Preserving and Sharing Family Stories Through Storybooks

Preserving and Sharing Family Stories

Preserving and sharing family stories is a big deal.  That’s because family stories give us a sense of purpose and belonging.  Children (including teenagers) develop a stronger sense of identity and overall have higher self-esteem when they know family stories.  In fact, hearing family stories actually helps children tell richer narratives themselves!  Preserving family stories inspires the person doing the preserving, of course, but it also benefits anybody who hears the story.

Storytelling

Storytelling affects our brains in a different way than just facts.  In {this article}, author Rachel Gillette wrote that when we read a story, the language parts of our brains light up, but so do any other parts of the brain that we would be using if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading about!  (Talk about literally preserving memories.)

We love a good story.  And we love it even more when it’s OUR story.  Do you know how your grandma and grandpa met?  Do you know what hard times your mom experienced and how she overcame them?  Where did your ancestors come from?  What brought them here?  Are there stories of perseverance or faith or humor in your family?  Do your kids know what you were like as a 10-year-old?   What would these stories mean to you and to your family?

Storybooks

One way to preserve and share family stories is through storybooks.  I’m not talking about “photobooks.”  Those are different.  Most of those have a place where you can throw in a caption here and there.  No, I’m talking about a storybook, a place where you can actually tell Grandma and Grandpa’s love story or and adoption story or the survival story of your family member with an illness, a place where you can preserve all the photos from one year in one book and tell the stories of the photos at the same time.  This is family history–YOUR family’s history–happening a century ago and happening last year.

I saw this meme at the left posted somewhere (Instagram, I think?) after {Roots Tech} 2015 by {simpleasthatblog.com}.  And this is the truth.  We’re not preserving our stories for some unknown future date.  Children and grandchildren will certainly benefit from them in the future.  But our stories are for NOW.  They connect us now.  They bring people together now.  They foster understanding and appreciation now.  They increase happiness now by giving us opportunities to reflect on good times and put bad times into perspective.

Family Stories:  appreciation and perspective

I remember reading my great-grandmother’s story quite a few years ago.  She had a rough first marriage, saved up money over a period of months so she could run away with her three little boys (like “three-under-the-age-of-4” little) to a place she’d never been before, where she didn’t know anyone. When she made it there, she got really sick and was hospitalized.  Alone.  I remember reading her story and thinking, “Oh my gosh.  I have no problems at all.” Family stories truly do give appreciation and perspective.  They make a difference.  And she was quite a lady.  I was glad to get to know her better even though she’d already passed on.

Stories and Memories You Can Hold

One thing I’m serious about is preserving family stories in an accessible and high-quality way.  That’s where those hardbound books I showed you earlier come in.  Something tangible that people can physically touch and hold means so much more than a PDF file, and is so much more accessible.  And when you put something in a hardbound book, you want it to last and be passed down to another generation.  Those books have a library binding with metal stitching in the binding (not glue).  They’re intended to be heirlooms.  Like family stories should be. 

Before we go, let’s look at two examples of storybooks.  I love this first one:  “Family Love Stories.”  Rather than focusing one one love story (which is still entirely amazing, I have to say), this book focuses on all the love stories in a family, from Grandpa loving Grandma, to Grandpa loving Baby Joey, cousins love, and love of the pets in the family too.  You can see all the pages of this darling book {by clicking right here}.

I created a storybook template that can be used to tell someone’s life stories if you don’t have access to many pictures of that person.  All the prompts are in the book itself, so you don’t have to come up with the HOW of telling the story.  I also created this {video tutorial} that walks you through how to create that basic storybook.

Another example of a storybook is this life storybook at the left, {which you can see right here} page by page.  This highlights one person’s life and, like the “Family Love Stories” example, includes photos and stories which really make a person you never knew into someone real whose life can make a difference in yours.

What Family History Really Means

So the next time you think about “family history” as being walking around graves looking for names and dates, remember that family history really means the story of your family.  Yes, that can be found on headstones with names and dates, but it’s really found when you write and collect and preserve someone’s STORY.

Storybooks are an important and meaningful way to preserve a family story, but there are some other ways, too, so we’ll look at some more ideas this month on #familyhistoryfriday.

~Jennifer

Storybooks created at www.heritagemakers.com/jenniferwise.  All digital art is included with the purchase, and the software is, too. 


References

  1. Gillett, R. (2014). Fast Company. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/3031419/hit-the-ground-running/why-our-brains-crave-storytelling-in-marketing
  2. RootsTech. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.rootstech.org/
  3. Simple As That. (2017). Retrieved from http://simpleasthatblog.com/

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Jennifer Wise

I'm Jennifer, and I'm passionate about connections.I enjoy helping people discover the very real benefits of preserving stories, photos, and memories because of the impact they have on children, families, and individuals. I blog weekly at www.lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com sharing tips, ideas, solutions, and inspiration, and I'm over at www.heritagemakers.com/jenniferwise, too. Learn more about me at the "About" tab.

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7 thoughts on “Preserving and Sharing Family Stories Through Storybooks

  1. I know I used to have the misconception that Family History was all about my ancestors. It wasn’t until recently that I thought about my personal history being just as important. If I don’t make records of my life, my children and grandchildren may never really get to know me. My goal this year is to do better about collecting and preserving my story. I have thousands of pictures on my computer and very few in tangible form. I want to write down my stories before I forget them!

    • I love how you said that–family history really is intertwined with your own history, and it really just comes down to your story. Recording your own experience becomes something PRICELESS to those who come after you, but also to your family now & today. And the key, as you mentioned, is doing it before you forget. Taking a little time once a week or once a month can do wonders! Can’t wait to share more about this in coming weeks. 🙂

  2. We recently took an audio recording of my parent’s personal history and shared a portion with my kids. The recording was made a year before my oldest daughter was born. We are trying to find ways to share the stories with my kids. I was kind of surprised how much they paid attention. They were very interested. There is something fascinating about learning more about where you come from. I’m working on compiling the recordings and transcribing it so I can share it with my siblings and their children.

    • That is so great! My boys have enjoyed learning about our ancestors too. For example, my paternal grandmother was in the Air Force and we recently found out that her last assignment was to Wright Patterson Air Force Base. My youngest son thought that this was really cool because he was born at the hospital on Wright Patt. It’s so fun to involve the whole family in Family History!

    • Perfect! I love that you’re doing this, Ryan. Yes, it seems like there is something innate that makes us love the connections that exist in families. In fact, today’s post, “Creating Family Stories,” mentions some research on the (amazing!) effects that knowing family stories has on children. Thanks for the great comment.