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Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Family - May 2010

Tell Your Story
Your "Ordinary" Life May Be Extraordinary to Younger Generations

You remember hearing that your great-granduncle did something heroic in a war, but you don't really know any details. Maybe you know your parents lived through the Great Depression, but you don't know how they were affected or what they did to survive. Perhaps you know your family originally came from Europe, but you don't know exactly where and you don't know why they came to America. This is how valuable parts of your family history are lost: one story at a time. But you can change this.

When multiple generations lived under the same roof, you got to know your family history because Grandpa or Great Aunt Sadie would tell stories about your relatives, what they did and why. Now, you may know your genealogy back multiple generations, but without stories of who these people were, they are just names on paper. Stories and personal histories bring a family tree to life.

There is no greater gift we can give our loved ones than the stories of our lives.You are an important part of your family's history. By telling our stories now, we allow future generations to get to know our personalities, experiences and wisdom. No matter how ordinary you may think your life is, it can be extraordinary to your descendants and to future researchers. By recording it, your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will get to know you. You can examine the events of your life and the feelings you had, explore choices you made and roads you took, and honor those who helped you along the way.

You don't need to write your entire life all in one day, and your descendants won't be demanding perfection of you. They will be happy with whatever you leave them, be it ten pages or a hundred.

Begin with the basic structure. Start with where and when you were born. Then, tell a little about your parents. Later you may want to write about your parents' lives in greater detail. Concentrate on the feeling of an event. In 40 years, your family will be more interested in how you felt about a wedding or birthday party, not what food was served. Be honest and, if times were hard, do not gloss over it. Include details about your friends and family. Leave out negative feelings about others unless they are important to the telling of the story.

You could make a list of categories, such as memories of Christmases, school days, or summer vacations as a child, and start from there. Pick one of the memories, fill in details and begin to write it in story form. Once you have a few good stories written down, keep adding until you fill the category.

A concise personal history might describe a few of your childhood memories, your school days, your friends, favorite toys or pets, or it simply may tell where you grew up and what work your father did. Write about things you did as a child that are not done or done differently now. What was life like before iPods, cell phones, texting and the Internet?

And, your history doesn't have to be written. With today's technology, you can interview family members and record their memories, allowing future generations to see and hear their ancestors in a way that has not been possible before.

Most of all, if you have fun creating your personal history, your readers will most likely have fun reading it. Be creative and include whatever you want, such as photos, maps, pressed flowers from your garden, articles, recipes, poetry, favorite quotations and jokes, cards you've received - anything that you want to share.

No matter what approach you choose, you will have a better chance of success if you schedule time to record your stories and choose a recording method that you are comfortable with. It can be by computer, tape recorder, video camera or even a journal and pen. There are Web sites that can give you ideas, stimulation and information to help you create your personal history.

There is no greater gift we can give our loved ones than the stories of our lives. By saving our stories, we create a legacy for our families, make history come alive, increase our own appreciation for the paths our lives have taken, and ensure that our lives will not be forgotten.