It’s a Life Story Challenge

LifeStory Challenge_2

 

Up for a challenge?

This one doesn’t take a lot of time, money or even effort, but the rewards will be payed forward for generations. Let’s get started!

Routine Change #1:  Day One App

Day One is a photo/journaling app (aka Diary) and it has become my newest best buddy. How could this possibly relate to family history, right?

Well, technically, the definition for family history is the study of genealogy and everything else in our lives including our “background, location, and circumstances.” In my mind, our family history starts with ourselves. My youngest daughter taught me this most important lesson when she would ask me to relate my own childhood stories to her in place of bedtime stories.

I can remember thinking that I didn’t have anything remotely interesting to tell her, but it turned out that she did love to hear all about my childhood and kept asking for more every night for quite a while. That was a big wake-up call to me and has had me thinking that not only do I need to work on my line of ancestors but I also need to keep working on my own life story.

Day One Canva w Screenshot-So, back to the Day One app.  At $4.99, it is definitely the most expensive app that I have ever bought (available for both Apple and Android devices) but it has some very luxurious features that make me feel happy when I use it. How about that for a description!

It politely reminds me to journal about my day and allows me to add pictures as well as descriptions of the photo. This way, as I am capturing all these great photos of my day-to-day life, the stories are being kept as well. See where I’m going with all of this? It is the stories that our children and grandchildren and/or descendants want to know about.

I search records all the time getting facts with names, dates and places, but the real treasure, in my mind, is when I find a story!

Two more points that are critical for this app is that it will sync with a dropbox account (free cloud storage for the basic level) and it can be saved off as a PDF. Now, if you think about it, you can print books that contain all your entries and have a beautiful story of your life start to unfold.

Routine Change #2:  Instagram

 

Ok, this one also makes me just feel happy when I do it as well! It’s Instagram; plain and simple. Oh, I have had my Instagram account since about the time they started it back in 2010. Over the years, I have posted a couple of pictures and followed quite a few people to see all their beautiful posts but I haven’t ever figured out exactly what I would post. Until now…

I had an epiphany recently and it all seemed to make perfect sense. I am now posting pictures of all the wonderful things around our home that have a special meaning to me and my husband. Things like the christening gown that my mother wore, or the train clock that my husband’s grandfather owned, or the plates that my mom had accumulated. Yes, the list goes on and on which happily means that I will have quite a few things to post for a long time.

Instagram Canva w screenshotWhile my youngest daughter gasped that I wrote a fairly long description for my first entry, I am not letting that intimidate me. It is not like on Twitter where you have a defined number of characters. I can go ahead and give a description of the item as well as any stories and history information that I might have. Some will be short and some will be longer—I’m ok with that! This isn’t necessarily for anyone else’s eyes but my daughters, son and close relatives.

Here’s the absolutely best part of all of this: I can print a Chatbook from my postings on Instagram and I will have yet another priceless treasure documenting all the things that mean so much to me. Actually, they are not worth all that much moneywise – only memories and attachments to family that make me feel good when I see them! Once again, it is all about getting our own family stories down to be enjoyed some day down the road.

The interesting part of this is that I think my children will really enjoy these little insights into the things that they have  grown up with.  I’m betting that for the most part, they couldn’t tell me much about any of them. Hey… it’s not for not telling them, alright? I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt that they really want to know all this but when bombarded with all the studying that they have to do as well as work, they just don’t have time or a brain that is ready to take on anymore information.

There is the beauty in this! They can look back at my postings anytime and browse through the pictures and read as much as they want. And, they will be able to look at the Chatbooks I’m going to print as soon as I have a year’s worth – maybe for Christmas? And don’t forget hashtags when writing – I am going to give each family member a hashtag that I will use so that later, I can pull up all the entries that I have posted for each one. Now, how is that for something really cool? (I know that I am dating myself by using the word, “cool” but it just is!)

So you see, with these two really simple routine changes and you can rest assured that your own Life Story will carry on for the total pleasure of future generations.

Once again, I realize that for some of us, these new tools don’t seem so friendly, so tutorials will be coming shortly on the Day One App and Instagram for Family History. I’ll get into the details how to download them as well as how to get started to use all the different functions. When I have them ready to go, I’ll send out a note in the next newsletter!

Please share this with your friends and family! This is something that we can pass around to almost anyone that has a smartphone or uses a computer. As always, if you have any stories that you would like to share about your own method of journaling, I would love to hear about what works for you!

Conversation Starters

Interviews_CanvaThe next step in our journey is to make a list of anyone that is from the next generation or two (and if you are really lucky… three) back and make contact with them.

Here is a little hint:  Let them know that you would like to pick their memories about their childhood, jobs, schools, family get-togethers, siblings, whatever. Just pick one area and go for it!

I know.  You are always told to go and talk with your older relatives and it can sound a little ridiculous to plan an interview session, but the reward is ten-fold, believe me.  They get to see you and chat and on the flipside, you might get rewarded with some family stories that are priceless.  They love to hear about your lives and making a point to talk with them gives your elders the opportunity to share some of their stories.

This step isn’t supposed to sound like your mom waggling her finger at you and making you feel bad… It is just a step that you might not get to take some day and (here is a little finger waggling) will likely regret.  It’s the old should-have’s and could-have’s.  We all know that we won’t live forever, but here is the silver-lining to all of that foreboding talk:  our stories can live on forever and ever as long as they are written down.  Now, isn’t that thought enough to spur you into action?

Here are some ideas to get things going:

  • Take some old family photos or ask to see their own album.  Instead of just asking names, point out a person and ask some questions about how they dressed, how your elder was related to them, and if they remember any particular stories about that person in the photo.
  • Set up your smartphone or camera to take a video of your family member once they are comfortable with talking.  If you keep it in view for a while, they probably wouldn’t notice that you have turned it on! Getting a first-person recording of them telling a story is really the ultimate momento. (Can you guess why? I’ll tell you my take on it in a minute!)
  • Take a short family tree and see what they say.  This doesn’t have to be a full-on detailed family tree; it can be just as simple as a starting with yourself at the bottom of the page and then your set of parents on top.  Then their parents on top of them with little arrows.  You get my idea right?  I think that keeping the forms and charts on the simple side make for a more informal exchange.  If they think that they have to have all the accurate dates, etc, it can be overwhelming. Just stick to the simple hand-drawn charts and see where it takes you!  Let them direct where your conversation should go.  Listen!  (And have a pen and paper near by to jot down notes if you aren’t recording your time together.)

Quick story on why a video is priceless.

Actually, it is two stories;  all very near and dear to my heart.  My father passed away a couple of years ago and as we were going thru his office, I came across a DVD in a very unassuming white paper cover.  His name was written on it in Sharpie with a date.  What a surprise I found as I listened to my Dad being interviewed by a gentleman working on a World War II project to take down biographies and war stories to be archived.  I was pretty close to my Dad but I didn’t even realize that he had been interviewed let alone videotaped.  My Dad was prompted to talk about his childhood thru high school along with his entry into the Air Force.  He then told about his time while enlisted including boot camp and the job that he performed while in the Service.

So, imagine my shock as I got to see my Dad talk in a very casual setting using all the familiar mannerisms that I knew like the back of my hand.  Now, they would always be just a click away.  Talk about priceless.  It evens hits home harder because my Mom, who had passed away in 2000, is practically a ghost in any videos that I pour through.  I occasionally get a snippet of her talking in the background, but she definitely was shy around cameras and even more so with video. Maybe she just thought that all the videos we took of our kids should have them as the focal point.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I don’t have any video of my mom long enough to hear much of her voice and show our youngest, who never got to meet their grandmother.

 Now… no need for any shedding of tears.  I didn’t tell you those things to make you sad.  I just want to impress on anyone that will listen that we can’t bank on the fact that our treasured family members will live forever.  So, go ahead make your opportunity and let me know if you don’t feel crazy good after you have had some of these “listening” sessions! I’d love to hear your favorite story about a particularly interesting interview you have done.

First Assignment: Start with Yourself

Complete HappinessI hope that you will join with me as I start to unfold the steps that you can take to pull together a family history that might knock the socks off the rest of your family!

As our days get busy with kids and life in general, we can put ourselves in the background.  Get your appointment book out and set a time to write down your own timeline.  Spreadsheets work great for this because you can insert lines to add new pieces of information.  No need to start hyper-ventilating yet.

Let’s start at the very beginning… You were born, so add that date at the top.  If you take a few moments, you can quickly figure out the years that you were in kindergarten and continue through college.  Go ahead and add those as well.  If you are married, then there is another date to add.  See, it isn’t so hard.  It just takes a few minutes to get started.  Then as you have a few minutes each day or even once a week, you can continue to insert more dates as they come to you. By the way, this helps for resumes as well! Let’s even go so far as to start a file folder on your computer or filing cabinet of choice that will quickly become a favorite for sure.

Once you have some dates, challenge yourself to think of some stories.  Write them down.  I’m going to take some stress out of this by saying that you don’t have to write these stories in any particular order.  A few years ago, my youngest daughter started asking me at bedtime to tell stories about when I was little.  Sometimes, it took me a little bit to come up with a story that I thought was worthy to tell.  But soon, I figured out that what she really wanted to hear was simply what life was like when I was little.  It helped to think about subjects like summer, special events, holidays, and toys.  You get the idea…  She loved the stories so much that she asked every night for those stories and what I found was that I actually did have some pretty darn adorable stories that I could relate to her.

You can tell where I am going with this, can’t you?  Yes, now these seemingly random batch of stories need to be put into writing.  How can we pass on our family histories if we don’t include ourselves?  Think of this as one of the most important things you can do for your family.  If you don’t have kids yet, that’s okay as well.  Think of it as the beginnings of your own biography so when you become rich and famous, you will have a head start!  Then plug these stories into the spreadsheet as well; label them with a quick title so that you can easily tell which story they belong with.

By the way, it’s been a couple of years and my youngest still asks for me to relate the story of when I was a little girl and went to my first public pool.  All the girls had to wear those funny caps with flowers on the sides to keep our hair kind of dry and out of the pool’s drainage system.  Mine worked really well and when it came time for a body-check by the lifeguards, everyone got out of the pool except for me.  Imagine this little girl in the pool having the time of her life swimming in clear water with people standing along side of the pool all waving at me!  I thought it was neat and waved greetings back!  Since I grew up swimming in lakes, I didn’t realize that they cleared everyone out.  My mom kept waving and saying something to me but with that cap on my head and over my ears, I couldn’t hear a thing.  Too funny as I remember it now and my daughter really starts to giggle when she hears me retell this most embarrassing story. If I remember right, I don’t think that we went back to that pool though! And yes, the picture attached to this entry is my photo from 1967.

I’ve told you one of my stories, now take a few minutes and write down one of your own! Come on… You can do it!  What is the first story to come to your mind?

Guilty Pleasure

typewriter1One word from someone that has been a wife and mom for over thirty years:  Do family history research for all the right reasons and know that it will give you pleasure back ten-fold.  I know that you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t already interested in your own family history, but putting a true value on it will give you the inspiration necessary to bring it all together into a priceless heirloom.

There are three parts to this equation.  If your parents are living, your journey into your family’s history will turn into something almost magical.  Aahhh… you laugh at me, but continue on with this and then come back and tell me different!  When this project is brought out at your next family gathering, it will spark conversations that will leave you with all sorts of new stories to be written down.  As for yourself, you might just discover that looking back at your own family tree, with all its ups and downs, will give you a new sense of belonging that might have gotten lost along the way. I love the sense of ownership for my home state and beloved country that I have gained from the journey into my own family’s history.  Then we have the next generation, our children, and knowing that the discoveries you make about their ancestors, will affect just how much attention they will pay when it comes to learning about history in school.  Actually tying one of their ancestors to a particular time in our country’s history makes a huge impact on them — especially in the elementary age group.  Do I have any particular studies to back this statement up?  None at all.  It is all from my own personal experience and watching my own four children grow up.

Add this excitement onto that same sense of belonging and you would think that it should be a requirement for everyone to delve into their own family history. There you go again…snickering at me.  Or was that a snort I heard?  If everyone leaned about their past, think how much better we might all feel about our own lives. How much more might we be tempted to get involved in not only our own state but in our country?  If we could see some of hardships that our families endured, how could we not be affected and think differently about our own lives?  Whoa… this is getting a little too deep, but hopefully, you see where I am going with this.

I have to tell you that as for myself, I have gotten so much more than just knowledge from working on both my own family history and my husband’s family.  The feedback that I have received is enough to almost make this girl blush!  Not too long ago, my mother-in-law’s brother passed away which was terribly sad for this very close family.  The good part was that my mother-in-law had the chance to spend some time with her brother and guess what he mentioned to her?  He loved the book that I had made for their family several years ago. Of course, after we got done talking, I had to immediately go and pull it from the bookcase to look through again and what I noticed was how inviting it was to look through.  Bare with me as I explain!  I am not trying to be boastful about my scrapbook prowess; really!  What I want to get across it that it wasn’t your normal family history book filled with pedigree charts, census record printouts, and death certificates.  It was done more like a picture book with snippets of really interesting information. While there is definitely a place for all the documents that come along with a well-done family history project, making that connection for the reader is really almost as important.

So many stories… I hope you don’t mind!  They all help to make a point that I want to get across in the midst of all my attempts to entice you to take this project on.  My youngest daughter is in her middle-school years.  In Indiana, elementary students study their state’s history in 4th grade. Early in the school year, I approached her teacher to suggest that I come in and talk about Indiana’s pioneer history.  As the genealogist for The Society of Indiana Pioneers, I have had the opportunity to read and hear a lot about this topic and I was anxious to share some interesting snippets that I hoped might catch their attention.  As usual, working with my daughter’s classmates was such a wonderful experience — they really are so much fun at this age!  To my surprise, I was asked to talk in front of the entire 4th grade (4 classes worth.)  What was a little (…OK… a lot intimidating) for me at the beginning, quickly turned into a blessing for myself.  The best part came at the end when I asked if anyone knew any of their own ancestors.  I was blown away as the hands shot up and it was a good thing we had a few minutes left because they were definitely excited to relate to me all about their own famous ancestors. You could tell that some of the children were really having to put on their thinking caps to try and remember who one of their ancestors were that would equal some of the well-known names being mentioned by their peers.  This was fascinating to watch from the front of the class.  You would have to ask my children if this rings true, but I am pretty sure the idea that they might have been related to Pocohontas gave them the incentive to listen and learn just a little bit more when this time period came around in social studies class! The most important part of this whole story is that each one of the students that had some knowledge of one or more of their ancestors has some tie to the history of our country.  That tie is what will make them not only be a great person when they grow up but will also make them a great part of our country and its future!

Goodness… I am almost out of breath as I finish this posting. You might be thinking that I should have tired fingers from the length of this post, right?  Anyway… back to guilty pleasures.  There is nothing guilty about this because it is a win-win for everyone involved.  Take it on and then report back to me and let me know if I have lead you astray!

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