The best way to begin recording family history is to start with what you know. You are most familiar with your own life, your own story. Once you have recorded your own history (which we talked about last week), think of the “our” stories you know. Maybe it’s your own love story. Maybe it’s the life stories of your parents, or the story of how your grandparents came to this country. What couple or family stories do you know? If you don’t know any, who is your resource for learning them? Let’s look at different possibilities for “our story” as part of your greater family history. See which idea resonates most with you on #familyhistoryfriday this week.
Research has shown that children who know the stories of their families are stronger and more well-adjusted. Children who can answer questions like “Do you know how your parents met?” or “Do you know what your grandparents did for a living?” are happier. Families are created by a series of love stories, so telling the love stories of a family can be a natural place to start a family history.
I love this idea of telling a love story through a “He Said, She Said” method. Each person writes his or her memories of meeting, courtship, engagement, and marriage, for the full effect. (I love this little 8×8 storybook size. It’s only $30 but will be the most-loved book in the house! You can create something like this here.)
Another idea is to more briefly tell the love stories of all the family members, from parents and aunts and uncles to grandparents or great-grandparents, all in one place. This Family Love Stories book is a beautiful collection. (This exact template can be copied and personalized here by finding template 49503 in the Template Gallery.)
One of the great things about preserving a family history or family story in a special way is that it also makes a great gift! Grandparents would love a book with their own story in it. Grandchildren would enjoy the family stories of the people they love. A 12×12 book like this is $49 but absolutely priceless.
And we’re going to give gifts anyway, right? Why not make them unforgettable for generations?
Every family has a story. Where did your family come from? What were their beliefs, interests, careers, faith? Who were your great-grandparents? Family members obviously contribute to the family as a whole. How did family members grow? What turning points made a difference in their lives?
Life’s tough. Write about the hard times; it can help heal you and bless others.” –Legacy Tale
One idea for writing the story of your family is to write a brief life history of everyone in your 4-generation pedigree: you, your parents, your grandparents, and your great-grandparents. Include a picture if you can–that really brings ancestor stories to life!
I do this for each of my children when they turn 12. It’s a beautiful gift emphasizing that they belong to something greater than themselves. Their Roots Books are precious! (You can see an example of a Roots Book in the pinnable graphic at the end of this post.)
Life is fleeting, and time passes before we know it. Take advantage of moments to talk with your parents or grandparents or great-grandparents before they’re gone, or before their memories aren’t what they used to be. Write down what you learn because, if you’re anything like me, your memory probably isn’t what it used to be, either!
Everyday Memory-Keeping is Family History
I keep a detailed account of our family’s history as we live it! That’s what scrapbooking or storybooking or memory-keeping is. I’m telling the story of my little family, from Christmas Eve dinners to award ceremonies at school to vacations and fun times. I know I often mention the scientifically-proven benefits of memory-keeping, but it also counts as family history! You’re telling your family’s story while it’s still fresh. (Ask me about last year’s vacation when I’m 95 and you probably won’t get as many details.)
Don’t be afraid of memory-keeping if you’re not a scrapbooker. Very few people are scrapbookers, but everyone has memories, photos, and a story to tell! Everyone has a family history. If you really want to make memory-keeping easier on yourself, this post has a lot of pointers and ideas for making goals into reality.
If you’re overwhelmed with your photos, my top suggestion, though is a family yearbook. I taught an online class about this recently. The layout of the yearbook helps you pick your favorites to put into print. This, of course, reduces the number of photos you’re dealing with, making it much easier to create a family album. It’s pretty genius, actually. 😉 You can see the recording of my online class, “How to Stop Being Overwhelmed by Your Pictures: a Yearbook tutorial,” right there at the link. It’s only 43 minutes, but it will change your memory-keeping life!! It will make it do-able.
Tell “Our Story”
There are lots of “our story” possibilities to tell your family story. Family history is not unlike regular history in that you are looking to the past to appreciate and learn. But with family history you know and love the characters. Or maybe you don’t know or love them yet, and there your opportunity begins.
- Even hard stories are important to tell. You never know what you’ll learn. Try to remember funny stories, things Grandpa used to always say, and good times. Ask cousins and siblings and aunts and uncles what they remember about life on the farm or growing up as a Jones. The more you connect with your family history, the more you connect with your heart.
- Feiler, Bruce. (2013). The NY Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/fashion/the-family-stories-that-bind-us-this-life.html
- Legacy Tale. (2018). Twitter. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/LegacyTale
- Wise, Jennifer. (2017). Evolve. Retrieved from https://www.livegrowgive.org/one-solution-many-photos-family-yearbooks/
- Wise, Jennifer. (2018). Evolve. Retrieved from https://www.livegrowgive.org/an-important-part-of-family-history-my-story/
- Wise, Jennifer. (2018). Evolve. Retrieved from https://www.livegrowgive.org/why-taking-photos-is-so-important-and-what-to-do-with-them/
- Wise, Jennifer. (2018). Life Tales Books and Personal Publishing. Retrieved from https://lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com/p/benefits.html
- Wise, Jennifer. (2018). Life Tales Books and Personal Publishing. Retrieved from https://lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com/p/paper-scrapbooking.html
- Wise, Jennifer. (2018). Life Tales Books and Personal Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.livegrowgive.org/why-every-human-heart-needs-his-or-her-family-history/
- Wise, Jennifer. (2018). YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y58c8U4oORY&t=2173s