom Will’s Creation
Ever since his children were very young, Jeff Davis of Charlotte has been documenting his own stories and life lessons to share with them when the time was right. However, not until a traumatic and life-changing experience in fall 2017, when his family’s home caught fire in the middle of the night, did he bring his vision to life.
Photo of Davis family's house fire, courtesy of Wisdom Will
Looking back, he says that fire might be the best thing that ever happened to him, because it motivated him to put his energy into creating Wisdom Will so others would have a tool for documenting what they hope will become their legacies.
Although still in its early stages, the product has been well-received among users.
“I really like how Wisdom Will guides me through the process,” says Marsha Thrasher, a Charlotte preschool teacher and mom of three. “I’ll have lots of things I think of throughout the days and weeks, but I have a hard time remembering everything when the time comes to write them down. It would be so much harder to start with a blank sheet of paper.”
Davis says he designed Wisdom Will to help users overcome the writer’s block that often accompanies taking on such a significant task.
“The more I talked to people, the more I realized that for so many people, starting a will is completely overwhelming, so I break this up into smaller subcategories to help people get started and stay on track,” he says. “An online journal like this makes it easy to get started and stay organized.”
The Davis family, courtesy of Wisdom Will
Thrasher says her parents have caught the fever as well.
“When my parents heard about all the nuggets of wisdom that I was handing down to my kids through the Wisdom Will, they got really interested in doing the same for me,” she says. “And they are probably very interested in sharing some with their grandchildren, too.”
Because Wisdom Will generates a virtual treasure map for current and future generations to live by, Thrasher says using the service has given her piece of mind in knowing she can pass on valuable lessons to her kids that might otherwise be drowned out by the distractions of daily life.
“I find myself constantly bombarding my kids with important info that they need to know in order to survive and succeed in this modern world, but I’m not sure how much they retain from brief moments in the car to and from school or practice,” she says. “My hope is that by capturing these life lessons through a more formal process, they will one day be more fully absorbed and not get lost in the crazy chaos of our day-to-day lives.”
Davis says he hopes his own kids will someday look back and say, “My dad warned me about this in his Wisdom Will.”
“One or two small but not insignificant things could save someone’s life — like warning them of the hazards of drinking and driving, or the importance of making smart choices in business and one’s personal life,” he says.
Perhaps most importantly, Davis feels the sheer act of sitting down and writing his Wisdom Will made him reflect on how he continues to live his own life, encouraging him to set even better examples for his kids for years to come.
Elizabeth Lincicome is a mother, communications expert and freelance writer based in Raleigh.