At the end of the classic The Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge declares, ”I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”
As a genealogist I love and appreciate the stories and lessons learned by “living in the past.” But I recently received a gentle reminder that family history is not just about our ancestors. It’s also about us and what is going on now. Our stories today will become lessons for tomorrow. Spencer W. Kimball said, “No one is commonplace, and I doubt if you can ever read a biography from which you cannot learn something from the difficulties overcome and the struggles made to succeed. These are the measuring rods for the progress of humanity.” You are important, and your story MATTERS!
The beginning of a new year is a great time to pause and take a moment to reflect. What are you leaving for your posterity? How are you telling YOUR story? Here are 20 ideas that will help you tell YOUR story in 2020:
Keeping a Journal
I recently wrote about my motivation for keeping a journal and gave tips I learned from an expert journal keeper in my article “Tell YOUR Story Too!” Here are a few different options for journaling that I have seen. Think about which one might fit with your lifestyle and your personality:
A simple, traditional journal with lined pages–even just a notebook–is all you really need to keep a record of your life. From Spencer W. Kimball: “Get a notebook, a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity. Begin today and write in it your goings and comings, your deepest thoughts, your achievements and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies.”
If you have a hard time thinking of what to write, consider some of these journal options that provide prompts:
Promptly Journals – Their slogan is, “We take the richest stages of life and create a book of prompts for effortless recording.” Promptly Journals sells prompted journals for childhood memories, travel, love stories, healing, and more. I purchased their Love Story Journal for my daughter-in-law as a bridal shower gift, and I was impressed with the quality of the journal and the prompts provided. The prompts covered not only the time leading up to marriage, but also prompts that will last long into their marriage.
Line a day journals – If you feel overwhelmed by the idea of keeping a journal, a simple commitment to one line a day might feel more manageable. There are so many options for line a day journals on the market. When collected over a period of years, one line a day can provide a valuable record of your life.
5 Minute Journal – The 5 Minute Journal is another prompted option that is based on positive psychology research. Each morning you will record three things you are grateful for and ideas for what would make today great. In the evening, you will reflect on three things that went well and what could have made the day better. Each day includes a quote and a place to write a positive affirmation. This is a journal I would love to purchase for each of my family members! They also have a 5 Minute Journal app for those who prefer using a digital format.
Gratitude Journal – One simple prompt– “What are you grateful for today?” –is all you need to create a gratitude journal. The benefits of being grateful are scientifically proven, and a record of your daily gratitude will paint a beautiful picture of your life for future generations.
When I wanted to begin keeping a consistent journal a few years ago, I knew that I would incorporate the habit better if I could use my phone or my computer. Here are two options I looked at. Although I chose to use OneNote because of its flexibility to format my journal the way I wanted to, Day One was a close second.
One Note Journal – Microsoft OneNote is a digital note-taking app that can be used on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. What you write automatically syncs between devices and is stored in the cloud. Using a digital system like OneNote, you have the freedom to add or remove sections, rename them, and shuffle the sections around. You can also move entries from one section to another very easily–a capability that I love and use often.
Day One Journal App – Day One is an award-winning journaling app that allows you to make written entries as well as to add photos, videos, or audio recordings. Its “on this day” function allows you to go back and revisit moments from the past. Download it on your smartphone or tablet and journal anytime, anywhere. Day One also has an Instagram account where they provide tips and prompts to help you get the most from your journaling experience.
Express Your Creativity
If you are creative and want to express that creativity as you tell your story, one of these options might be just the thing for you:
Bullet Journal – The name “Bullet Journal” comes from the use of abbreviated bullet points to log information, but it also partially comes from the use of dot journals, which are gridded using dots rather than lines. Bullet journals can be simple lists of schedules, reminders, to-do lists, and brainstorming, but many people have evolved the practice into something more elaborate, including artwork in their pages and using colored markers and stickers to make their journals a way to express their creativity as well as documenting their lives.
Art Journal – From Art Journalist: “Some art journals are like sketchbooks, some are like diaries, some are like smashbooks and scrapbooks, some are a mish-mash of everything, some are perfectly organized and neat.” If you are an artist, using an art journal to tell your story might be just the thing for you!
Tell Your Story with Photos
If you like telling and sharing your story in photos, here are some great ideas:
Instagram – create unique hashtags for each family member or special event. When you search that hashtag, stories specific to that family member or event will be shown in your feed.
Prixm – a new social app that is similar to Instagram, but allows you to choose who to share your posts with. With its storyline feature, “you choose how to tell your story: what format, who to share it with (including a personal journal feature!), and what day and time stamp you want on your memory! Your Storyline will help you organize and visualize your memories for you, your family, and your friends in a way that matters.” Prixm rejects algorithms, “likes”, ads, and selling of personal information; their only focus is to empower you to document your life, and create communities that you care about. Learn more about Prixm here.
Chatbooks – Started as a way to turn Instagram photos into photo books, Chatbooks now also offers printing from Facebook, Dropbox, Flickr, or your computer. Print one book at a time, or choose to automatically print every time you have added 60 new photos. One feature I love is that you can filter by hashtag, so separate books can be printed for each family member or event using the unique hashtags I described above.
Project Life – If scrapbooking is your thing, Becky Higgins provides amazing tools to make scrapbooking simple and doable with her Project Life scrapbooking system. Choose from physical scrapbooking products or use her Project Life app to scrapbook digitally. Her mission is to “take the complication out of scrapbooking and give you a simple system to document your story while still living your life.”
Google Photos – Google Photos is, in my opinion, one of the best and easiest ways to organize and store your photos. Options that make Google the best for me include:
– I can back up unlimited photos and videos for free, up to 16MP and 1080p HD.
– Access to my photos from any phone, tablet, or computer on photos.google.com
– My photos are organized and searchable by the places and things in them – no tagging required.
– I can pool photos with friends and family using shared albums.
– I can print directly from Google Photos, choosing individual prints, canvases, or photo books. Google even creates albums for me and I can print them if desired.
Tell Your Story With Videos
1SE – I recently discovered the 1SE app. It stitches second-long snippets from your life into a compelling, personal movie. Creator Cesar Kuriyama writes, “I have recorded at least one second of video every day for over 6 years. At age 36, I now have a 36-minute video documenting every single day of my life since I turned 30. I haven’t forgotten a day since I started and if I live to see 80 years of age, I will have a 5-hour long video that encompasses 50 years of my life.” What an exciting way to document your story!
Your Life History
Perhaps you haven’t recorded your story and would like to go back and capture important moments and memories. Here are some ideas to help you begin to create a personal life history:
One-hour life history – If the task of recording your life history feels overwhelming, Carol Huber provides a step-by-step method for recording your life history one hour at a time.
52 Stories prompts – FamilySearch created a #52 Stories challenge that ran for a couple of years. They provided a set of weekly prompts to help you record your life history one story at a time. Although the challenge took place a couple of years ago, the prompts are still available. You can download all the prompts here.
Three-word prompts – This is an idea I heard years ago and I think it’s a good one. Memories about your life tend to pop up at the most random moments, but can be fleeting. By the time you have a chance to sit down and write about them, they might be gone. In order to capture these memories so you can record them later, keep a small notebook handy or create a note page in your phone where you can write three-word prompts that will jog your memory when you are ready to sit down and write. For example, my parents got me a used bike for my 7th birthday. My dad painted it royal blue and then added a new bright floral banana seat and a cute white baket. I loved that bike and I have a lot of great memories associated with it. I could write the prompt “Blue Birthday Bike” in my notes to remember I want to write about that birthday gift.
Access and Preservation
One thing to consider as you begin recording your story is how to preserve and share it with future generations. How will you ensure your story is not lost due to natural disaster or negligence? How will you provide access to your story to ALL your family members?
FamilySearch Memories – Adding photos and stories to FamilySearch Memories is a great way to preserve your story. The idea behind FamilySearch Memories is that it is a place to archive memories so they can be shared for generations to come. I love the FamilySearch Memories app – it makes it so easy to add memories anytime, anywhere. One thing to remember is that stories for living people are private until after they are deceased, so nobody will be able to access your memories until after you are gone.
Permanent.org – I recently wrote about “Curating and Preserving Personal Digital Archives With the Permanent Legacy Foundation.” Permanent.org is a good place to curate your own personal history. You can choose what to share, with whom to share it, and when. I plan to begin uploading my yearly journals to Permanent.org so I have them safely backed up and ready to share or publish to the internet archive when I feel the time is right. I am excited about the ability to share right now with other living family members so we can collaborate on childhood memories, family recipes, and more. Another thing I will include in my archive is video files. FamilySearch Memories does not currently have the option to upload video files, so Permanent.org is a great solution.
How will you tell YOUR story in 2020? There are so many options! The most important thing to do is to pick a method that fits with your personality and your lifestyle so that you can stick with it all year and into the future. Your posterity will be so grateful that you did!