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Sharing Family History: Where to Start

In part two of this three-part series, Lyn Jackson of Every Story Media offers tips to begin the process of capturing and preserving your family stories for future generations.

Now that we agree on the importance of saving and sharing family history, what’s the best way to begin?

Start with your photos; organize them into events like childhood, marriage and family, career. You could also arrange them by years or by people. Think about the stories behind the pictures and jot essential notes down.

Think about the family traditions and experiences that are most important to you and your family.

Which stories are the most interesting, compelling, funny, and essential to the family? These are important to preserve. Prioritize them.

It’s OK to start small. Accept that it’s not possible to do everything all at once.

Make sure you keep all of your preliminary, documented work, and photos or recordings organized and in one place.

Tools for Sharing Family History

If you decide to go on your own, rather than work with a professional, and don’t have a dedicated video device, use your cell phone. The sound might not be great, and the framing and lighting might not be ideal, but it’s better to have something rather than nothing. You can even do an audio-only recording.

Make sure you print out some of the most important and memorable photos. Too many of these will be forgotten, go unseen, or get accidentally discarded and be forever lost.

Benefits of a family story video include:

  • Preserving the family stories and traditions of your loved ones in their own words with sight, sound, motion, and emotion.

  • Understanding your roots – where and whom you came from, what they did that brought your family into being.

  • Perspective, understanding, and appreciation: an element of permanence, being grounded.

  • Pride in who you are, not just for you but also for your children and grandchildren.

  • It is the greatest gift, an heirloom like no other—precious and priceless.

We encourage working with a professional. At the very least you’ll actually record your stories rather than just think about doing it and never get it done.

Words from the Heart

A friend of mine brought this sad story below to my attention the other day. I removed some portions for length but these are all her words—used with permission.

“Here is what you should know,” she wrote. “I got 23 years, 2 months, and 11 days with my dad, and they were not enough. Forever, of course, is not enough—all of our parents leave us too soon. I was reminded of this first thing this morning. A friend of mine has stage 4 cancer. All I can think about are her two little boys. I want you all to tell your kids your stories. Let them videotape you. Please do this for your children. I beg of you. No one lives forever.

So here is what I wish I had, since I don’t have my dad: I wish I had his voice, recorded, preferably telling the kind of jokes and stories that my mom would scold him for. I wish I had video of him, doing anything. Most of all, I wish I had his stories. “

I echo her words, which are quite obviously from the heart. She also speaks from the pain of having lost someone she loved. She realized too late that she didn’t have his stories and had also lost the opportunity to get them.

Our mission at Every Story Media is to spare others the same pain.

In part three of this series, Lyn Jackson looks at why Every Story Media and so many others recommend video as the best method to document your family history.

In part one of this series, Lyn discussed why it’s important to capture and preserve your family stories.

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