How to keep your family stories going for generations
Some of the best memories of my childhood are when we were gathered around the table after dinner with my parents and grandparents. While most of the time their conversations revolved around politics or current events, occasionally they would share stories about their childhood.
Those thoughts brought out another side of my parents and grandparents. It was strange to imagine them as younger people who did the same sort of things we were doing as kids. On some occasions, my grandmother would bring out her old family photos for us to look through and that made their stories come to life.
If you are looking for a way keep the family stories alive, but not lose the younger generation in the process, here are a few ideas to get you started.
Get out the old family photos and movies. It’s time to introduce all the characters. Show them Grandma’s prom pictures and Grandpa in his army uniform. Open the wedding photos and watch the grainy movies that didn’t have any sound. Talk about the people who have passed on, the changes in fashion and the family resemblances.
• Tell a story from when you were their age. Go around the room starting with the youngest person and tell a story from that age. For example, if the youngest is 5, share your own stories of something that happened when you were 5. If the next youngest is seven, go back around the room with 7-year-old stories and continue until all ages are covered and only one person can share their story.
• Play What’s Your Talent. Find out who you get your talents and traits from. Ask who can wiggle their ears, curl their tongue and who has a second toe longer than the others. Compare eye colour, skin tone, hair texture and height. It’s interesting to see a family’s similarities and differences.
• Take time for show and tell. Search the basements and closets to find old report cards, military awards, high school jackets, wedding or baptismal gowns. Kids will be intrigued by the special items that have been saved all those years. Pulling them out of storage will bring back memories and open the opportunities for questions and conversation.
• Search your family tree online. You can open the doors to the past with just a few details about your ancestors. Log into Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org and enter facts such as names, important dates and where those events took place. Even limited information will help you connect the parts of your family tree that you didn’t know existed.
• Play Who Tells it Better. I am sure every family has the same few stories that get retold over and over. With this game, everyone gets a chance to tell their version of the story. Vote on the best re-enactors to decide who told it best. The winner doesn’t have to do the dishes!
• Share the stories on paper. After the death of my father’s brother, he started writing down the stories of their childhood to share with my uncle’s children. The stories can be sent via email as they are remembered or collected and made into a book.
• Pass down to the next generation. My grandmother used to make homemade raviolis with her mother every year before the holidays. She shared those recipes and techniques with her children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren. Every family has their own traditions or special skills that would be lost if not shared with the next generation. What are some of yours?
• Scrapbook together. If your extended family just spent the holidays together or went on a vacation, why not collaborate on a scrapbook? You can each make a paper page to assemble a scrapbook for a grandparent gift (which can be a fun family event). If you prefer a digital scrapbook, look at Shutterfly, Mixbook or ask everyone to add to a file you set up on Google Docs.
• Create a new family story. Try something for the fi rst time as a family, whether it is snowmobiling, making homemade sushi or playing a new game. Share experiences that are so much fun that you want to do it again next year. That’s how new traditions are started.
Pam Molnar is a freelance writer and mother of three. As an amateur genealogist, she is pleased to be her family’s historian and story teller.