How to Avoid Saving Your Family Stories

Hell and family history have something in common. It seems the road to both is paved with good intentions and, while I cannot speak for the former, when it comes to saving family stories, scarcely a day passes when someone tells me that they “really must do something about it,” yet they never do…

These are great life stories; do you need to wait until something happens – perhaps an accident, an illness or a family tragedy? Then it is too late and the rich collection of stories is lost.

Here are the five top excuses I hear:

1. I don’t have the time. Are you saying that you cannot find 15-30 minutes in a week to sit down and write a very short story (perhaps with a photo or two) about some aspect of your life?

It’s like saving or dieting – a little bit done regularly will soon amount into something both worthwhile. What about trying one of these ideas to begin with?

  • an incident that happened in your life – a broken limb, family relocation, illness…
  • a person who had a big influence on you – a teacher, a coach, a grandparent…
  • a world event and its effect on your life – where were you when Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon?
  • a decision you made and the consequences of your choice…
  • One a week is 52 a year, a great start to any personal/family history.

2. I don’t know where to start. ‘Anywhere you like’ … you can put the stories into order later on – and it doesn’t have to be in date order either! Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:  graduating from school; taking your first child home from hospital; winning a final, representing your school/state/country… I can see it now “The happiest day of my life was…” (and off you go) telling them why.

3. I’m not very good at writing. Sadly this the most common excuse – many people are actually embarrassed about their writing skills. Happily there are some easy solutions. I use my webcam to record short videos explaining the stories behind family heirlooms, medals and jewellery. Holding the item in front of me and explaining its significance is a great way to tell a story. I then store the video  online where it is safe from computer crashes and creeping technological obsolescence.

4. I have had a pretty average life so far – who’d want to read my stories?  We can’t all win Olympic medals but to your family you are a star, one of the biggest in their life and they certainly don’t think of you as average – you are the reason they are here – I am certain there are things about your life that they don’t know, but would like to know.

 5I have already ‘done’ my family tree. Family history is not just the family tree – this comes as a surprise to many people. Instead it is made up of layers and layers of stories – national, international, local and personal, as none of us has lived in a bubble, isolated from other people.

The most important thing is to make a start. Nobody expects you to write ‘War and Peace’, just begin by recording your own stories from your own life and add the digitised photos, certificates and other keepsakes. There will be time later to start organising the stories into themes or chapters and to start editing your stories into a readable format.

Why delay? It’s your life, it’s your story, it’s your legacy – pass it on!

Annie Payne,

Start telling your story