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Preserving my family’s heritage

Pascal Barry
Pascal Barry
2 Dec 2021 · 5 min

Looking to the past

When my great grandmother died she was the last of that generation of our family. I remember going to her old house in the French countryside with my mum and going through boxes of old photographs. If we were lucky, on the back there was sometimes written the dates, places and names of who was in the photo. Some of the photos were from the late nineteenth century; the kind where you can imagine everyone had to sit still for an eternity while the photographer worked his magic under a hooded camera.

IMG 1144b
One of hundreds of old photos found in my great grandmother’s attic of distant relatives.

It's moments like these that often trigger a desire to start digging deeper into where we came from. Whether it’s through stories told by the older generations in our families, old photos or from our own research into the family tree, knowing about the lives of our relatives satisfies a certain itch.

By knowing more about where we came from, the history and lives of our relatives, it’s as if we are able to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves. It makes sense. We’re raised by people who shape our behaviour and beliefs, and they in turn were raised and influenced by others. By understanding more about this sequence, these people who came before us, we’re better able to contextualise how we came to be born in a certain place, under such and such circumstance, and within a given framework of beliefs.

It’s also just plain fascinating to learn about people who lived in a completely different time to you, but who you are deeply connected to. They passed their genetic code to you. They may have had a different cultural upbringing, spoken a different language, lived in a different country, and had a different religion or set of beliefs. They may have lived through wars and unimaginable hardships, or have lived a life of riches far beyond what you could imagine experiencing. They may have been famous, had an incredible 5 minutes of fame, or been close to someone known throughout the world.

Just before my grandad died, he wrote out his life memoirs and even wrote a separate memoir of his experiences in the RAF during World War II. I remember some particularly eyebrow-raising moments and apparently secrets were revealed that my dad and his siblings had no idea about. My grandad flew with 76 different pilots and completed 67 operational sorties. He only ever missed one mission, and on this occasion the crew he should have been flying with never returned. I heard about plenty of other near-death experiences through his memoirs such as the time their plane flew so low to the sea it hit a wave.

War memories
An extract from my grandad’s WW2 memoirs.

Those memoirs are deeply treasured in our family and have triggered others to do their own research into some of the people mentioned in them who had very interesting stories of their own.

As a family, we’ve been systematically scanning (translating where necessary) and digitising all these deeply treasured family artifacts. I use Akord to ensure everyone in the family – present and future generations – has a single immutable and perpetual point of access to these valuables.

French marriage cert
A photo of a marriage certificate, dated two years after the French Revolution, which we’ve scanned, translated and uploaded to Akord.

Looking to the future

When my dad died he didn’t leave any memoirs like my grandad. My daughters won’t have any memory of him. I have a speech I gave at his funeral, as well as those of others who spoke that day. One day reading these speeches will help my daughters build a picture of their grandad, along with all the photos of him we have scanned and stored.

These are exactly the kinds of files we save to some hard drive and usually don’t give much thought to until that hard drive breaks and they're lost forever. We're so used to having no control over our data, we've at some level resigned ourselves to accepting that at some point we'll lose those files.

After my first daughter was born my relationship to photos and videos was forever changed. The camera roll on my phone is now almost exclusively filled with photos and videos of my children growing up. The thought of losing these photos and videos is unimaginable. I want to preserve these memories and moments of their childhood for them to look back on, and pass on to their children or the people close to them.

I also look at the photos and videos of myself differently. I want to store them safely so I can pass them on to my daughters. At various points in their lives, they'll inevitably become interested in their parents lives before they were born; what we looked like, where we travelled to, places we lived, and the things we did.

Polaroid scans from a holiday in Sweden pre-children. Ah, to be young!

There was a time in my life where I seriously pursued music and writing as possible careers. I have many music recordings and short stories. There’s also some of my work as a visual designer that I’ve decided to keep in Akord. I love the idea that maybe one day my great grandchildren will listen to those recordings, look at the artwork and read some of those stories to forge a direct connection to me, regardless of whether they had ever met me in their lifetime.

Artwork for a recording made with an old band.

All these precious memories and materials myself and my partner have collected in our lives have now found a home on Akord. And whoever comes after us shouldn’t have to dig around for clues as to who is who in various photos and videos! Asides from all the benefits metadata provides, our family vault will also contain a chat history that will hopefully span many decades.

A unique present

We are living through a unique time in history. We now not only have the technology to record, capture and digitise our work and memories, but the means to safely store those assets forever.

Until this point, only the artifacts of the most famous and accomplished have been deemed worthy of the extraodinary effort it has required to safely store and pass them down through the generations. But it’s not necessary for your writings, recordings, photos, videos or other digital assets to be considered great works of art to still have incredible value for others.

Akord exists to provide everyone with simple and secure multi-generational storage – a way to preserve your digital heritage and connect the past with future generations.

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