For me, what first started as a passion project and a hobby has over time become a proud privilege and honor. I am the keeper of the memories, the storyteller of my family’s history, and yes, I am responsible for its passing on to others. I capture the stories of my family members, the experiences that we have together, our thoughts during each mundane day, and I pride myself in this job of keeping my family’s memories alive.
You Are a Storyteller
You can do this too. Make slow and steady progress, get help when you need it, and remember that collecting, editing, revising, taking 1000 pictures, journaling, and all of those things are storytelling. I like to think that storytelling is what we have all been doing since the first campfire was invented, so sit back, enjoy the fire, and become the family historian with ease.
This is larger than your own life
I guess we should start out by talking about why I think that it’s important for you to be the family historian. Someone’s got to be it, and it might as well be you. You are the only one who knows your own story, so it deserves to be shared, but often times others don’t know how to do this. If you’ve clicked on this blog post then you’ve already taken the first step in realizing the importance of capturing those family member’s stories for them when they feel as though they cannot.
This is larger than your own life because this is something that you can have, cherish, and then pass down to all of the generations to come. Being the family historian means you get to collect the memories, moments, journals, pictures, and all of the things that document the lives of your family members. It means that the stories you capture will live on past you. It means that you are sharing, teaching, and contributing to a world that reaches further than your own.
Finding your why
But even if you know that this mission is something that is bigger than your personal life, you still need to find your why. Ask yourself, why do you want to become the family historian? Why is it important to you that these memories be captured? And why are you taking the time to document all of these things? Finding your why can be the easiest thing, or it can be the hardest. My why is constantly changing, and that’s not a bad thing either. But currently—my why is because I want to show others that memory keeping is something that everyone can do no matter how consumed and busy they feel like their life is.
Don’t wish you would have started sooner
Honestly (and I’m not saying this to scare you), but the longer you wait the harder it gets to go back in time and the more memories you miss. I started my memory keeping journey when I was a senior in high school. Although I didn’t realize at the time that I was memory keeping then, I am now so grateful that I took the time to create a blog, post some YouTube videos, and journal all of the time.
So, you have to start now. There is no better time. And you really don’t want to wish that you would have started sooner. It’s hard to try to go back in time and relive those moments so you can document them at this future date. It hard to think about all of those memories that you missed that you could have captured so easily if it was their present. You’re going to have to jump into it, take the first step, and start now.
4 tips for getting started
experiment with different forms of media
There is no one way to be the family historian. It is all about memory keeping in forms that make the most sense to you. Try journaling, video, blogging, photography, or anything else that you can think of. Try documenting different things different ways. And just experiment with whatever you want because you are the keeper of the memories and not all memories need to be documented the same way.
write down everything that you know about your family
This is an exercise that I try to do in my journal from time to time. I just brain dump all about my family as if I was talking to a stranger that knows nothing about us and I had to tell him every last detail before it all slipped away. I write down their occupations, their middle names, their favorite things. I think about the way they act, the habits they have, the way that they make others feel, and the friends that they currently have. Writing down everything that you know about your family is a great way to get started in understanding what important features you want to document further while also taking a record of your family in this current moment.
interview your relatives and family members
I like to do this with video. And it doesn’t have to be something that is super formal. It comes out in my vlogs a lot very naturally, and it allows me to sit and talk with different family members at different times on topics that come organically. Interviewing your relatives and family members is an exercise that is very opposite to the one above. While in #2 I told you to write down everything that YOU know about your family, #3 is having you turn around and let that family member tell you the same things about themselves from their own point of view. It’s really important to get different perspectives while being the family historian!
share your family stories with others
The history of your family will not be passed on down to generations to come when you are not sharing your stories! Whether you bind everything together into multiple books, create a YouTube channel, or simply store everything on a harddrive that you can copy and give around, it is important to make sure that you have more than one copy of everything and that it is getting shared with others.
I believe that is so important that you be the family historian. And like I said, something that was once a hobby for me has over time become a proud privilege and honor. I am grateful that I have this opportunity to preserve the history of my little family, to hold on to all of the stories and the every day happenings, and to be the one that keeps these memories safe for years to come. I want you to have this same feeling too.
You need to get started in becoming your own family historian. If you have any advice for others or questions of your own, please comment them down below so that we can all talk, discuss, and learn from one another about the joyous task of being the family historian.