How to Collect, Share & Learn From Your Family’s Stories


Making memories may be easy, but remembering the stories you cherish and want to look back on can be a challenge. The ways we capture memories have changed significantly over the years and they will continue to evolve in decades to come.

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It’s important to think about how you want to remember family members and special moments of your life. Especially with technology and cultural norms changing so rapidly.

You may be able to list off some ways you share memories today. There are likely options you haven’t considered or others you may have forgotten about, too.

How Can You Collect Family Stories? 

Family stories used to be an oral history—stories told and retold to keep the history of your family alive. In today’s day and age, ways to collect family stories are endless! 

Here are several options to consider:

Time. Spend time with older family members and ask them questions. Ask them about your family history and family traditions. For example, what was it like growing up in a different time period? Consider asking about events of historical significance that occurred during their lifetime and how it influenced the way you live today. 

Collections. Collect memorable notes, cards, or journals from loved ones. And keep your memorable items for future generations! Family recipes are a good thing to keep and look back on. You may want to save these types of personal items in the same spot. It could be a folder, a memory box, or a special place on your computer.

Have a family show and tell! You can do this either in person or virtually. Everyone brings one item that’s important to them. Each gets 5 minutes to speak and explain why that item resonates with them. This activity is a great way to stay in touch with those who are important to you. You’ll also learn more about your family, and yourself!

Photographs and videos. Remember to take pictures and videos of special events and share them with loved ones! Today there are several apps to share photo albums with multiple people, which is a great way to share special moments with your entire family. You may want to write names, dates, and notes on the back of physical photographs so you can remember who’s who and the story behind each photo. These notes will help future generations know about their ancestors, too.

Letters. Letters are a great way to collect family stories. You can print and save certain emails, along with birthday cards, or even special text messages. Even though we have faster ways to communicate today, you can make correspondence special by writing physical letters to loved ones then saving their replies.

Create a memory box or altar. Memory boxes are a great way to collect multiple physical items or memories of a particular person. For example, you could put pictures, letters, cards, jewelry, and more in this box. If you’ve just lost a loved one, making an altar or memory box can help you heal through creation. It can help you unwind, reflect, and remember your loved one. These can also serve as a physical symbol of a person’s legacy.

Online memorial sites. Online memorial sites can bring people together to celebrate those they’ve lost by building lasting online memorials. These platforms are also great ways to bring people together who are geographically dispersed. 

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How Should You Store and Share Family Stories?

There are so many ways to store and share family stories these days. They can be handwritten or recorded digitally. You may want to sit down with a family member to write out specific traditions, events, or memories that are important to them and develop a family scrapbook. 

Here are some special ways you can collect family stories:

Journals. Do your family members keep journals? Have they kept them in the past? Being able to read about the daily lives of your family members may offer insight into what they spent their time doing, what was/is important to them, and who they chose to spend their time with. 

Email. Email is a great way to save and share family stories. Not only by writing to each other specifically, but also as a method of sharing photos, videos, music, and more. You could create a specific folder for emails between loved ones to easily go back and read later.

Voicemails. Believe it or not, saving voice messages that family members leave you is a great way to reflect. You can save these in an app or send them to yourself to listen to later. Pro tip: send special voice messages to yourself via text or email so that you don’t overfill your voice mailbox!

Create a family scrapbook. To some, scrapbooking may be a way of the past. However, it can also be a family-centered activity where multiple people get to share their perspectives and memories and fun along the way. You don’t have to be the craftiest person to take part in scrapbooking. You could even create something online through websites like Shutterfly. 

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What Can You Learn From Family Stories?

Family stories can give you a better understanding of individual family members by learning what they’ve gone through. You’ll learn about the types of situations they’ve encountered, how their lives have evolved, and the people and things that meant the most to them. 

You can also learn a lot about family traditions by sharing stories from one generation to the next. Maybe it’s a holiday tradition or recipe, even a hobby that’s cherished and shared across generations. It could be a story revolving around a physical item or heirloom that has been passed down over the years.

Another part of family stories is the passing down of character traits and preferences, stories that illustrate how someone managed their life in a good or a not-so-good way.

How someone confronted adversity, how they overcame a setback, how they accomplished something and at what cost—all to teach the next generation “this is what works, this is what you’re made of, and this is the stock you come from.”

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Meaningful Memories 

It’s always joyful to look back on fond memories with loved ones. Memories can foster feelings of happiness, help you remember people who are no longer in your life, and bring a smile to your face.

They’re also a way to continue loving someone after they’ve passed and are no longer a physical part of your everyday life. Not only do family stories connect us to previous generations of people, but they also connect us with future generations down the line.

Ultimately, memories help us understand who we are, where we came from, and the significance of special moments. They can be a tool for reflection, self-development, healing, and growth.

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