Part Three–Telling Your Story

You Don’t Have to be a Professional to Tell Your Story

    Some fascinating reading can be found in the old diaries or letters written by ordinary people living ordinary lives.

   Years after my husband’s father passed away, Hank was thrilled to find a small book in which his dad had jotted daily events. He only wrote a sentence or two per day, but chronicled events such as his son stopping to visit, the birth of a new calf, what he had for supper. You might find journaling a rewarding way to tell your own story.
     You might like put your stories in poetry form. One of my ancestors wrote a collection of poems about his life in the early 1800’s. One tells how he traveled by river raft to a new home farther west. Another tells how his children were saved when their horse ran away with their buggy. Still others are memorials to lost loved ones.
       Audio or video recordings of us telling our stories can be an especially precious gift to our descendants. At a family reunion, one cousin showed a video-taped interview with his elderly mother. She talked about her family and about growing up on the North Dakota prairies. Aunt Mary is gone now, but she lives on in voice and pictures for the great-grands who never met her. Some years ago, I turned on the tape recorder while my father told about life during the Great Depression, then transcribed what he said. He too has gone home, but we can live those times through his stories.

        Today’s digital cameras make taking great photos easy and cheap. But if those photos just go into digital storage we run the risk of losing them if a computer crashes or something happens to our cloud storage. Printing the pictures and archiving them in albums is a good way to enjoy them now and ensure something to pass down to descendants. Just be sure to label with dates, places, and names of people. Otherwise they might someday end up in a box of orphan photos in an antique store.

        My husband has been working for the past few years to organize family photos that came to him in old scrapbooks and cardboard boxes. They go back several generations. Because he remembers many of the people he is including anecdotes with the pictures, many of them humorous. It’s an entertaining way to carry on the family story. The albums spark questions, reminiscing and conversation.

        Or you can write a traditional memoir, choosing to write about your life from beginning to the present or perhaps picking out certain important events to tell about. Part of the charm of personal history lies in the “voice” of the teller. Regional expressions and individual speaking or writing style give color to a story. The grammar and spelling doesn’t have to be perfect. If necessary, we can hire someone to edit and type what we write.

    There are many ways to share our stories. What’s important is to do it.

*Top photo: Actress Mary Pickford at a writing desk.

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