Losing our Family Stories in 3 Generations

 

I hear stories all the time that people are amazed at how deeply they have been affected once they learn about their family’s history. It never surprises me. In fact I’ve said quite a few times that researching your own genealogy is,

“Better than any reality show out there.”

More than a feeling

Since I began my own journey discovering my family’s past, I could never understand where a certain feeling of intense well being came from until I listened to an opening session at the Midwestern Roots Conference recently held here in Indianapolis.

This feeling, which is hard to describe, stays with me all the time; it was and is a sense of very intense love and appreciation for not only my ancestors but also for my state and country. I’ve always loved history, and as the genealogist for The Society of Indiana Pioneers, I have the wonderful opportunity to steep myself in the rich stories and history of the state where I was born and grew up — Indiana.

Little did I know how all my knowledge was affecting me and I think that you might be a bit surprised yourself when you read the rest of the post!

That “aha!” moment

Curt Witcher never fails to catch my attention, whether or not he is talking about the Allen County Public Library Genealogy section or the topic that he chose for the Midwestern Roots Conference. He is and will forever be associated, in my mind, with the ACPL because of the tremendous job that he (and a lot of others, I’m sure) has done to transform it into the United State’s largest public genealogy library.

This year, Curt had the privilege of opening the conference and his title for this session was, “Your Story, Our History: The Power and Value of Story.” Well, let’s just say that there was never any question that this would be one session that I would for sure be attending and he didn’t let me down.

It gets Real

Of course there were lots of stories that Curt so eloquently told us but the part that truly caught my attention was his quote that

“If we don’t tell our [family’s] stories, they could be lost in just three generations.”

He went on to explain in more detail about the article where research claimed that children were more resilient if they had a firm knowledge of their family’s history.  Whoa… This validated me and instantly tugged at my heart; I knew this statement to be oh, so painfully true.

Here is another quote Curt zoomed in on:

“Children that know about their family history deal with tragedy better, and are more accepting of diversity.”

To sum it up, they are more emotionally stable and can handle the up’s and down’s of life much better. Wow… just wow… I felt so immensely warm and fuzzy when he stated that there was actually research out there confirming what I had felt for so long and still feel very strongly about. But to hear that there was proof, a real study that had been completed, confirming that family history does indeed give you a foundation to live your life to its best, well, that was priceless. I could have left after that and been quite content knowing that my belief did indeed have proof to back it up.

Ready for another quote?

“We hold our children’s histories in our hands.”

Oh, Curt really summed it up in those words, didn’t he? Now it is up to all of us to share this knowledge, our knowledge of our families and their stories, so that our children and grand-children will also know their stories and have a foundation to build their own lives upon.

Here’s the proof

The article, “The Stories That Bind Us”, written by Bruce Feiler, March 15, 2013 for The New York Times, gives a more in-depth explanation of the study and the epiphany that Bruce, the author, had within his own family. It is inspiring and if it doesn’t convince you to start writing down your own memories, I’m not sure that anyone or anything could.

In the article, the question is asked, “What would you want your great-grandchildren to know about you?” If you don’t start to write and narrate your own story and the stories of your parents and grandparents, then they will soon be lost. Remember,

“If we don’t tell our stories, they could be lost in just three generations.”

Oh, it just gets better, believe me! Let me leave you with another quote from the article, The Stories that Bind Us:

“Decades of research have shown that most happy families communicate effectively. But talking doesn’t mean simply “talking through problems,” as important as that is. Talking also means telling a positive story about yourselves. When faced with a challenge, happy families, like happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship. This skill is particularly important for children, whose identity tends to get locked in during adolescence.

The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.”

I’m in — let’s get started

So, what to do with this information? I think that we simply need to use it as a kick-starter to push this to the fore-front of our to-do lists. After all, what would you give to have stories that your great-grandparents had written themselves, all pulled together into one place, for you to read and enjoy and pass on to your own family.

Here are a few concrete things that you can start right now:

  1. Begin with yourself. Start a notebook of your own stories – in no certain order. Just simply let the stories come as they may. Look at photo albums and think about what is going on in the background of a photo – the story behind it. Think about places, people, emotions. It’s ok to start with the basics and then branch out. Don’t be afraid to talk about current events as well. Even tough times that you have gone through, is certainly worth getting down in a written form. You can even post photos into an app like Day One where you can talk about the picture and it will save by date. There is no time like the present.
  2. Start to add your parents’ and grandparents’ information, or if they are still alive, think about getting them on video or audio explaining about their childhood, marriage, work, and family. Photos are great conversation starters. None of these things need to take more than just a few moments, but it is important to keep adding more and more so that one day, you will find yourself with a rich history that can be shared for generations.
  3. Get the old photos out and start to write down whatever information that you might remember. These are great starters for your parents and grand-parents.
  4. And last, but not least, we need to start to share all this information in ways that our kids and grandchildren will be able to remember and take with them.

Here’s where the no-guilt, no-pain part comes in

So, I know this all really sounds like a huge commitment and that’s where I plan to come in and try to take some of the overwhelming-ness (can I use that as a word?) out of the project. As you follow along, my plan is to offer memory prompts to get you started with your own stories and ideas on how to get bashful parents and grandparents to start to open up and share their wealth of stories.

It is all a process, but it doesn’t have to be painful! (That’s where I plan on helping.) If you know someone that has children or grandchildren, please share this post. We tend to focus on making millions of memories with our children and grandchildren, but it’s equally as important that they know the generations that made them who they are and will become.

Help me spread a message that is part of what keeps our country and society functioning – our knowledge of our past so that we can make a strong future! (And no, I’m not running for President – even though my husband keeps on writing my name into the ballot when he is frustrated with the candidates [not even kidding there!])

Too many times we feel like we can’t do anything to make “things” better and here is one fairly easy way to leave your mark – by leaving your story.

Feel free to Share!

For anyone on Instagram, follow me on @_ItsaLifeStory where I show you how I am documenting my own family momentos for my children to see. How will they know what anything is if I don’t tell them! It’s just one way that I’m working through this myself in order to pass on my own memories.

For those of you on Facebook, I have a page for my website as well. You just need to search for “It’s a Life Story” or @itsalifestory. When you find it, click on the LIKE button so that you receive my updates. I have a lot going on between the FB page, Instagram, this newsletter and my website but I think that each one has their place!

To get you going, I’ve started a #MemoryMonday where I am going to be posting a prompt every Monday in Instagram and Facebook to inspire you to write down a memory that can be either long or short. It is all up to you. You can chose to write it on your own Instagram page, on your own blog, in an app like Day One, or on your own Facebook page.

In one year, guess what? You will have written down 52 stories or memories that you can compile into a booklet, pdf, or whatever kind of format that pleases you!  The main thing is that you will have started and one year from now, you will have no regrets and realize that it didn’t take all that much time to accumulate all those great stories!

Here’s a tip: I use the Day One app in the evening when I take a few moments to do some decompressing from the day! I can use a pic from the day or take a quick one of a photo or momento to use as my own memory booster. For anyone that also does scrapbooking, this is an excellent way to write your journaling to be used with a group of photos in a layout when you are ready to work on them!

Remember to SHARE this with anyone and everyone that has children and grandchildren! Let’s show them exactly how much we love them by giving them that all-important piece of ourselves! Suggest that they sign up for my email list to receive newsletters in the future so they can find the inspiration and ideas of how to get started as well as how to pull all their research and hard work together into one format that can be shared across generations.

Together, we can make sure that we will not be forgotten in three generations!

The Great Thanksgiving Day Listen — Let’s Do This!

The GreatThanksgiving DayListen graphic

Make Family History With An App From StoryCorps.

Can I just say that this headline from today’s Personal Journal section of the WSJ had my attention at first glance? It’s this article that has drawn me to sit down and try to reach as many as I can about the potential this simple, yet powerful App could be for all of our family histories. You can read the article written by Geoffrey A. Fowler HERE. Today, as I have barely finished my first cup of coffee, I am bursting at the seams to pass it on.

Time for Listening

Can I add my own challenge for the upcoming Holidays? This app is free. Let’s all download it and make a point to interview one or more family members.  Don’t let it wait for another holiday or think that you will see Grandma so-and-so at Christmas or at least next year. Let’s all take a few minutes out of our busy lives and sit in a quiet room with a family member, look in their eyes, and ask a few questions.

 

Be ready to listen – really listen. You might find that you have given them the biggest gift ever – the gift of your time. You might also find that you have given yourself the best gift ever.

Legacy

Anyone that knows me well, will tell you that I am all about family history. I love the research, whether in a library amongst all the wonderful books, or online while at home still in my workout clothes. I love the family photos that just beg to have their own stories told so that precious snippets in time will live forever. And, I love to uncover family stories that pull all my research and photos together into a powerful legacy.

StoryCorps

This app, from StoryCorps, might take your upcoming holidays from typical family get-togethers to something that just might live on forever. Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to bring families together and this is the Year of #TheGreatThanksgivingDayListen. You can read the story behind it HERE.

Options

Why am I so excited about this particular app? I’m always looking for ways to make the storytelling process as easy as possible and I have downloaded several very promising apps hoping to find one that allows me to either publicize it to the world or most importantly, keep it for my own archive. Most apps upload to one central online archive and are only available in a public format. This app has my attention because I can choose whether I want it to be public or stay private. This one has “options” and as my husband always says, “It’s nice to have options!”

Library of Congress

StoryCorps has been recording family stories since 2003 and they are all “recorded and preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.” This app is a spin-off designed to allow even more people to add to this rich archive of personal/family stories and now we can all join in the fun!

Sharing

The main point of this app is to upload our family stories to be kept within the Library of Congress, but I must say that the biggest turn-off of using some of the other apps was the fact that I didn’t have a choice to keep it private or share it publicly. I know that the idea behind this is to eventually share our family stories for others to listen to, but the feeling of losing control of my story or my family member’s story was enough to delete the other apps off my phone and never use them. Most likely, I will end up sharing all the family stories that I am able to record but it will be at my choosing – and I like that.

#TheGreatThanksgivingDayListen

Let’s all participate in this exciting event!  Then please share with me your thoughts. I would love to hear them and together we can discover more and more about the power of what this app from StoryCorps can do to help our own LifeStories live on.

Want some more inspiration? Try “Reality hits — Talking with your older generations just can’t wait!

 

Day One Journaling Tutorial: It’s your own Life Story

Day One Canva w Screenshot-

I know that we all like to think that every event will be saved in our memories forever – how could we ever forget? – but trust me, they will fade and suddenly you are left with only a general memory and not all the little details that made it so special. 

Day One App — explained in detail.

As promised, here is the step-by-step tutorial for the Day One app that I mentioned in my recent post titled “Its a Life Story Challenge.” (you can re-read it here!) Whether you are a parent, scrapbooker, and/or family historian, the Day One app is well worth the cost ($4.99 for iPhone and iPad.) Again, for some of you, this will be way too detailed, but I know that there are some that might find my tutorial very helpful so here we go…

Step One:  After loading the Day One app onto your phone, you will first get a black and white screen.  Always intimidating but absolutely no problem!

One Day app Step one pics

To get started, just click on the little camera icon to be whisked away to your camera photos or photo stream! The fun part is deciding which photo you are going to choose to represent your post. This app doesn’t have any editing features so I would suggest doing any fix-ups or cropping before you load it up.

One Day app Step one pics-2

Once you have selected your photo, it will come up with a little message box that asks, “Would you like to change the entry date / time to the Photo’s time?”  I like to revert back to the photo’s date and time so that it keeps a record of the exact day and time that I took the photo(its metadata.) If you are using a scanned photo, it won’t have the correct date so you can then enter it in or at least type in your best guess. Don’t worry too much because you can easily change it later! With this date feature, I can easily miss a couple of days and then enter them at a more convenient time (sooner than later!) and it will appear with the correct day and time.

 

Step Two: Journaling! Don’t let this intimidate you. Think of this as your own little place to write where you don’t have to worry about who might be looking and judging you. This is a safe place to write down some of the little details that occurred when this picture was taken. Sometimes, I only add one picture for an entire day and that’s ok as well. I am capturing my life and this doesn’t have to be perfect.

 

Some people like to have journaling prompts and others like to just write freely. I would just suggest that you include people’s names and the places where the picture or story are taking place. Maybe it would make the process easier if you think about your writing as if you were telling a friend of yours the story (Maybe a friend that doesn’t know anything or anyone in your life or circle of friends.) If you do this, I think that you will find that you put a little more detail in your writing naturally!

One Day app Step two pic

 

Once you have finished your journaling for this picture, you will hit DONE at the top right of the screen. Voila! You have written your first post. Believe me, they get easier with each one. In fact, I find that I am really looking forward to taking a few quiet moments to do this every day or every other day. What I am not doing is putting any more pressure on myself to have to do it every day.

 

I want this to be a present to myself and a gift to my children down the road.

So, what if you want to add two or three pictures or even more? That’s alright as well. It’s your journal and you can do whatever you want, right? There are days that I have been pretty busy, especially on a recent vacation, and I wanted to capture several small stories of the day and the people with me. It is very easy to just add another picture and I’m off telling another snippet of a story.

One Day app Step three

Step Three:  Once you have made your first post, you will see the photo and the journaling directly below the picture. If it is longer than will fit in that little tiny space, then you can simply scroll down and the rest of your story will unfold. Excited? I was thrilled on my first post and actually, I get a little happy after each one!

 

Let’s take a look at the bottom of the screen at the black menu bar. The first flag icon on the left is a link that takes you to the Day One website where you can post your entry online. For me, I am keeping my journal on my phone and backing up to my Dropbox.

 

[Note: You can set up the Dropbox feature back at the main screen by hitting <-Timeline <-Menu and then Settings and Sync. You will need to have Dropbox set up before you do this so you can enter your Dropbox information. If you are not familiar with Dropbox, it is a cloud storage that gives you access to your files from any of your devices: computer, mobile phone, or tablet. And the best part is that the basic storage plan is free!]

 

Back to the black menu bar. You will see an up arrow and a down arrow that will allow you to easily scroll through your entries. On a touch screen device, you can also swipe your finger up and down on the screen and it will move through the entries.

One Day app Step two pic-2

The (+)Plus sign brings up a choice to enter another picture or simply enter text. (Some times there just are not any pictures taken during an event, but it is still wonderful to journal about it!)

 

Step four:  We have made entries but what if we want to print them out? This is where it gets fun again. Let’s look at the little black menu bar at the bottom again. You will see a row of three dots (***) and upon tapping that feature, you now have options! Lots of them.

 

The best part of this whole app is that it can make my entries into a single PDF that I can save or print out and keep. Now I have something that I can hand down to my children. I can pick and choose which pages to keep as well. [Remember that with a PDF, you can delete pages and also choose which pages to print.]

 

There are other options that you might like to explore as well, including uploading directly to your Twitter account. I like the idea of this being a separate part of me and keeping it under wraps until I am ready to share it with my four children. I might even think about having it printed and bound into books for each year. Who knows, but the good news is that I am doing it. It is easy and combines both of my passions for photos and family stories.

 

Step Five:  Remember that black and white screen that you got when you first opened up the app?

 

One Day app Step five pic

You can always go back there by selecting  <–Timeline <-Menu. You can access the timeline directly from here as well as a calendar and photos and even any tags that you might want to add.

 

[Note: Tags are a great thing to think about adding up front or as you enter a picture. If you ever would like to see all your “Beach” photos or entries, you could simply go to this area and select the “Beach” tag and all your beach entries would show up in date order. Yes, this is a very good thing as Martha Stewart would say! You don’t even have to go hunting for a picture in your archive of when you went to a particular beach, you can simply select the tag. So, of course, you have to tag your photos when you are making your entries or go back and tag them later for this feature to work. That is why it is a good thing to think about it before you begin your journaling experience. You might even write up a basic list of tag names that you might think you would like to search on at a later point depending on your own needs! Names, places, activities, etc. Just look for the tag icon when you are entering your journal entry. It will prompt you at the top of the screen to enter a tag.]

 

As a scrapbooker for over twenty-some years, I have a passion not only for the pictures but the stories behind the photos. And, try as I may, there are times when I don’t get all the pictures into albums… Ok, maybe even years… but if I find a group of pictures within my photo archive (which is massive,) I could then go back to my journal and find that day. Guess what? All the details are now written down!  (Or I can use my tags as well as long as I keep using them.)

 

And if you don’t scrapbook, how does this apply? Ok, well, your children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren would be ecstatic to be able to poke around your journal and get an idea of all the things that you did on a daily basis. As a family history researcher, I would LOVE to be able to read my ancestors’ thoughts as they went about their daily lives. I can find the documents and possibly photos, but it takes a lot to be able to put yourself into their shoes and imagine what all they endured.

 

It’s those stories that give me strength and a foundation to live my own life. A bit melodramatic, yes, but I think that I am pretty spot-on when it comes to that desire to understand my ancestors better. I want my children to have a sense of what I was thinking as I went through part of my life. I’m fifty-three, ok, fifty-four, and I WISH that I had kept better journals during the time that I was raising my children. Now, as we are down to the last one at home, I can only hope that they will enjoy this small look into my life!

 

I’ve talked about it before… my mother passed away in 2000… and I still find myself looking for little tidbits of her writing or old letters that remind me about a particular time. If I don’t get anything else done in my own life, I am determined to leave a part of myself to my own children!

 

Please share this with your circle of friends as a gentle nudge to get started with our own Life Stories! It’s never too late — until it is too late!

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!