New York State Funeral Directors Association

Years ago, family stories were passed down the generations through word of mouth.

It wouldn’t be otherwise a couple hundred years ago – when most people weren’t able to write.

After decades of mandatory education in the United States, most people are able to write, so today, there are few excuses to let important family history be forgotten.

Several calendar observances for the month of November provide ample encouragement to consider writing down some of your family stories – and there is quite a bit of help out there to make it easy.

Included in the growing list of November observances are National Family Stories Month and National Life Writing Month.

They’re lesser-known special recognition periods, but participating in them would mean a lot to your family today – and a great deal to your descendants decades from now.

WHY WRITE?

I’ve been trying to learn more about my ancestors who landed in Connecticut in the 1600s, and it’s frustrating. Dates of death and birth are great to find when you’re looking to confirm an identity.

But trying to gauge how the times of days past impacted the lives of ancestors is almost impossible.

One of my ancestors, Philip, walked from Connecticut all the way to Lake Champlain in the 1700s – helping fellow soldiers drag massive pieces of artillery to battle.

I wonder how his family fared while he was gone – who helped them get by? What did they do when they sat by the fire? What did they talk about?

None of them wrote anything I can find – so those questions will probably be questions forever.

Although many are able to write today, most don’t. The best you’ll often get in writing is an obituary that’s usually drafted by sad family members after a loved one passes away.

There are many ways you can record life events for your descendants to read; and the Internet is replete with pointers and advice on how to get started.

On the Hearts for Families website Blog, there’s an article from 2015 titled “8 Ways to Celebrate Family Stories Month” that has some great suggestions.

Tell stories about when you were a kid, or ask senior relatives to discuss their earliest employment.

The holiday season is a great time to consider recording some family history since more family members will be together. Unity of Family

Jotting down some notes about your relatives in a journal or diary is a great way to record some family history.

An article about writing a personal journal, found on the LifeHack website, provides a great reason why writing down your activities – and those of your family members – is important:

“Each day passes by and you have nothing to prove that it even happened.”

JUST WRITING ABOUT YOU IS OK, TOO

It may seem a bit overwhelming if you start writing down notes. Will you end up being responsible for writing down the history of your entire family?

For your descendants 200 years from now, some short stories about your everyday life would be a wonderful find.

You can always include snippets of character descriptions of your family members within the pages – just make sure your journal or diary is passed down in the family.

Sure, you won’t earn anything from it, unless you’re famous or have a massively interesting story to tell.

But descendants, years later, aren’t really looking for drama or fascinating stories.

They’re just looking for something – anything at all they can tie to you, and your writing would certainly be a windfall.

Sometimes, all you need is an idea to get started.

Author Richard Campbell shares some helpful tips on writing your life story in a 2016 article in Writers Digest. Granted, the article is geared towards selling his book, but he shares great detail that might help you get started.

Among the 10 themes are My Life’s Work and My Family, My Self. My Legacy Letter and The End Of Life are others in the list – visit the website if you’d like to get more tips on writing your story.

IF YOU CAN SPELL AND TALK, YOU CAN WRITE

I’ve heard people say they read this or that and marvel how they’d never be able to even start writing.

I think folks are concerned they’ll be criticized for their spelling or grammar – then I wonder who would even criticize another person for taking a step as important as recording some history for future generations.

People will understand – especially if they discover your writing a century from now. When they learn you loved the peace and quiet of the great outdoors or the cool feel of ocean water on your bare feet – the last thing they’ll be saying is “hey, it’s “bare feet” not “bear feet.”

You’ll be doing future generations in your family a huge favor by writing a journal, but that’s not the only benefit.

But from what I’ve read, making a journal a regular part of your life is said to bring health and lifestyle benefits.

Among these are greater concentration, better goal management and reduced stress.

You can find an eye-opening article about the benefits of writing a journal on the LifeHack website. CLICK HERE to see it.


EdsPhotoEdward Munger Jr.
Communications & Social Media Specialist
NYS Funeral Directors Association