Get Writing – Our Tips and Memory Joggers
Where to start?
First, we suggest that you read through this section to help you develop your ideas and trigger your memories and thoughts. Perhaps jot down the topics which come to mind that you feel comfortable to write about – people, places, events, family traditions, stories, keepsakes, photographs etc, as you read through the memory jogger questions.
Next look through the cards you have. They have different themes, so decide which stories and memories fit best with each card. There is no right or wrong, it is entirely up to you. If you want to check the full range of cards currently available and the themes they cover visit the Amazon Store – you may wish to add more cards to your set in the future.
Now you are ready to write as much or as little as you wish on the lined pages in the card you have chosen to start with. If you have too much to write in the card then you may wish to continue on a different card.
Remember, too, that the cards are versatile – you may choose to complete them alone or with other family members, they can be posted or given as single cards, kept or given as a completed set. The box set can be added to over time with more cards, perhaps completed by different generations of the family… and when the box is full? Just start another volume! You may even decide to write more than one set so that everyone gets a copy.
Writing about our family’s origins – where we belong & past generations
For most of us, a sense of where we have come from, our history and roots, is important to us. Often, however, very little information is passed on and family history research can result in a lack of detail about past generations.
If you record first-hand information about your parents, grandparents and other relatives, then just imagine how future generations will benefit from the written legacy you have started. Through your written record you will keep alive past generations of your family for others to know, too.
- Start as far back as possible. What do you know of the generations before your parents?
- You may be lucky enough to have a great deal of information to give. If so write down as much as you know about your grandparents and any other relatives – names, dates of birth, where they came from, their personalities and appearance, their working life, stories etc.
- Do not worry, just do what you can. Make it clear if the information you have has been passed down as fact or as a family ‘story’.
- Are there any family heirlooms passed down which you possess, or someone else in the family does? Can you describe them, their history and the story behind them? Is there anything to confirm their story (their provenance), such as a letter or receipt?
- What family possessions do you have that are precious to you and why?
If you have any old photographs of family members from previous generations, please remember to write carefully on the back of each photo who the people are, what the picture shows and the date, if known. The card ‘Old Photos’ can be used to help record some information.
Past generations – One generation back
- Having covered what you know about your grandparents and any other relatives, it is important that you look just one generation back, to your own parents.
(By recording first-hand information about their lives you are passing on to your grandchildren/great nieces and great nephews information on a generation that is 3 generations back!)
- Perhaps you could start with each of your parents, giving their full names, including maiden name of your mother, where they were born and their dates of birth.
- You might record what you know of their families – their sisters’ and brothers’ names and, if you know it, in what order they were born, with birth dates.
- What do you know of your parents’ schooling and early adult life?
- How did they meet each other and when and where did they get married or decide to live together?
- What jobs did they do and where? Are there any interesting stories about them, events they attended, places they visited, things they achieved?
- Describe them both physically (blue eyes, fair hair, 5ft 4 inches, etc.) and their personalities.
- If your parents are no longer living, when did they die and of what cause? Where are they buried, if appropriate?
- If your parents were married more than once, include your step-parent’s name, dates and any other information.
- Did either of your parents serve in World War I or II? If so this could be included in the card ‘Courage’.
- When did your parents retire from work? What did they do in their retirement?
- What sort of social life did they have?
Family Stories, Traditions and Celebrations
Without realising it, we have all inherited family traditions and ways of doing things, from stories to the way we speak, the words we use and the occasions we celebrate.
- Are there any stories passed down through your family? Can you record them and do you know their origin?
- What family traditions do you still carry on without realising they are traditions? For example at Christmas, New Year or at another special date or festival in the year? What events do you celebrate?
- In some families a bible was used to record births. Is there one to keep adding to?
- Do you meet up as a whole family and is this done at a certain time of year? What major events have you witnessed & celebrated?
- Do you have any meals that have traditionally been cooked?
- Do you have any family recipes that have been passed down?
- Are there any family songs or musical traditions?
- Are there any family pastimes or pursuits passed down? Indoor games or hobbies?
- Are there skills, a profession, that have been passed down the generations?
- Has there been a history of travel – any exotic destinations visited by anyone or lived in at a time when this was a real adventure?
Courage & Wartime Service
- Wartime is not just about those in active service, but the impact on the whole family and local community. How has your family been affected?
- Is there anyone in the family who served in World War I, World War II or any other conflict (current or past) and has a fascinating service record and stories to be passed on?
- Were any family members evacuated as children, where to and what were their experiences?
- Did anyone serve in the land army or factories during wartime?
- What was daily living like during wartime?
Culture & Religion
- Are there family sayings or words used? You many not realise that some of your common phrases are specific to your family due to the cultural background inherited.
- How would you describe your family’s culture?
- Is there a history of religion, if so what?
- What languages did family members speak or still do? Are there any dialects?
- NB. If you have any relevant photos remember to write on the back of each photo who the people are, where or what the picture shows and approximate date.
Your Early Life and School Days
- You could start with writing where you were born. Do you know what time of day and day of the week it was? Was there anything special you were told by your parents about your birth? Do you know what your family’s circumstances were at the time?
- Where did you live? What type of house was it and what facilities did it have? Did you have to share a bedroom or perhaps a bed with a brother or sister?
- How did the family make ends meet?
- Were you the first born or where did you come in the line of your brothers and sisters? How did you get on with your family – did you have a brother or sister you were closest to – perhaps they helped to bring you up? Was it a strict upbringing?
- What is your earliest memory?
- How were you looked after before you started school, at what age did you go to school and where? What do you remember about junior or primary school – did you have a teacher who has influenced your life? How did you get to school?
- What happened out of school at weekends and holidays? Did you have holidays anywhere?
- What happened at secondary school – where was it? What subjects did you like? Did you pass any important exams – if so what? Did you do any sport or out of school Clubs/activities? Again, did you have a teacher who has influenced your life? How did you get to school?
- Schools have changed a great deal. What facilities did your school have? What was the school day like?
- Did you wear school uniform or any special clothing?
- Did you have homework?
- Did you get into trouble at school – what were the punishments?
- Who were your friends? Did you have a girlfriend or boyfriend?
- Did you have a Saturday or holiday job?
- At what age did you leave school? Where did you go on to and why? If you went to college or university, where did you go and what did you do?
- Do you have any regrets about your education or, if appropriate, leaving school early? What would you have done differently if it was within your power to have changed anything?
In my lifetime
Many people feel uncomfortable when it comes to writing about themselves. If you do, then it may help to consider how little you know about past generations within your family. What would you ask them if you could? If you apply this thinking to your own life, what might future generations want to know about you and the way of life today?
Here are just a few suggestions:
- What has happened so far in your adult life? What jobs have you had, where have you lived, what travel have you done? Do you have any regrets?
- Can you describe yourself and your personality?
- What have been the highs and lows to date in any aspect of your life – work, family, hobbies, friendships?
- What are you proud of? When were you happiest?
- Were you present at any major event or what is the greatest moment you have experienced to date?
How the world has changed in your lifetime
During your lifetime the world will have changed – can you record how your life, home, local area has changed?
- What has changed in terms of transport, computers, media (TV/newspapers/radio/internet) and have you been able to keep up with it all?
- What changes have been difficult to cope with? What have been good? Have society and standards changed?
- How have you changed so far?
- What aspirations do you have to fulfil?
- How would you like to be remembered?
- What important information or possession would you like to pass on and have remembered and cared for?
- What legacy would you like to leave on your behalf and that of your family?