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Updated on November 27, 2014

How to keep your story

You may think no one will ever be interested in your story.  You may feel you are not important and it doesn't matter what has happened in your life, but there are people who would truly enjoy learning about your life.  Think about your grandchildren.  The world you grew up in fifty or more years ago was very different from the world today.  They may have a hard time believing you might not have had a television when you were young, or that you had a party line telephone, or that computers were big room-sized equipment, or that you could buy a bag full of penny candy for a dime.  When you share experiences that you had with your parents or stories that you remember them telling, you help you grandchildren know their great grandparents even if they are no longer alive.  Photographs tell much about what things were like in the past.  Even the photographs of the recent past tell us much.  The photo in this introduction is a view of a snowy day from the front door or our house.  There aren't many snowy days in our town, so sometimes we forget that it can be cold and snowy.  With the way the climate is changing perhaps there will be even fewer snowy days and it will be important to remember how things were.

Who, What, Where, When, Why and How

How to start your story

When you start your story you can choose to write it chronologically or according to significant events. Chronologically is a sensible way to write your story, but we don't always remember things chronologically. We may remember an experience from before we started school that reminds us of an experience with one of our own children that just happened. We may start writing down what we remember and a week or a month later remember something that we didn't include from that time period. Fortunately with computers we can write what we remember and then add in the forgotten items easily later on. If you are writing your story by hand, write each experience on separate index cards or separate sheets of paper. Then you can shuffle the cards or the sheets of paper to put the experiences in the right order.

As you write about a certain part of your life, think about the answers to these questions: who, what, where, when, why and how. Think like a journalist as you first start. For instance, if you are writing about your birth, write down who your parents are and who was there at your birth. Write down who was waiting for you at home or who came to see you shortly after your birth. Write down what the circumstances were surrounding your birth. How were you born? Where were you born? Why were you born there? When were you born? What was the weather like on the day you were born? What was happening in the world on the day you were born? What name did your parents choose for you? Why did they choose it? Then write down how your parents felt and how your brothers or sisters felt. How did your grandparents feel?

You may not know all of the answers yourself. You may need to ask your parents, grandparents and brothers and sisters about how they felt or why your name was chosen. You could check newspapers from that day to see what was going on in the world and what the weather was like. By asking questions like these you may find out things you never knew before. Your children and grandchildren will probably be glad some day to know the answers.

Your Ancestor's Stories

Extending Your Story Into the Past

After writing your own story it would follow that you should write the stories of other members of your family. It is especially important to write about family members who have already passed on and who your children or grandchildren may only know through the things you share with them about those family members. Sadly my father died when my youngest daughter was only 7 years old. Her father's father died when she was 12 years old. Her grandmothers had died when she was even younger. Most of what she knows about her grandparents will come from what I tell her and what other members of the family tell her. It would be nice if they had kept a journal or a diary or had written their own life stories. We have a little bit that they have written, but not much.

Write about your ancestors the same way you would write your own story. You may not be able to put down as much information, and you may have to research to find things like marriage dates, birth dates, death dates, etc. When you find out information you can research more to learn more about that ancestor. I need to research the Battle of Bunker Hill now that I have found out I have an ancestor who died in that battle. History becomes more alive when you realize a great great grandparent lived through that historical event.

You may find information about an ancestor through a site like or put a name into and search. I have found information on my ancestors through both of these methods. Contacting other family members and asking for information that they have is another method. And there are sites where you can pay to research or have someone research your ancestors for you. I treasure what I have found out about my ancestors. Your descendants will probably treasure what you find out about their ancestors.

Write about Adversity as well as the Good Times

Do you ever have plans that you can't follow through on as you want to because of some kind of adversity? For instance I haven't had a cold in over three years, but I caught one this year and I spend a few days sleeping as soon as I would get home from work. There were many things I would have done during that time that I was sleeping, like adding to this website; but I felt sleeping and getting well were more important. Life is full of times when things are difficult and don't go the way we want them to. Perhaps it is a sick family member that we spend our time helping. Perhaps it is repairing something that is broken. Perhaps it is cleaning up after a disaster.

When we record out family's story we may want to remember only the good times. Definitely the good times should be remembered, but the things that were learned from the bad times can be just as valuable to your family. A bout of depression may be difficult to write about, but some years from now a grandchild or great grandchild may be dealing with depression and may be glad to learn what you did to cope with your depression. If you recovered quickly from your depression, they may want to try what you did. If you struggled despite all you tried to overcome the depression, they may know that something else may be necessary to help. Although no two situations are exactly the same and so the solutions may not be the same, it may help to know that some one else struggled with the same problems. So, as you write your story remember to include the difficult times as well as the good times. Record what you learned from both your good and bad experiences.

Think about your ancestors. What kinds of adversity did they have to deal with? What was it like for those who lived during the depression? Maybe you had some ancestors involved in the gold rush. What was it like for them? Maybe some of your ancestors were pioneers. What was it like for them? Maybe some of your ancestors were the first settlers in an area or even a country. What was it like for them? There have been many people who have lived without running water, electricity, indoor bathrooms, a variety and abundance of food, nice clothing, heat in the winter and cooling in the summer. Write about what conditions you ancestors lived in. Cameras, telephones, computers, electricity, cars, books, even the ability to read and write are relatively recent in the history of the world. When writing an ancestor's story, researching history during that time period to find out what things were like would help to add depth and understanding to their story. When you interview relatives for their life stories or other ancestor's stories, remember to ask how the things that were happening in the world around them affected them. If they lived during the depression, were their parents employed or unemployed? During World War II were they affected by rationing or by a family member serving in the war? In the 60's how were they affected by the Civil Rights movement?

We are not alone and unaffected by others around us. What is going on in the world does affect us. The clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the things we have in our home, how we spend our spare time can all be affected by what is going on in the world. Yet each person may choose to not be affected in the same way as others. Perhaps if you are like me you drive a 25 year old car, don't keep up with the latest fashion, don't watch a lot of TV, don't see all the latest movies, yet the new cars, the fashions, television, movies, etc. do affect your life because of how they affect others. Each story will be unique. Not all the veterans of World War II have the same story of their war experiences. Each story is different even though it is about the same war. So write about the uniqueness as well as the commonalities in your family's story.

Help with Writing Your Personal History

Create a Family Website

Creating a family website can be a great way to share your family story. You can purchase a website with a domain name and post pictures and stories of your family or you can use a free site where you can share photos and stories.

You can post photos, write stories and invite other family members to do the same. Just imagine how many photos and stories can be shared this way. Your family's story is most valuable when it is shared with others. Share your story today.

A Beautiful Tribute to a Mother

When I saw this video, I thought what a beautiful way to remember a mother. It reminded me of my own mother. I learned several of the songs mentioned in this song in Primary, and my mother was always there in Primary too. I don't have videos of my mother, and I have very few pictures of her; but I could imagine my mother in the place of the mother in this video. I am encouraged by this video to make a tribute to my mother. Hopefully sharing this video will encourage you to make a tribute about your own mother.

If you make a video tribute about your mother and would like to share it, leave a comment with the YouTube Video URL and I will share it here.

Family History Videos

Learn more about family history with these informative videos.

How History from Where You Live Can Add to Your Own Personal History

How's the Weather?

When you write your story, writing what the weather was like can add a lot to your story. What you did and how you did it is definitely affected by the weather. Maybe you traveled to see something special and because of the weather, you weren't able to see it. Maybe like friends of ours who made a trip back east during the summertime and ended up outrunning tornadoes, you have a lot of excitement added to your story. The weather really does affect our lives. Include information about the weather when it adds to your life story. It will make it more interesting and more real.

Illness Strikes

Recording illnesses doesn't seem like the best entries in your story. Illnesses are a time of discouragement, fear and sometimes wondering if life will ever be good again. I got sick this last week bad enough to miss work. I've had people ask me if I had the Swine Flu which has been in the world news. My symptoms were different, and I don't even live close to any confirmed cases of the Swine Flu. There is a lot of fear over this illness, so people ask.

Illnesses really do affect our lives. When we recover from an illness, we appreciate the good health we enjoy again. While we deal with the unpleasantness of an illness we learn patience and perseverance. Recording what we did to cope with an illness may be helpful to someone else dealing with a similar illness. If something we did made the illness worse, that information may be very important to another person. Describing the symptoms we have with a certain condition may help another person determine the disease they may be suffering from. Some diseases run in families so recording the information may help another family member determine what they are suffering from.

It would be nice if life were always pleasant and good. No one avoids problems, so knowing that others have struggled too can be very helpful. When you record your life story put in some of the health problems you've had. Then record the things you are grateful for: the medicine that made you better, the neighbor that brought over chicken soup, the surgeon that repaired the damage, the story that made you smile and most of all the wonderful feeling of having good health restored.

Make a Family Tree Chart

Displaying a Family Tree Chart is a nice way to remember you family. You can fill out all the information you have such as for your parents and your grandparents. Then if you need to more information to go back further go to and check to see if you can fill in the rest of your chart. Seeing the names of your ancestors can be a very rewarding experience.

Another Way to Add to Your Own Story

I've been reading about how helpful it is in life to focus on the things we are grateful for. It occurred to me that some of the most important things to remember about our lives are the things that we are grateful for. I've always known that pictures of family members and friends are important in our family histories and even pictures of places we've lived or visited are important too, but I think even pictures of things we enjoy and think are beautiful can be important to add to our stories too. A beautiful sunset, pretty flowers, cute animals, a nearby lake or river, your favorite chair, your bed, your dining table all set with dinner, a just baked batch of cookies, fresh strawberries from your garden, the first red tomato on your tomato plant, a beautiful rock, and any other thing you enjoy are an important part of your story. You may have been given a gift that won't last forever or you may not be able to keep it when you move or things change in your life. You may hesitate to throw out your children's drawings or clay sculptures or other creations. Taking a picture is a way to keep the memories of the things you really enjoy and to make them a part of your story.

Pictures of Things You Are Grateful For Add to Your Life Story

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Remembering Fun Celebrations

Armed Forces Day is celebrated in a big way in big way in our town. These celebrations are part of our story.

Pictures Make Your Story Come Alive

As you write your story, add pictures to it. Some of the photographs you have will inspire you as you write your story. The picture of you on your first day of school will stir up memories of what school was like. The picture of you with your grandparents will stir up memories of your time spent with your grandparents. The pictures of the family on a special trip will bring back memories of that trip. The pictures of your friends at your birthday party will bring back memories of that party and of those friends.

Adding pictures to your story is easy today. If you are writing your story in a word processing program, you can insert a picture whenever you want to. If you are writing your story in a binder or in a scrapbook, you can attach photos with photo corners or glue tabs in appropriate places in your story. If you are making an oral history in the form of a video, you can insert the photos and then narrate the story that goes along with the photos. You can also include keepsakes in your story by taking photos of them and adding them to your story along with a description of the keepsake and how and why it became a keepsake.

I found an autobiography of a great great grandfather online. It included photos of him and his wife. Seeing a picture of him and his wife and reading his story made him seem real to me and not just a name in my pedigree chart. When you insert pictures into your personal history, you will make it more enjoyable to read as well as making your story come more to life.

Meaningful Stories

I just finished reading this article about writing your story. Lessons learned from the experiences can make a story very meaningful and important to share. The suggestion is also made in this article to write some of your experiences together as a husband and wife. Once you marry much of your life is your story together. I hadn't thought how good that would be to work together on writing your story as a couple. Perhaps this article will give you some ideas about how to write your story.

Your Family Tree on Custom Products

You can share your family tree by giving gifts with your family tree on them or by using items or displaying items with your family tree on them in your everyday life. A family tree on an item will make it a unique personal gift. It will share your family's story to share a photo family tree. Gather all the family photos you have and then check with other family members for photos you are missing. Then create your photo family tree.

Family Photos

Wearing your family photos is a way that you can share your family story. You could make a necklace or a bracelet with photos. You could get a photo printed on a t-shirt. When I came across the following site, I was excited that you could put your photos on fabric. You could make a skirt, a shirt, a pillowcase, or anything made with fabric. What a fun way to share more of your family photos!

Make a Tree Mural

When I read this article I thought it would be a great way to display a photo family tree. You could create a string tree mural on a wall in your home and then hang photos of the family on it. Many people have photos of their family hanging on their walls. By creating a string tree on the wall the photos could be hung from each of the branches creating a family tree. Another alternative would be to paint the tree on the wall and then hang the photos from the branches.

Of course you could use a real tree if you have a potted one growing in your home or at Christmas you could turn your Christmas tree into a family tree by hanging your family photos from the branches.

What Would You Ask An Ancestor If You Could?

Sometimes I think about what it would be like to ask my grandparents or my great grandparents or other ancestors about what their lives were like. There are many unanswered questions and many things I don't know about my ancestors. As I learn things about them I wish I could ask them what it was like for them. In this life I may never know the answers for sure but the more I learn about my ancestors the more I come to understand them. Writing down what you know about your ancestors can help you come to understand more about them. It will also share what you know with other family members. Your ancestor's stories are part of your story because of how they have influenced you.

Create a Family Tree with Vinyl Wall Art

A vinyl wall art tree would make a great family tree. Once you've placed the vinyl tree on the wall hang photos where they look like they are hanging from the branches. This will be a visual reminder of your family tree constantly in view in your home.

Is it important to you to keep your family history?

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    • siobhanryan profile image


      6 years ago

      Very good-Blessed

    • JenaleeMortensen profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @dessertlover: Knowing your ancestry may help you find connections with people you may know right now. Yesterday I discovered someone I've know for twenty five years has some of the same ancestors I do. She shared about a series of books written from the diaries and journals of our common ancestors. I've got to get those books and read them so I can know more about my ancestors.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very nice lens here. I think it's very important to remember our ancestry and where we've come from.

    • Gayle Mclaughlin profile image


      6 years ago from McLaughlin

      Stories are so important to a family's history. I remember "Roots" on TV telling the "stories" of African Americans and how important that was--it started everyone talking about their "roots". Thank you for this article.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love all the different ways and ideas you've presented. Sometimes it's just a matter of finding a medium because one may think he/she cannot write well.

    • yayas profile image


      7 years ago

      Absolutely! I only wish that summa' my ancestors had written their stories. Anything would have been something that I could refer to an' say that I had something from someone in my past. I have been writing as many of the family stories as I can recall 'cause I don't want my grandies to be left with only wishes that they knew something 'bout their ancestors. Thanks for some great tips. :)

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      My family has been writing down their stories for several generations. I'm trying to keep the tradition going. Here are my lenses on the topic:

      Self-Publish Family Memories

      Octogenarian Self-Publishes Memoirs

      Write Family Memories for Our Echo

      Promoting a Self-Published Book

      Self-Publishing with Blurb

      Writing Triggers for Family Memories

    • Rita-K profile image


      7 years ago

      You have done such a beautiful job in detailing ideas for building a family story. I've always thought that a business could be built around collecting information for families who don't have the time or the desire to do it themselves. Just think of all the lonely elderly that would love to tell their stories to someone who cared...have you ever thought about doing that? I think you have the passion to do so!

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image


      8 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      One of the last times I saw my darling grandmother, whom I adored, she was 83 years old and said to me: "if there is anything more you want to know about my life, ask now before it is too late"! I wish now I had, as there is so much more I would like to add to my memories. Now I'm a grandmother and a widow and now there are family stories I want to share. I'm beginning to compile them a bit here on Squidoo and will be putting these stories in a notebook or some such for my children and grandchildren, as some day they too may be glad to have our family stories. Thanks for this wonderful 'storykeeping' reminder.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I find this very interesting and really a valuable thing to do.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      8 years ago from UK

      I think recording and keeping family stories is so important. It's not something many of our ancestors will have done, but in their day letters and journals were so much a part of their lives that these records frequently survived. We are yet to see if our digital records (blogs, etc.) will endure. So it is well worth taking the time to formally preserve memories for future generations, and also gives us a chance to elaborate on certain things rather than assume knowledge the way we do when talking to one another. Your idea to record the beautiful things is a lovely and original idea. We might not all live what we think of as exciting lives but we all have moments of experiencing beauty and things that make our hearts leap. I find that notion very inspiring.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image


      8 years ago

      Great Ideas 5* and I am bookmarking this! I hope you have some stories to share Share Your Family Legends

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I agree with you totally! Writing our own stories is one of the nicest things we can do for our families! Lensrolling to How to Write your Personal History!

    • PurplePansy LM profile image

      PurplePansy LM 

      9 years ago

      Nice lens! I especially like some of the questions you listed. They get me to thinking about things I could be writing down. I have always meant to start writing down family history stories. I just need to get busy and try it! Thanks for this lens!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      9 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Lensrolling to my Pendleton Memories - A Series

    • Family-Legacy-Mom profile image


      9 years ago

      I'm impressed. This is a great subject. You did a good job.

    • GypsyOwl profile image

      Deb Bryan 

      10 years ago from Chico California

      Great lens! I lensrolled it to my arts and creativity lens (and the 4th of july folks can get great ideas for scrapbooking celebration photos). Such great advice for documenting both the challenges and the victories. Could save our children or theirs from reinventing the wheel of healing or the tramatic events of unexpected illness that could have been foreseen and prevented.


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