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Seventeen years after my Grandpa Bob passed away, my dad planned a family reunion at a park in Northern Utah.
It’s hard to summon stories on demand; our memories just don’t work that way.
If you’re using writing prompts or trying to answer a list of questions, read through them at the beginning of the week. You’ll be surprised what you can remember after you let a question marinate in your mind for a few days.
He compiled the memories in a 16-page document and printed copies for everyone.
One of my favorite entries came from my cousin, Natalie, who signed off with an apology: “I’m not a good writer, so hopefully this all made sense. The stories Natalie shared were interesting and specific, full of fun details and sayings Grandpa was known for.
What matters is that our stories get told, in all of their imperfect glory.
Would you like to make 2018 a year to tell your family stories?Not only did he keep the original box for years and years, he also took the time to wipe off dirty lawn equipment before putting it away.I loved that detail; I can picture him doing exactly that.In a notebook or a computer document, write down each year you’ve been alive. Now start adding in all of the big turning points that divide your life into chapters: being born, going to school, moving, changing schools, reaching religious milestones, learning to drive, graduating, getting a job, changing jobs, getting married, having children.Unhappy events like divorces and deaths will make the list too. If all you ever complete in your personal history is this list of major life events, that’s a better than nothing.If you make a general statement, think about the evidence you’d include if you had to prove you’re telling the truth.For example, my cousin Natalie wrote, “I remember Grandpa always took very nice care of things.” If she had stopped there, it still would have been a true statement about Grandpa, but it became much more memorable when she added this detail: “If he used the weed eater, he’d wipe it off and put it back in the box.” Now tells a story about just how careful and meticulous Grandpa was.Return to top Not sure where to start with your personal or family history?Start by making a list of stories you want to write down eventually. Think about the anecdotes you find yourself telling over and over—like that disaster you narrowly avoided, that crazy coincidence, that one time you ran into a famous person.If you’re inspired to keep going, you’ll have a great framework for writing a thorough personal history.Add as many relevant details as you can when sharing a memory.