Encouraging and Preserving Family Storytelling

Your family’s history is something that is all your own. It is a living and breathing thing, with new chapters added every year. If history is not preserved, it can be forgotten, and that will do a disservice to future generations. It is often said that the best way to know where you are going is to be aware of where you have been. With that in mind, telling your family stories should be encouraged, both to guard your legacy and to instill in the young the ways of the family. Here are some ways to encourage your family to preserve and tell the stories

Appoint an Elder

Many families have a person who is unofficially looked up to as the elder. This is usually the person who tells the tales of family history. Many times, this just happens, and these people will tell the stories to those who ask. If you specifically designate one person as the family elder, you can formalize the process where people hear the family’s history. 

When there is one person who is given the task, they will be more organized in the role. In addition, those who want to hear the stories will know who to go to and will be more encouraged to ask questions. The elder can be counted on to take a leadership role in the family. Choose someone who the family looks up to and respects and who has been around for a long enough time to have known previous generations. 

Hold Family Reunions

One of the best times for family storytelling is when the entire family is together. When the entire family is together, it motivates people who feel like they are a part of something bigger than just themselves. Oftentimes, they will leave a family reunion even prouder to be a part of the family than they already were. 

When you have a family reunion, you can assemble the entire family and have time to tell tales of your clan. When that happens, people will learn things that they never knew previously. It is a time when people can learn about other people’s experiences in the family. People may have part of the story but not the entire thing. When there is something as formal as a family reunion, there is time to just talk about the past.

Assemble an Oral or Written History

You just never know what you will find out when you encourage people to talk. When they know that something will be memorialized in something written, they will be expansive in their remembrances. If your family member is older and does not have the time or the ability to put something in writing, take an oral history from them. This can be something that lasts an entire day. You do not want to lose your family member’s recollections when you lose that family member. 

When they know that something may be the record by which they are remembered, your loved ones will tell you practically every story that they can think of so that nothing is forgotten. If you can assemble a book of family stories, you can distribute it to family members so that they have it as a keepsake. Then it can get passed down through the generations. Never underestimate people’s curiosity about their family members, even a century later. 

Interview Your Family Member

While an oral history is one way to get your family members talking, sometimes focused questions are even more effective to get them to tell their stories. The loved one may not even know what people want to hear. You can interview them as a type of news conference. Each family member can choose questions to ask of the loved one. 

It is better to prepare the questions ahead of time so that there are some coordination and forethought. This will also enable the family to work together to figure out the right questions to ask. One person may know of a few details of a story that others do not. Each person may have their own versions of something that happened. There is no better way to get the right story than to ask the person who lived it. This can happen around the holidays or at the family reunion described above. 

Just Talk

All the strategies above are great to find a formal way to get your family members to share their recollections. Sometimes, a simple causal conversation is the best way to get the family history out into the open for preservation. Loved ones may be guarded, but when you have an informal conversation, they may be free and open. Just staying in contact and having regular talks will keep the lines of communication open so that those who know the family stories will continue to share them. 

Preserve Your Artifacts

Nothing tells a story better than something that can be seen or touched. Visual evidence is always a cue that can spur someone to speak of their memories or experiences. However, your possessions may be at risk in someone’s house if something catastrophic happens. 

Heirlooms and irreplaceable items can be lost forever. Placing your items in a storage unit eliminates the risk that they can be lost to floods, fire, or theft. Your family mementos will be preserved for the next generation when you place them in storage. You can still easily access them while knowing that your special family possessions are safe. Find out how we can keep your family’s history intact for years to come.