Create a digital legacy with your grandparents

Create a digital legacy with your grandparents

Future-proof your family legacy

Family histories have long been passed down from generation to generation, but exactly how accurate is the information you have been told about your ancestors?

Word of mouth can easily turn into Chinese whispers, while older images, videos and written correspondence can be lost, damaged or taken out of context.

Technology has largely solved the problem of protecting physical memorabilia, with the ability to digitize memories, bringing a plethora of benefits.

Digitizing the memories of your grandparents (or parents) is a great way to keep track of your family’s legacy. However you could be left to piece together important milestones and events from the information at hand if they have passed away.

If you are lucky enough to have grandparents still alive, you should speak to them about bringing all of their memories into the 21st century.

Not only will it act as a great bonding experience to bring your family legacy together, but it will help add detail to your future-proofed digital legacy.

Here are the top reasons why you should capture grandparents’ memories while they are still alive:

1. Get the correct information first-hand

Trying to understand the handwriting of grandparents can be hard at the best of times, so imagine trying to decipher letters and notes once they are gone.

Rather than trying to fill in the blanks, you can ask them to take you through an image to provide a more detailed description and background.

For an added element to the original context of the photo, you could also ask them how they feel about a certain event or person now years have passed since the moment it was captured.

You could film their reactions and make an additional video to go with their memories.

2. Get a deep understanding of your family history

It might be too late to get first-hand accounts of all your ancestors digitized, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t start doing it from now.

Talking to your grandparents would be the best way to find out more about your family tree, while capturing the most meaningful memories and milestones of their own life.

It would be almost impossible to avoid learning something new about your family when digitizing your grandparents’ memory box.

3. Learn more about history in general

Digitizing the memories of your grandparents is going to give you insight into your own family, but it could also help you learn more about the history of the world.

With all their years on this planet, your grandparents have lived through interesting times and would have information on key moments that shaped the world in which we live today.

Talking to your grandfather about his military records could show you more about WWII or you could get a better understanding of second-wave feminism from your grandmother.

Your family’s memories could also be shared to add context to wider historical collections.

Medals

4. Surprise your grandparents once everything is digitized

Once the memories of your grandparents have been digitized, you could package some photos or a video as a surprise.

Use basic editing software and put together a short video, email them a slideshow.

Memories page takes things one step further by acting as a vault, visual timeline and digital memory box for your now-digitized family history so it can be enjoyed by your children’s children.

5. Grandparents are going to love passing on information

Who doesn’t love sharing stories from their past?

You can only imagine the delight a grandparent would feel when sitting down sifting through old memories with their children and grandchildren.

Not only will they feel good reliving sentimental moments with their family, but they will find peace knowing their story will live on for generations to come.

6. Get hands-on experience with discontinued forms of media

Kids who think the iPhone 5 is vintage tech might have some fun exploring the discontinued media formats such as super 8mm cameras, 8-track tapes or even wire recordings.

Maybe you could take your kids on a journey using a slide projector or fire up the old VHS recorder – don’t pretend like the nostalgia won’t be too hard resist.

A super 8 camera could come as a surprise

7. Share it with your family

Once you digitize the memories, you have them at hand to easily share with your own family or even your grandparents’ friends.

If you store your memories in the cloud, you can give access to family members – including tech savvy grandparents – so they can view or add content whenever they please.

Some programs allow you to add tags to locate pictures using keywords – you could find your grandparents’ wedding pictures in seconds at the next family dinner.

8. Inspire others to contribute

When your family see the knowledge and satisfaction you have experienced from digitizing memories, they could be inspired to do the same for themsleves.

If your entire extended family digitized their memories, you could combine all that information to develop an extensive digital family tree.

You could also inspire your friends to do the same for their parents or grandparents.

9. Enjoy knowing family memories are safeguarded

Digitizing photos, letters and video tapes with sentimental footage is a great way to safeguard your precious memories.

While you can still keep your physical copies, neither you or your grandparents will have to worry about floods, fires damage or deterioration ruining sentimental items.

Not only this, but you can all rest easy knowing meaningful moments from your family history are now safeguarded for generations to come.

Just remember to make a couple of backups for added security.

Back to list

Don’t forget your digital legacy

Don’t forget your digital legacy

When we think about what we leave behind when we die, the majority of us take an approach that gives little regard to the vast amount of digital assets we hold.

We write wills, take out life insurance policies, plan our funerals and arrange to leave some money aside for those we care about. All of these steps make things easier for your family at an emotionally difficult time.

However, most of us neglect our digital legacy. Few of us have measures in place to take care of our digital assets, something that has the potential to cause great problems for our friends, family and colleagues.

It used to be that people’s estates could be settled in a standardised way: a search through the deceased’s filing cabinet would yield most of the information necessary to put their financial affairs in order. Their letters would still arrive through the door, allowing their family to take care of their communications after death and, where appropriate, advise their contacts of their passing.

Alas, nowadays much of our financial life takes place online – with traditional paper bank statements fading into oblivion, it can be difficult for an executor to know what accounts you hold and where to find them.

What’s more, unless you inform someone of your passwords, your email and social media accounts will become inaccessible and any information on them will be lost. Inaccessible social media accounts mean that the deceased’s family are unable to close the account or inform friends of their relative’s passing.

If we do not plan for our death we can cause our family a logistical nightmare which, on top of the emotional stress of bereavement, may be overwhelming.

That said, there are important steps you can take to help your family wind up your digital affairs smoothly.

Keep an inventory with a close friend or relative that includes the location of any digital devices you own. This should also contain a list of all your social, personal, financial and business account details, including usernames, passwords and security question answers.

Finally, some of your online accounts have features in place for the account holder’s death. Google, for instance, gives you the option to set up an “Inactive Account Manager”, a trusted contact with access to certain aspects of the account, such as Gmail or Google Drive. Features such as these give a trusted person a level of control over your digital legacy and can lessen your loved ones’ distress at a crucial time.

If you want to plan for your legacy, speak to us about Individual Financial Advice

Digital events provide safe space to discuss death

Digital events provide safe space to discuss death

 

With Covid-19 prompting many of us to examine how we deal with death and dying, a series of online events have been set up providing a digital space where people can share their stories, hopes and fears in relation to loss.

The first events take place this week to coincide with national Dying Matters Awareness Week, and have been organised by Northumbria University academic Dr Stacey Pitsillides in partnership with libraries in Newcastle, Redbridge and Kirklees.

The events are part of The Death Positive Library project, funded by CarnegieUK, and include an online death café and a virtual book club, both of which will give people a much-needed opportunity to explore their emotions and share their feelings in a safe space.

Originally the events were due to take place at Newcastle City Library, but with the Covid-19 pandemic leading to building closures, the library team and Dr Pitsillides have worked hard to provide digital alternatives.

As Dr Pitsillides explains: “Dying Matters Awareness Week is an annual event, but with Covid-19 having such an impact on so many of us, this year it feels as if sharing our emotions and experiences in relation to death is more important than ever.

“Many people are feeling very anxious about death and dying at the moment but, due to lockdown, they might not have the opportunity to discuss those emotions with others.

“These events provide that safe space to share stories, memories, opinions, questions and curiosities about death at a time when that is very much needed.”

The first event taking place this week is an online book club, during which Kate Mayfield’s book The Undertaker’s Daughter will be explored.

It will include a reading by the author, as well as a question and answer session, chaired by Dr Claire Nally, Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature at Northumbria University.

The book club will be a monthly event where members are able to discuss themes of death and loss through literature.

Also taking place this week is a digital death café – an informal discussion group where people can meet online and talk about death in a relaxed setting over tea and cake.

First introduced in the UK in 2011, death cafés aim to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their lives.

Running alongside the two events is a virtual Instagram art gallery, held in collaboration with Marie Curie Hospice in Newcastle and featuring art work by patients created during art therapy sessions.

Despite having to adapt due to lockdown, taking the events online has highlighted the important roles libraries play during times of crisis.

Fiona Hill, Service Delivery Specialist: Community Hubs and Libraries at Newcastle City Council, said: “We are delighted to be working with Dr Pitsillides and Dr Nally from Northumbria University and colleagues from Redbridge and Kirklees libraries.

“The Dying Matters digital programme and The Death Positive Library project is a powerful opportunity to connect with citizens. To open up the conversation and think about death in a new way.”

Dr Pitsillides is a Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow within the Northumbria School of Design. Her work focuses on death and technology.

She was recently invited to join the Global Covid-19 Relief Coalition and was part of a subgroup tasked with exploring all aspects of death, grief, and virtual funerals.

The group’s white paper has just been released and reflects the input of nearly 100 specialists who work with dying, death, and grief on a daily basis — doctors, grief therapists, psychologists, funeral home directors, hospice workers, chaplains, end-of life-practitioners, and academics, from around the globe.

Dr Pitsillides also features on the latest podcast from Inside China Tech (South China Morning Post), discussing ‘how technology has changed the way we die and mourn’.

Find out more about Dr Pitsillides’ work on The Digital Death Project and the Love After Death research.

Northumbria is a research-rich, business-focused, professional university with a global reputation for academic excellence. Find out more about us at www.northumbria.ac.uk

Please contact our Media and Communications team at media.communications@northumbria.ac.uk or call +44 (0)191 227 4604 with any media enquiries or interview requests

 

With Covid-19 prompting many of us to examine how we deal with death and dying, a series of online events have been set up providing a digital space where people can share their stories, hopes and fears in relation to loss.

The first events take place this week to coincide with national Dying Matters Awareness Week, and have been organised by Northumbria University academic Dr Stacey Pitsillides in partnership with libraries in Newcastle, Redbridge and Kirklees.

The events are part of The Death Positive Library project, funded by CarnegieUK, and include an online death café and a virtual book club, both of which will give people a much-needed opportunity to explore their emotions and share their feelings in a safe space.

Originally the events were due to take place at Newcastle City Library, but with the Covid-19 pandemic leading to building closures, the library team and Dr Pitsillides have worked hard to provide digital alternatives.

As Dr Pitsillides explains: “Dying Matters Awareness Week is an annual event, but with Covid-19 having such an impact on so many of us, this year it feels as if sharing our emotions and experiences in relation to death is more important than ever.

“Many people are feeling very anxious about death and dying at the moment but, due to lockdown, they might not have the opportunity to discuss those emotions with others.

“These events provide that safe space to share stories, memories, opinions, questions and curiosities about death at a time when that is very much needed.”

The first event taking place this week is an online book club, during which Kate Mayfield’s book The Undertaker’s Daughter will be explored.

It will include a reading by the author, as well as a question and answer session, chaired by Dr Claire Nally, Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature at Northumbria University.

The book club will be a monthly event where members are able to discuss themes of death and loss through literature.

Also taking place this week is a digital death café – an informal discussion group where people can meet online and talk about death in a relaxed setting over tea and cake.

First introduced in the UK in 2011, death cafés aim to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their lives.

Running alongside the two events is a virtual Instagram art gallery, held in collaboration with Marie Curie Hospice in Newcastle and featuring art work by patients created during art therapy sessions.

Despite having to adapt due to lockdown, taking the events online has highlighted the important roles libraries play during times of crisis.

Fiona Hill, Service Delivery Specialist: Community Hubs and Libraries at Newcastle City Council, said: “We are delighted to be working with Dr Pitsillides and Dr Nally from Northumbria University and colleagues from Redbridge and Kirklees libraries.

“The Dying Matters digital programme and The Death Positive Library project is a powerful opportunity to connect with citizens. To open up the conversation and think about death in a new way.”

Dr Pitsillides is a Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow within the Northumbria School of Design. Her work focuses on death and technology.

She was recently invited to join the Global Covid-19 Relief Coalition and was part of a subgroup tasked with exploring all aspects of death, grief, and virtual funerals.

The group’s white paper has just been released and reflects the input of nearly 100 specialists who work with dying, death, and grief on a daily basis — doctors, grief therapists, psychologists, funeral home directors, hospice workers, chaplains, end-of life-practitioners, and academics, from around the globe.

Dr Pitsillides also features on the latest podcast from Inside China Tech (South China Morning Post), discussing ‘how technology has changed the way we die and mourn’.

Find out more about Dr Pitsillides’ work on The Digital Death Project and the Love After Death research.

Northumbria is a research-rich, business-focused, professional university with a global reputation for academic excellence. Find out more about us at www.northumbria.ac.uk

Please contact our Media and Communications team at media.communications@northumbria.ac.uk or call +44 (0)191 227 4604 with any media enquiries or interview requests

10 Hidden URLs To Help You Rule The Web

How to Manage Your Digital Afterlife

 

After their son’s suicide, one Wisconsin couple was desperate for answers. They tried to log into his e-mail and Facebook accounts but failed. The grieving parents finally got a court order to access these online records, arguing that just as their son’s death gave them ownership of his tangible assets, so it also gave them rights to his digital contributions.

In courtrooms around the country, the online legacies of the departed are becoming the subject of painful battles for mourning families. People have long made plans for delivery of their possessions after they die, including family heirlooms, photograph albums, old letters and other memorabilia. Many people design this disbursement to help those left behind deal with their demise. Our possessions are part of us and traditionally are the main tangible part that remains after our death.

In the modern world, however, another echo of us exists that will outlast our physical existence: our writings and records in the digital realm. Our digital “selves” are composites of mementos such as images on Shutterfly or Flickr, books on e-readers, and our musings and correspondence on e-mail, blogs and social-media accounts. This full array of data deposits, legal experts say, is your digital legacy.

Advertisement

The increasing importance of our online identities adds a new layer to grief and mourning. Growing evidence suggests a person’s contributions to the cloud can be dear to mourners and, because they are easily accessible, potentially lasting and interactive, can help them cope with the loss. Yet many of us have given little thought to what will happen to our online accounts after we die. “People don’t realize that they need to make plans for these assets,” says Georgetown University lawyer Naomi Cahn. “The first step is getting people to think about this.”

Sites of Solace

Many people want to maintain their online privacy. In addition, preserving the Facebook page of a dead person could be considered a touch macabre. Yet as with your old physical photos and letters, creations by you in the digital world can be a comfort to those you leave behind. For an article now in press, information scientist Jed Brubaker of the University of California, Irvine, and his colleagues interviewed 16 Facebook users about their experiences after the loss of a friend or family member. They found that all the respondents were emotionally attached to the digital trappings of the deceased. “People tend to go back to these pages on anniversaries, birthdays and holidays” as a way to keep a part of their loved one alive, says cyber anthropologist Michaelanne Dye of the University of Georgia.

Mourners may even set up new online venues such as memorial Web sites or Facebook pages. These sites also can serve as effective emotional outlets. In her doctoral dissertation at Antioch University, psychologist Jordan C. Fearon asked 68 founders of Facebook memorial groups about their experiences with grieving through social media. All but one of the founders said they would recommend creating a Facebook group to anyone who had recently experienced a loss. Like holding a wake or sitting shivah, a virtual memorial provides the bereaved with social support, a sense of connection with both the deceased and the living, and meaningful activity. “It was very beneficial to my grieving process to physically see via my computer that my friends were feeling the exact same emotion,” wrote one of the individuals Fearon surveyed. In addition, nearly 60 percent of the respondents said that online grieving was more helpful and valuable than traditional grief rituals. Memorial sites, after all, can be made accessible to a broad array of individuals and can last for as long as participants need support.

Taking Care of Business

Advertisement

Although you have no say in how others remember you, the existence of memorial Web sites underscores the importance of deciding what to do with your digital persona when you are no longer around. If you leave it to chance, you may have little control. The legal system has yet to establish a coherent system governing the inheritance of digital assets. Only six states have laws that allow next-of-kin access to those resources. The lack of legislation means that the ownership of your profile can revert back to the company who owns that site after your death unless you specify otherwise, Dye says. (Forthcoming legislation may soon prevent anyone except a court-appointed person or a designee of the deceased to gain access to that individual’s online information.)

Dye says she is working on inserting a clause into her will spelling out exactly what she wants done with her digital life after her death. “My online profiles are a part of who I am,” she confesses. Whether or not you adjust your will, Cahn recommends creating a locked paper document or secure database that has passwords and security questions for your e-mail, banking and other online accounts so friends and family can access or deactivate your profiles, notify e-mail correspondents of your passing, and take care of any financial concerns.

For any accounts you have on Google, you now have a more automated option. In April, Google added a free service called Inactive Account Manager (nicknamed “Google Death”) that allows you to decide what happens to your Google-operated accounts after you die.

One option is to delete these accounts. Another is to have Google allow a designated person to view them if you do not log on for a specified period, ranging from three months to a year. Before Google authorizes this transfer, however, the company will send reminders to alternative e-mail addresses and cell phones in one last attempt to get in touch. “Inactive Account Manager allows people to be proactive with their digital assets,” says Nadja Blagojevic, a manager of privacy and security at Google. “It’s important for the people you leave behind.”

You cannot similarly decide the fate of your Facebook profile. In this case, once you die, the choice lands on your friends and family. They can leave the page as is, open to friend requests, Facebook advertisements and photo tags. If someone can provide an obituary or death notice, Facebook will memorialize the page, meaning that no new friends will be added and the person’s name will not appear in news feeds. Loved ones can also request that the deceased person’s page be deleted.

Advertisement

In most cases, your heirs and close friends will not be in a hurry to wipe out all digital traces of you. And although you could try to instruct Google, among others, to erase you from the Internet, making the digital “you” invisible is probably impractical, and even if it were possible, doing so may deepen the pain of those you care about. It makes more sense, then, to construct a path so that those who love you can follow at least some of your online trail and gain access to the digital deposits they might need or want.

This article was originally published with the title “Managing Your Digital Afterlife” in SA Mind 24, 4, 22-23 (September 2013)

doi:10.1038/scientificamericanmind0913-22

(Further Reading)

The Technology of Grief: Social Networking Sites as a Modern Death Ritual. Jordan C. Fearon. Ph.D. dissertation for Antioch University, 2011. http://etd.ohiolink.edu/send-pdf.cgi/Fearon%20Jordan%20Ciel.pdf?antioch1307539596

Beyond the Grave: Facebook as a Site for the Expansion of Death and Mourning. J. R. Brubaker, G. R. Hayes and P. Dourish in the Information Society, Vol. 29, No. 3, pages 152–163; May/June 2013.

CARRIE ARNOLD is a Virginia-based science writer and author of Decoding Anorexia: How Breakthroughs in Science Offer Hope for Eating Disorders (Routledge, 2012).