Knowing and sharing your family history is important and fun. Make sure you leave behind a personal history for your posterity – here are a few ways to record personal history. There’s something for everyone!
I recently read an article about the six things the happiest families have in common. It was based off of the New York Times Best Seller, The Secrets of Happy Families, by Bruce Feiler. This article was really fascinating to me, especially because several of the principals are things I’ve grown up doing and continue to practice in my own family.
The one that interested me the most was #2 – sharing your family history. In my religion, there is a huge emphasis on family history. We have family history rooms in many buildings, there’s a huge family history center in downtown Salt Lake City, and various centers across the world. I love finding out more about my family members and ancestors and trying to connect the dots.
In a few weeks, I will be attending the RootsTech Conference in Salt Lake City at a blog ambassador. It is the largest family history conference in the world, and it will be my first time attending. I can hardly wait! It’s a three day event with over 200 classes for the beginning to the advanced. There will also be a lot of fun events, speakers, and performers. If you stick around until the end of this post, you may just get a chance to win a three day pass yourself!
A few months ago when my grandpa passed away, I was looking through this huge book my parents had that had details about many of my ancestors. It was so interesting to read and learn about those who had come before me – their trials, joys, and their day to day life. It really made me want to be better about recording my own personal history, just in case my posterity want to see something about my life in the future. I’ve been thinking of different ways to record my own personal history. I thought I’d share a few of those ideas with all of you.
Instagram is rather popular nowadays. I know it’s one of my favorite ways to share little snippets of our lives with family and friends. As I go back and look at what I’ve shared over the past few years, it’s been kind of fun to relive some of the moments I may have otherwise forgotten about.
There are a bunch of companies that allow you to print off your Instagram pictures into a little book. I’ve avoided doing this because I couldn’t find one that felt affordable, without sacrificing quality. Then I saw my sister post about her Chatbooks, and I loved how they looked! For $6 per book (free shipping), you can print off around 60 pages per book with the captions. I ordered all of mine, and they are so fun to look through. Jack especially loves them. Instagram is a place where I post our day to day life, and it’s become a great scrapbook. I have it set up so they automatically send me my new book whenever I have enough photos.
You can get your first book for free by using the code Katie942. You can download the app for Android and Apple devices. They have other book options as well, but the Instagram series are my favorite.
2) Write it
This is probably the most common and timeless way to share your personal history – write it down! This could be in a journal, on a blog, on random pieces of paper that you collect in a binder…anywhere. Even if you think no one will care what you had to say, I can almost guarantee your family and future posterity will appreciate it. During college, I always bought these beautiful journals with paintings by Greg Olsen. I’m not the best journaler, and I often say anyone who reads my journals will think I was always sad (because I really only wrote in my journal when I was sad…or while I was dating Forrest), but I wish I was better. There are plenty of places online that allow you to keep a private virtual journal as well. I keep a private blog for Jack where I write him letters that I plan to give him when he turns 18.
If you write a family blog, there are a couple of different companies that will allow you to upload your entire blog and print it off each year. My sister does this, and I want to get caught up on our personal blog so I can as well. You can do this on Blurb (which is one of my favorite companies) and Blog2Print. There may be other companies, but those are the two I’m most familiar with.
Not a big journal writer? Consider writing out your personal history. I had to do this for a class one time, and while it took awhile to do, I am really glad I did. Although I’m only 25 (and I was probably 22 or 23 at the time I wrote it), it’s nice to have a little recollection of my life thus far that I can add to as I get older. Here are a whole bunch of tips on how to get started with writing your personal history.
3) Record it
Not everyone likes to write things down. Some of the people with the greatest stories and life experiences never write a thing down! Something I’d really like to do is record family members (either with a video camera or a digital audio recorder) and just ask them a bunch of different questions about their life. You can easily do this for your own life as well. Here are some great tips on how to record an oral personal history.
4) Keep a daily planner
This might seem kind of silly, but I think you can tell a lot about a person by what they do on a day to day basis. I personally think it would be really interesting to go through a planner of one of my ancestors from decades (even centuries!) ago to see what their daily schedule and life was like.
5) Save letters and cards
I never throw letters or cards – I have a little cedar box my mom gave me where I saved a bunch of notes and cards from high school. I recently looked through some of my momentos, and it brought back so many memories! In addition, I always loved looking at some of the keepsakes from parents kept from their younger days.
I think keeping cards and letters helps paint a picture of how others saw you and about special days in your life. Of course, you have to come up with a good way to store these, or else they can easily get ruined, but they can really tell a great story. Especially love letters! I remember when we were visiting my grandparents in Idaho once, we read some of the letters and poems between my Grandpa and Grandma, and it was so neat! Our contributor Kathleen shared a DIY card box that would be perfect for storing old cards and pictures!
6) Family Interviews and Time Capsules
I know a lot of people interview their kids each year, which I can’t wait to start doing when Jack gets a little older. It’s a great way to keep track of their hobbies, talents, and interests and different ages. Creating a time capsule with your family is also a fun idea to capture a little glimpse of your life at a certain time. Just make sure to put the time capsule where someone can find it!
This company tweeted me the other day about this new app, and it is really cool! It’s a great way to capture your child growing up. Basically, you take pictures of your child, their art work, special moments, etc., and then you can add an audio note describing it. You can do the audio, or your child can. It seems really cool. You can also create videos, so I think this would be a fun way just to do a video/audio diary.
These are just a few things you can do to record personal history. I really do believe it’s important to not only know about your past and family, but also to help your future posterity remember you! In that article I referenced above, it said:
… Researchers at Emory did this study that showed that the kids who know more about their family history had a greater belief that they could control their world and a higher degree of self-confidence. It was the number one predictor of a child’s emotional well-being.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly want to help Jack and future posterity to have a secure emotional well-being!
Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is currently training to be a Certified Lactation Educator. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.
I did something similar to your blog idea – I have an email account set up for my daughter where I email her pictures and videos and stories of our life. When she’s older I’m going to give her access to use as her own email account.
What a great idea! That will be such a treasure for her =)
Great article Katie. I always find it interesting to discover the new ways and suggestions people have for preserving their life story. And commonly it’s something very few people tend to think about until it’s too late. But your initial comment says it all – “It was so interesting to read and learn about those who had come before me – their trials, joys, and their day to day life.” This very statement is one of the prime reason why we need to preserve our history. Because the FUTURE generations of our family will one day long for those same “trials and joys.” 🙂 -Joe
I’d love to hear the keynote speakers and the expo hall looks fun too!