How to Organize Your Family History
Have you lost one or both of your parents?
Interested in preserving the memories of your elderly parents?
Want to share the memories of your parents with others?
Why Preserving Memories and Stories Is Worthwhile
Have you sat and listened to your parents or another relative tell family stories, then wish you had recorded them or written them down? Have your parents vowed to write down all of their memories into a diary for preservation? Then before you know it, your parent or family member falls ill or passes away in an accident. All of the good intentions of preserving memories are now just that: intentions. People are often taken by surprise when this happens because we always think there’s plenty of time… another day… until there isn’t.
So, why put off tomorrow what you can start today? If you don’t do it, Who else will preserve the memories and knowledge of your family history when your parents are gone? The next time your parents or grandparents start telling a story, pull out your phone and start recording. Then take a few pictures while you’re at it—not just of your parents, but of everyone else there too. Making an effort to capture a moment before it’s too late is a simple and easy way to preserve your family history and create a family keepsake.
A hundred years ago, our only choice was to pass down family history through word of mouth. But today, we have so many more options—especially over the past 20 years. Photography and audio capabilities have jumped into the digital age. We no longer have to worry about audio tracks becoming compromised or damaged or photos aging, yellowing, and fading. With digital and online technologies, we are now able to preserve memories of our parents, families, and ourselves permanently.
Preserving Stories from Aging Parents
No matter who your parents are, they have infinite wisdom and a lifetime of experiences that they can pass on to you, your children, and to future generations. If you’re like most people, this history of where you came from is valuable information. There are two ways to go about capturing and preserving memories of your parents and other family members.
- You can ask them to commit to a process of writing and/or recording their own history.
- You can spearhead the process yourself.
We encourage you to choose option number 2, of course with some cooperation from your parent or parents. Why? Because it’s tough to ask someone else to commit to preserving your history. But if it’s important to you, you can take on the process and make it fun for everyone involved.
Plus, the side benefits of storytelling include creating opportunities to gather family together, incorporating family members to partake in the process, and making your loved one feel valued and important.
By the way, it’s not important to record your stories with perfection from the start. Try to refrain from interrupting or asking your loved one to start over. Simply capture the stories and personal accounts now, then edit and share them later.
Not sure how many long-term memories your parent or parents will remember? Try jogging their memory with a photograph, video or a physical item. Sometimes seeing something visual or handling a tactile item can help bring back forgotten memories.
Add Your Own Memories to Complete the Stories
You surely weren’t around in your parents’ earlier years, but you were present in their later years. And your memories of the same events can provide a different perspective—both then and now. Here are a few questions you may want to consider.
- What one or two stories do you remember most clearly about your childhood involving your parents?
- What are your earliest childhood memories involving your parents?
- What was it like where/when you grew up? How was this different from where/when your parents grew up?
- What memories do you have of your Mom and Dad of which they would be most proud?
What Key Memories or Milestones Should Be Recorded?
With so many decades of family history, how do you know which stories to choose from? What should you take the time to preserve?
Fortunately, your parents may decide this for you. The moments in time that have left the biggest impression on their lives are the stories they will likely recall. In addition, you can prompt them to talk about their childhood, school years, starting a family, career, etc. And you can even use this time to fill in some ‘holes’ in your own personal story.
With that in mind, here are some key memories you may want to preserve.
- Lifelong lessons and anecdotes
- Treasured stories
- Funny stories
- Turning points
- Joyful times
- Sad times
- Family traditions
- Struggles and challenges
- Proud moments
- Things they wish they could change
- Family history of other children
- Family history of grandparents
Creative Ways of Preserving Memories of Your Parents
When it comes to preserving memories of your older parents, it doesn’t have to be all business. There are many ways to make it a fun process for everyone involved.
Plan a “date night” with your parents once a week, every other week or once a month. Whatever you do, make it a part of your regular schedule. You may find that you all begin to look forward to these get togethers as they become part of your routine.
Sit down with your parents and just let them talk. Ask questions if you want, but mostly let them take the reins. Take out your phone or other recording device, get comfortable, and enjoy the stories as they unfold.
You also may want to uncover treasured items that are important to your family history. Here are some things you may want to consider keeping.
- Family photos, albums
- Family records
- VCR tapes / DVDs /CDs
- Scrapbook, memory books
- Life story
- Other items
And once you have gathered your treasured items, consider how you want to preserve them all. You may want to keep these items all in one place or keep some items in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box. Here is a list of suggestions for gathering and organizing items for your family history.
- Make a time capsule
- Assemble family photo albums or scrapbooks
- Save all photos and videos digitally
- Create a DVD or CD of treasured items, family records, and video and audio recordings
- Construct a family tree
- And more!
Once you’re done collecting and organizing your family memories, you may want to present it to your parent or parents at a special occasion, such as a family reunion, Celebration of Life, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Christmas. Don’t save it for use after they’ve passed away. Let them enjoy the reliving of their life now while they still can. That way, you can enjoy their reaction to the finished product and help them to know how much they are loved and appreciated.
Lastly.com Allows You to Share Your Memories Online
Lastly.com helps you put an end to family history and memories that are forever lost once your parent or a loved one passes away. That loss of history is often devastating. And once you lose the first-hand knowledge of your parents, you are left with recovering only bits and pieces of history through other means.
We encourage you to try Lastly.com as another way of preserving memories and your family history. Take advantage of the easy question prompts that will help you and your loved one remember forgotten details. And be sure to create your family tree and timeline. You’ll be glad you did!