Whatever name you have for the stories of life—personal history, memoir, or biography—now is a great time to start putting the stories of your family into writing because November is National Family Stories Month.
Here are some things you can do:
- Check with your local library, writers’ club, college or university on activities that may be planned.
- Begin a family newsletter.
- Start a personal blog.
- Start a family website.
- Read or share a book about a favorite person.
- Participate in social networking.
- Trace your family history. Several free websites will help you do this.
- Subscribe to a free genealogy newsletter. An excellent one is by Kimberly Powell at About.com.
- Record interviews with elders at senior centers and send the recordings to them and their families.
- Bring your scrapbook up to date.
- Start that scrapbook you have been putting off doing.
- Create an online scrapbook or animated photo album at one of many free websites.
- Put together a family recipe book.
- Locate family or friends who have drifted away and telephone them.
- Assemble a digital photo album; makes a great gift.
- Create a short video on your webcam and email it to family members, or transfer the video to a CD and send by postal mail.
- Create a PowerPoint slide show of photos and comments and share with family.
- Purchase low-cost promotional products with family names imprinted and give to family.
- Join a local genealogy club or writers’ group. Your library can help you find one.
- Start a journal.
- Give journal books with blank pages to family members so they can begin writing their stories.
Thanksgiving is a natural gathering opportunity, so it’s a great time for grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews to get started on their stories. Stories can be goofy, serious, reflective, confessional, and healing. They can be of childhood, adolescence, marriage, work, vacations, immigration, holiday celebrations, and much more.
Children and adults can participate. Children can illustrate their favorite family stories using crayons or colored pencils on plain paper. Add a current flavor with digital photos taken by the children and printed on plain paper. Bind several stories with brad fasteners and a cover of colored construction paper with pictures cut from magazines. What a fun and treasured gift! Adults can use a digital voice recorder, video camera, or pencil and paper.
How do you know what questions to ask? Linda Spence has more than 400 sample questions in her book, Legacy: A Step-by-step Guide to Writing Personal History (Shallow Press/Ohio University Press, 1997). For more great books take a look at my suggested reading list at the top of the links on the right side of this page.
Photo courtesy Dorsey E. Levell from his book, Levell-Drew Family History.