We all have a story to tell, but sometimes it can be tricky to know where to start. Leaving a legacy and sharing your life story could mean a lot to your family, so there’s no time like the present to sit down with a relative and record their stories, or your own. And if you needed more motivation – a recent study has found that reminiscing makes 80 per cent of adults happier than chocolate or sex!
Nowadays there are lots of ways of preserving the past – from family trees or memoirs, to more modern methods such as web archives or audio recordings – so here are our expert tips to get you started.
Your memories of childhood are sure to entertain the grandchildren, and you might be surprised at how little they know about the way things were – from punishments at school, to the types of snacks you were allowed. “Even if your story and your thoughts are only interesting to one person, they are worth recording,” says Andrew. “It’s enjoyable to recall your own memories too, even if you choose not to share them with anyone.”
Why record your memories?
“The world is changing so fast that details which seem mundane today will be fascinating tomorrow,” says author Andrew Crofts. “It’s a good idea to record or write down your memories just in case someone comes looking for them later.”
What should you record?
“Imagine you were reading about your grandparents and their lives, would it be interesting to just hear that they drank tea?” says Richard, founder of a website for recording your history. “Probably not; but holidays, Christmas, school days, first loves and experiences of raising children would be fascinating. Reflect on all the things that you wish you had known about your parents and grandparents, because you can be sure that your children and grandchildren will feel the same in years to come.”
How can you help a relative record memories?
“Ask them to start at the beginning of their life with their earliest memories, and then prompt them with questions that genuinely interest you,” says author Andrew Crofts. “It may be that they will skip details which they think are mundane, but which are actually fascinating to you if you’ve had different experiences.”
Learning about their childhood might help you understand them better in later life, or it may change your perception of members of your family. Alternatively you might discover something as simple as a shared interest. Don’t worry about going off on a tangent; recording memories is as much about the journey as the finished product.“Try to prompt them to talk about how they felt about situations, and not just state facts,” adds Andrew. “For example, if it’s appropriate you could ask them how it felt to go to war or fall in love.”
How should you record your thoughts?
Whether your goal is to write a book, or just to jot a few bits down, a recording device such as a dictaphone is a useful tool. “A recorder is handy as people often forget that it’s there, and conversation will flow more easily,” says Andrew. “You can always ask a grandchild in need of pocket money to type the conversation out for you afterwards.”
Traditional ways of keeping memories alive include creating a visual family tree and jotting down some of your memories onto it, or scrapbooking – adding in photos, documents and letters – which is a lovely activity to share with grandchildren. There are various websites available to upload and store content. Richard’s website www.lifetile.me lets you upload images, videos, word documents and pdfs to build a detailed picture of an event, before you choose who – if anyone – to share it with.
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