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Family Files

Sharing Stories

"I remember when I was your age I would…" We all have stories to tell. We are the authors of our own life stories. The longer we live the more stories we accumulate! There was a time when story sharing by elders served as a community building function. It was a way for younger people to learn about past history, their heritage and the heritage of others.

Today we live in a world where information is reported as it happens. Because of technology, we have an instant and permanent record of historical events. However, our personal stories, reflections, and opinions are not reported unless they are shared with others. It is still a personal responsibility for family members to make sure their stories live on through the generations.

Because older adults are living longer and healthier lives, it is not unusual for families to have four or even five living generations. Ironically, our world has become more mobile and fast-paced where families are often separated by geographic distance, work schedules, or children's activities. Because of this, the sharing of family stories may need to be done in a more purposeful way, taking a little work and creativity to help make it happen.

Here are a few tips for getting started:

  • Use photos for telling stories. Take out that box of unmarked pictures and record what you know about any of them on their backs (i.e. people, places, years, etc.). Pictures that mean nothing to future generations may be easily discarded. If information is found on the back they may become part of family history.
  • Use "keepsakes" for sharing family stories. Most of us have possessions we deem keepsakes. We usually keep them because of the sentimental stories they hold. Sometimes keepsakes have been handed down through the generations and represent significant family history. These keepsake stories should be recorded in a permanent way. Much can be learned about family members, past and present, through keepsakes.
  • All family members have stories to share. Just as it is important to know about the lives of our older generations, it is just as important for young people to share their lives. Young and old alike can learn from each other as stories unfold.
  • The good and the bad should be told. As humans, we experience both happy and sad times. Most of us like to tell about the happier moments, but the sad and difficult memories we have are also important. Reminiscing about these events may help us to work through unresolved conflicts or grief. These stories can be inspirational for others who may be experiencing similar difficulties.
  • Family traditions are stories too. Don't forget to identify some of your family's traditions. Some of your fondest memories may be directly related to holidays or childhood memories of family traditions. Sometimes traditions that have been forgotten are rekindled in the telling of stories.