Family history sometimes gets a bad rap. It can be viewed as one of those hobbies people pick up when they’re old and don’t have anything else to do. This reputation is unfortunate because the fact is that we all need our history. We all need our stories, and we all need our family stories. Stories connect us, give us strength, and help us realize our place not only in the world but in OUR little world of influence. What would change if you wrote down your own story? What would you learn if you wrote down your family’s story?
Today’s #familyhistoryfriday is a #flashbackfriday, too! We’re going back to some early posts on Evolve to look at a few ideas to get inspired about family stories.
I’ve always been a journaler and photo-preserver. Writing things down helps me get in touch with myself, sort through how I feel, and learn from and appreciate my experiences. As I’ve made this my actual business in recent years, one of the things I’ve been amazed at is that there’s been research done on the effect that knowing family stories has on kids. It’s quite remarkable! Family stories aren’t just warm fuzzies that people talk about at reunions. They’re the experiences that make us who we are. Knowing that Grandpa did a hard thing gives you courage. Hearing the funny story of Christmas 1969 helps you realize you should laugh at yourself a little more.
Remembering is great, but since memory fades, it’s so much better to write the stories! How, then, do you go about creating the family stories? Here are some ideas (and the research I mentioned before):
Preserving and Sharing Family Stories
Just like your family, and just like your story, the way you preserve and then share your family stories can be different from someone else’s. The one thing that matters is that you do it. Hand-writing something in a notebook and making copies for family members works. Typing something in a computer document and sharing with the family works, too. My favorite way to preserve and share family stories is through storybooks, but there are other ways, too.
I like the personal, special touch that a family storybook has. This is one of the first ones I ever created (here), and what I loved about it was the photos and the simplicity. There’s a photo of each of my ancestors as far back as photos go (or as far back as we have them), and I wrote a one-page introduction to each of those people. My main goal was to have my children be able to digest the information easily (as opposed to a 200-page life history). My secondary goal was to let my kids put faces with names and to connect with their ancestors.
If they could say, “Oh, Great-Great Grandpa loved reading, and so do I!” or “Wow, how cool that they lived on a farm,” I felt like I had accomplished something. The connection that comes from family stories validates kids, among other things.
Other Creative Ways to Share Family Stories
Although I do love my family history storybooks, there are a lot of other ways to preserve and share family stories. What if you don’t really have a whole story, or what if you just want to preserve and share something Mom always used to say? It’s fun to have some variety. What about family matching card games or Grandma’s quote on a lovely canvas in your kitchen? How about cookbooks to capture your family’s history through recipes? Here are some out-of-the-box ideas:
Family Stories Are For You
Sometimes we feel so far removed from people who didn’t own a car or farmed their own food. What can we possibly learn from them or from their experience? Far more than you might think, I promise! Take some time to talk to your parents or aunts and uncles. Talk to your grandparents if you can. Ask about their parents and grandparents. The things they remember and know and have learned from life can strengthen yours!