Using Objects Maps Events Brainstorming Using Literature Food Celebrations

Personal and Family Stories

Techniques For Remembering and Sharing Family Stories
By Elisa Pearmain

People of all ages hunger to remember, learn and share the stories of their lives and those of the people who came before them, but little time is given today to collecting or sharing them. Forces such as television, separation of families through immigration and moving, and the fast pace of life have all contributed to less time spent really engaging in conversation between family members. Studies have shown that children who are talked to and listened to are more educationally and emotionally literate. Children who hear stories about themselves , their parents and ancestors have higher self-esteem as they feel connected to others, and view their lives as important. Below are some suggestions for how parents, grandparents and teachers can remember, and help others to remember family stories at home or in school.

Using Objects

Create a memory box for yourself of objects and photographs that remind you of events and places from your past. Bring the box out at meal or holiday time to share with others. If you are interviewing a relative about their history, have that person show you objects in their home that remind them of other people places and events. Help them create a memory box. Create a box for different relatives from your past, and for each child in your family for their future.
Back to Top

Place Maps

Using large sheets of paper, draw the floor plan of a place that is important to you. It could be a house, an outdoor space such as a park or back yard, or a whole neighborhood. Show the floor plan to others and tell them the memories that you asociate with each place. Using sticky paper or writing directly on the map you can capture the memories that come back to you of that place.
Back to Top

Brainstorming Events

Most of us freeze up when someone asks us to tell them a story. Although we have thousands of memories stored in our heads that big question can be overwhelming. So start small. Memories are triggered by association so get very specific with yourself or the person you are interviewing. Make a list of the types of events that you would like to hear or tell family stories about. Here are some examples: Memories from specific time periods, objects passed down, first times, how people met, how people got their names, where were you when stories, work stories, family stories of supernatural events, immigration stories, most happy, sad, scared, confusing, transforming, embarrasing moments, what it was like when they were young, pet stories, interesting, famous or infamous relatives. Brainstorm your list of questions and themes before the interview.
Back to Top

Brainstorming on paper

Make a list either chronologically or by theme of every memory that you can think of. It need not be a complete “story”. See how one memory awakens another. Story Mapping or Webbing - In the middle of a piece of paper write the name of an event or person or place. Around it in little bubbles put memories that relate to the one in the middle.

Kitchen Table Style Brainstorming

The best way to get grease the old memory is to get together with a group of people and just start sharing memories. If you are interviewing someone on a particular subject you can get things going by sharing a few memories of your own, or anecdotes that you have heard or read. In the classroom the teacher can start the process with a short story that has a theme that the kids are likely to be able to have story memories to add to.
Back to Top

Using literature to bring back story memories.

Share biographical picture books, written short stories, or musical stories to develop curiosity in kids and story memories in parents.

Have a food celebration

Make a favorite recipe that has been passed down, bring the foods together with others and share about who made up the recipe and where and when they used to eat it.

Make a family history book together

Get all of your relatives involved in writing down and gathering family history information. Collect photographs and beside each one write stories and anecdotes about the people, bringing them to life for future generations. Include letters, diary entries, family trees, newspaper headlines, favorite songs, poems, and recipes in your book. A wonderful way to ease the grieving process if a family member has died, is to have everyone write down or share a favorite memory of that person and to put them together into such a book.

Make a family history audio or video tape

Interview relatives about family history and make copies for everyone to save and treasure.
Back to Top

Hire Elisa to come and lead a Family Stories workshop in your school, church or library!

Elisa Pearmain M.Ed Storyteller & Author
PO Box 634 Lincoln, MA 01773 (781) 259-0492

E-mail Elisa today!