People love stories. You might notice that you’ll forget most of a lecture, info session or sermon, but you’ll remember the stories that the speaker told quite easily. Stories engage the imagination and emotions, making them “stickier” in our memories than plain boring facts.
No stories are more engaging and meaningful than family stories, the tales of those who came before us and whose blood runs in our veins. These stories help us better understand ourselves and can offer wise counsel for life decisions.
We’re fortunate that today, there are multiple ways to capture and preserve your family’s stories. For example, you may have seen ads for StoryWorth, a subscription-based service. Every week, the participant chooses a question to answer via email, such as “What is the furthest you have ever traveled?” or “What is one of your fondest childhood memories?” Their responses are then compiled and released in a print book for their loved ones to enjoy long after they have passed away. Of course, there’s a cost: $99 for a one-year subscription that includes weekly prompts and a hardcover book at the end. But it is nice to have someone else do the compilation and printing for you!
Of course, there’s no reason why you need to pay a special service to capture family stories. You can do it on your own, and all it costs you is time. If you can type, try taking 10 minutes each day to write a short story from your life experiences. You’ll find that by devoting a small amount of time on a regular basis, the results add up quickly to a treasure trove of stories that your loved ones – and the generations to come who will never meet you – will cherish. Be sure to back up your documents somewhere other than your computer so that if your computer dies, your stories won’t die with it. Free email accounts like Gmail often come with free cloud storage, making your files more secure and easier to share with others.
Recording someone’s oral narratives is another very easy way to capture both the story itself and the vocal inflections that give it special flavor. It’s easy to learn; for example, RootsTech by Family Search has a free course called “Capture Family Stories with Oral History” (in two parts). Nearly everyone has a smartphone or other recording device these days. You don’t have to be a professional interviewer to ask Grandma some leading questions and record her narrative as she recounts her life experiences and lessons. You can save yourself even more time by using a free transcription service to turn audio files into print records as well. You’ll inevitably have to go through and correct some mistakes the software made in interpreting what it “heard,” but it’s a lot easier than typing every word yourself.
This holiday season, take some time to capture your family’s stories and rich legacy of unique and valuable human experiences. And don’t forget to share yours as well!
– Botetourt County Libraries