Keeping a Journal Blesses Generations

Contributed By Glen Greener, Church News contributor

  • 16 September 2014

Keeping a journal is a blessing not only for your posterity—it can be a source of revelation from the Lord.

Article Highlights

  • It’s never too late to begin keeping a record of special events, sacred experiences, or just everyday thoughts.
  • Just a few sentences every couple of days can give your descendants a picture of who you were and what you were like.
  • It’s easy to post stories by and about your ancestors on FamilySearch.org using the Memories feature. Start now, and someone later will thank you.

“Birth and death dates may be easily found, but we can only imagine the grief that our ancestors felt when a child died or the happiness when someone married or a new baby came into their lives.”—Glen Greener

After 400 years of intensive research into the life and works of William Shakespeare, we know almost nothing about the personal life of the most famous writer in the history of the English language. Only about a hundred documents related to William Shakespeare and his immediate family have been found: baptismal records, property deeds, marriage bonds, tax certificates, and court records—nothing about him personally.

Shakespeare’s works are all we know about him. We can study, along with the scholars, his plays, poems, songs, and sonnets and discover something of what life was like for him. “The songs in the plays themselves illustrate many sides of Shakespeare’s genius—his incomparable lyric gift, his ready humor, and his marvelous sensitivity to the sights and sounds of English life, especially the life of the country” (Norton Anthology of English Literature, vol. 1, 3rd edition [1962], 820).

However, because he did not keep a journal, we don’t know, and probably never will, if he was happy or sad, if he liked sunsets and long walks by the Thames, whether he liked music, what his favorite foods were, if he enjoyed company or preferred to be alone. Some of his plays are set in other countries, and we don’t even know if he ever left England.

Many people wonder what their great-grandparents were like, and our children will probably wonder the same about us. The peace and pleasure that descendants can find in discovering what their ancestors loved and hated, what their trials and triumphs were, and how they faced challenges can only be found if a journal is kept. Birth and death dates may be easily found, but we can only imagine the grief that our ancestors felt when a child died or the happiness when someone married or a new baby came into their lives. It’s never too late to start keeping a journal. Just a couple of sentences every few days would give your descendants a picture of yourself they wouldn’t otherwise have, but a journal is not just for our descendants; it is for all of us to live and grow spiritually and receive revelation from the Lord.

Shakespeare as a person will forever remain a mystery, much to the disappointment of the thousands of dedicated researchers. Because we have the teachings of the gospel, we can fill our lives and the lives of our descendants with love, gratitude, and an understanding of the gifts of the Lord.

It’s also easy to post selected stories by and about you and your ancestors on FamilySearch.org using the Memories feature. Start now. Someday, many years from now, someone will thank and honor you. 

Journaling doesn’t always mean pen and paper. Blogs, scrapbooks, and photo, audio, and video journals are all ways you can keep a personal and family history.