Start Gathering Family Stories Today

“Every time a person dies, it is as if a library has burned down.”

Everyone has a story.  Our stories define who we are as a person and what part we played in the stories of our tribe.  Each of our stories has a life lesson that we can teach to others.

If you want your children’s children to know you, or your grandparents, and the history of where they come from, it is up to you to gather these stories.  You can compile them in a number of different ways–in writing, with recordings or in a video, or photoscribed in an album with detailed captions.

Fortunate indeed is the family who has an ancestor who is willing to give them a gift of self.  This is a history of who they are, where they came from, and the opportunity to study daily life in another time.

Gathering Stories

If you want to collect stories today, you can focus on a certain period or even a certain interest in the life of the loved one you want to write about.  You can do a  life review or personal history, a compilation of anecdotes, events and particulars.

Just as every individual, family, and story is unique, so are the methods of capturing, storing and sharing them.  While oral storytelling is the most fun and spontaneous, it is harder to share. However, many Native American histories and stories are oral. It takes a commitment and calling for someone to carry on the story to the next generation.

Taped stories or live videos are priceless in order to hear voice inflections, dialects and the tale as only the storyteller can share it.  These shared stories are best captured at family reunions or gatherings, when people are happy and healthy.   Be aware of background noise and lighting because it will impact the quality of the finished product.  It is better to have one narrator who identifies the speakers and keeps the group focused. Instead of a jumble of talking, laughing and eating, you may want to direct the conversation by saying, for instance, “What do you mean, Aunt Clara, when you say Grandpa was a man of means?”  Or, “Uncle Joe, we do want to hear about the house you guys grew up in, but first let’s allow Mary to finish telling about how she felt about moving West at such a young age.”

The audience will feel as if they are there when listening or viewing the recording later. If there are details or events you want clarified, in the proofing process you can discuss more.

Listening To The Story

The best advice I ever heard from Hospice training was to leave my ego in the car.  It is imperative that we always remember that story the belongs to the storyteller.  It is their story as they remember it.

We may be tempted to roll our eyes at stories of fifty enemy aircraft shot down or fish that were bigger than the boat.  If the listener does not show by body language and verbal cues that the story is interesting and valuable to hear, the storyteller will shut down.

Resist the temptation to interrupt or ever to say, “I know just how you feel,  one time……”  Remind yourself you the listener, the encourager, the recorder, but not the story teller.

Tomorrow I will share information with you on how to capture your own life story.  If you have more interest in learning how to write memoirs or family stories, you can also take a look at my five-star online course called “Write Your Memoir In a Weekend: Putting Life in Life Stories” on Udemy. For a special discount, enter the coupon code “Halfoff” when enrolling.
And, to celebrate National Women’s History Month, the ebook edition of Write Your Family Story: Leaving a Living Legacy is on sale on Amazon for 99 cents today, March 9, through March 11, 2014. From March 12 through March 15, 2014, the cost will go up to $1.99 before going off sale to its normal price of $2.99 on the 16th. 

Thank you again for being part of our caring community.

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© Judy Helm Wright,