Many of us want to document the stories of our families. This is more than just a genealogy (which is a challenging undertaking in itself, but deals more with family trees than stories). Family history is more likely to be a narrative, that is, stories and memories about members of your family or your family as a whole.
What should you write about?
- You can describe the obstacles your family had to overcome, such as immigrating to a new country, dealing with illness or the death of a family member and the aftermath.
- Did you family move around a lot? Write about the places you lived and what effect they had on you.
- Were you labeled as a child? (The smart one, the pretty one, the athletic one, or the lazy one, for example.)
- What did birth order mean in your family? The eldest might have felt the need to be extra responsible. We middle children often felt as if we weren’t heard. The youngest might have been considered more indulged than the siblings.
- A friend of mine suggested people write about shifting family relationships. Maybe you fought with one sibling as a kid, but became close to her once you were both grown up. Or a sibling looked after you when you were kids, and now you’re taking care of them.
- Were you pushed into a career you felt was unsuitable? Or did your family support your goals? If they did, how did they do that?
- Is there someone in your family who had a large positive impact on you? A negative impact?
The ways you can look at and explain your family, perhaps with fresh eyes, are endless. You can explore these in writing family history.
I’ll be publishing more about writing family history (and its risks) and sharing some of the fascinating projects I’ve worked on with clients. (Names and other identifying information will be confidential.)
Here’s an excellent book about writing family history.
Jennette Marie Powell says
I can’t imagine anyone being interested in reading about my life, but then again, none of my ancestors were anyone famous or noteworthy, and I wish they’d written about their lives. Good points about the family relationships–that’s the stuff that would be really fascinating now!
Lynette Benton says
I agree with you, Jennette. There are so many ancestors I’d like to question, even about things like what they used for medicines (they didn’t run to doctors as we moderns do), and what a typical day for them would be like. My grandmother’s house had to be moved to make way for a throughway when she was in her sixties of seventies, and I’d love to know how she felt about that. She had lived there since she was 15 years old and her new husband built that house for her.
Lynette Benton says
Hi Jennette: Surprisingly, the memoirs and family histories I find most engaging are those about “ordinary” people! Actually, what you write on your captivating blog is like a book about your life!