Friday, March 31, 2017

What Does My Everyday Life Have to Do with Family History?

The terms "Genealogy" and "Family History" are used interchangeably these days, and those words often make us think about photos like these, and people we never met who lived 100 years ago.  Sure, these people influenced our family dynamic, but that's all in the past, right?

Yes and no.

As you know from earlier #familyhistoryfriday posts this month, knowing family stories and family history increases self-esteem and resilience and provides a sense of purpose and belonging.  That definitely happens from knowing the way-far-back past, but it also happens from knowing the last-year past.

Did you know that studies show that recalling happy memories actually increases happiness in the present?  It's true!

So if you don't have a lot of family stories from grandparents or great-grandparents, that's okay!  You can still create a sense of belonging and a source for increased happiness in your family right now by preserving current memories.

Telling today's family stories is often called "memory-keeping" (or "scrapbooking" in some circles).  It entails getting your photos out of digital form and putting them in print so they can be seen, held, and enjoyed.  It's where my motto, "Don't let your babies grow up to be jpegs" comes from!

The flash drives and external hard drives and clouds that seem so all-important these days do have some merits, of course, but the most meaningful way to preserve your photos is in PRINT.  That's how you tell, share, and enjoy your family stories, your "family history" in the making.  A CD just doesn't do the same thing.

We're doing some home improvements in our house right now.  My husband is working room by room.  A couple of weeks ago, he came out of my son's room and I asked how things were going.  He said things were great, he was almost done, etc., but that it had taken him longer than expected.  Before he moved a bookcase, he took all the books off the shelves, including scrapbooks (or memory books).  He decided to open one of the scrapbooks and got completely caught up in memories and said he loved it because it made him really happy.

And there you have it. Enjoying your family stories right now is the whole purpose of memory-keeping.  It's a simple key to happiness that we just need to pull out of our pockets and use.

I'm pretty sure my husband's experience would not have been the same if he had come across a flash drive in a drawer.

We'll explore a lot more about memory-keeping and preserving current family stories in upcoming #familyhistoryfriday posts.   And, you know, if preserving family stories or memory-keeping isn't something you really know how to do or isn't something you really enjoy right now, no biggieI gotcha.  Ideas, inspiration, time management tips, shortcuts, possibilities, solutions, the whole shebang.  #icanhelp  See you next week!

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This post was first published on March 31, 2017, at by Jennifer Wise.Save
Find more #familyhistoryfriday posts by clicking on the hashtag in Labels.

catch up on your photos: step 9

Step Nine of the Ten-Step Escape Plan:

CALENDAR your time and keep your commitments to yourself.  Memory-keeping is one of the best ways to spend your time because it benefits YOU (increase in happiness & decrease in stress) as well as YOUR FAMILY (self-esteem & heirlooms).  It's worth it!

(Did you miss the last Escape Plan Step?  Click the "how to catch up on your photos" tab along the top.)

Monday, March 27, 2017

What if I hate scrapbooking?

Good news, then, my friend.  Good news!

You absolutely don't have to "scrapbook" in order to preserve your photos and memories!  

It's true.  Memory-keeping requires memories.  That's it.  Find a do-able, high-quality method to preserve them, and you're done.  No "scrapbooking" involved.

Think about this.  Photography is 200 years old.  It can obviously exist without being scrapbooked.


There are so many obstacles to this scrapbooking thing that started 20-ish years ago.  Time.  Space to lay everything out and work.  Space to store everything.  Cost.  Interest.  

So I'm gonna preach it until I'm blue in the face:  You don't have to be a scrapbooker to preserve your photos.  You just have to have photos.

What I call "unscrapbooking" was first referred to as "storybooking" by the fabulous people who started Heritage Makers in 2004.  Whatever you call it, it's a way to preserve your photos with the stories or memories that belong to them in a meaningful, high-quality way. 

It doesn't take nearly as much time as traditional scrapbooking, and there's literally no space required for storage or for work except the space already occupied on your desk by your computer.  Everything is online in your private account, and that's all you need.  The cost is competitive and there are many additional benefits {which you can check out here}. 

And if you weren't interested in scrapbooking, you'll love the differences in UNscrapbooking (digital storybooking).  Your finished product can have a creative, scrapbooked look without any work, OR it can be a basic, clean, simple look.

Either way, you've found a do-able, high-quality way to preserve photos and memories to enjoy today and in the future.  #makesomethingmeaningful

To get started, go to the "how to get started" tab in red along the top and start enjoying all the benefits of memory-keeping WITHOUT the work of traditional paper scrapbooking!  

There are multiple digital possibilities for you there, so see which one fits you best.  They're all heirloom-quality with guaranteed photo privacy, so you can't lost.  

Just #dontletyourbabiesgrowuptobejpegs

This post was updated in 2021.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Four Creative Ideas for Sharing Family Stories

Have you started preserving your family stories yet?  Have you decided how you want to SHARE your family stories?  Having them is great, but having them accessible to as many family members as possible is ideal.  Today I bring you four creative ideas for sharing your family's stories.

If you missed {what's so important about family stories}, be sure you check it out at that link!


Storybooks, of course, are an excellent way to tell an individual's story. From adoption stories to life stories, storybooks are a beautiful way to preserve and share a family story.

What about telling Grandpa's life story as if he were the hero in a story?

What about telling your love story as a fairy tale?

Storybooks are also an excellent way to tell a family's story.  We often call that a family history.  Include pedigree charts so you know who is connected to whom.  Include photos of the old homestead or the motherland or early photos of family members.

What about creating a family motto and writing about "what it means to be a Jones"?

What about telling the stories of your legacy of faith or hard work?

Storybooks are a tactile way to bring information into the heart.  Learn more here.


Another fun way to really connect family members is by creating playing cards.  Yes, you read that right--playing cards.  

This set at the right has pictures of family members with some brief family facts.  You could use a family-themed playing card deck as a regular playing card deck (King, Queen, Ace, etc.), but you could also create a family matching game like this set.

You're just seeing the back of the cards here, of course, but the fronts have family faces for matching.

You can be really creative here and use your imagination.  What you're seeing here are templates, but they're fully editable, so you can change ANY element from the background and style to the way you want the cards to read.

I love this game called Family Trivia.  What a fun way to learn family stories in an interactive way!

UPDATE 2022:  The playing cards were made with Heritage Makers.  Heritage Makers and Snap2Finish became YPhoto under Youngevity (which purchased Heritage Makers in 2013).  YPhoto uses only templates, so the creativity showcased here is no longer available there, and they also no longer have capability to print previously-created projects like these from the old system. YPhoto is not a photo storage site like Heritage Makers was. Best-in-the-industry quality and permanent cloud photo storage with guaranteed privacy are required for anything recommended here by Photo & Story Treasures, so we highly recommend Forever.  Find other similar family-connecting products there.

How about another option for preserving and sharing family stories?

My mom was a cook.  Her mom was a cook.  And HER mom was a cook.  Preserving our family's history was really important to my mom, and one way she did it was by preserving the history of FOOD in our family.  True story.

But think about it:  A history of a family told through food and recipes can give an accurate description of everyday life for that family, the personalities of the family, and the times in which they lived.

My grandmother, for example, was a child during the Great Depression.  She was a naturally ingenious and resourceful woman, to boot.  She learned to bottle (or "can") things and would bottle everything you can think of, including chicken and fish.  She had a green thumb and a thriving garden every year, so their garage was full of food she had bottled.

Her mother, my great-grandmother, lived during a World War and the Flu Epidemic before living through the Great Depression.  Her gift was to bring joy, and she would invite neighbors over for games and cake--and she would bake a prize (like a penny or a thimble) into the cake!

Their recipes reflect their personalities and their local harvest as much as the times.  Recipes and original handwriting and stories and details really bring our family history to life.

Since my mom's original history of our family through food, I've made some family cookbooks myself and added current photos of each family member.  Family favorites are a fun way to focus on getting to know family members.  And you know what to cook when they come over, too!  Here's a great cookbook option.

Let's look at one more creative way of sharing family history.  This one is very simple.

Is there something you remember your grandma always saying?  Or your dad?  That's a part of your family history.  Those little gems often get passed down from generation to generation, but they often remain an oral tradition and don't usually get put in print.  Don't run the risk of those pearls getting lost over time.  Record them.

They could be part of a storybook or longer personal history or family story, of course, but what about putting that phrase into something you and your family could see every day?!

Like this sweet quote from Grandma Whipple (who, by the way, is not my grandma--I found this lovely 8x12 canvas in the Heritage Makers template gallery.  I kinda want to have this printed up and pretend she WAS my grandma, though!)

Think about putting a family quote on {a canvas or metal print}. These sweet little reminders are part of your family history, and an easy way to bring family history into your life every day.

These are just a few of the creative ways to share family history in simple, fun, and meaningful ways.  Writing a whole story is a fantastic, thorough way to communicate family history, but remember there are lots of ways to pass on family culture and experiences and history.  Find something that works for YOU.

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This post was first published on March 24, 2017, at by Jennifer Wise.
More #familyhistoryfriday posts can be found by clicking the label (#familyhistoryfriday) below or by searching it in the Blog Archive in the sidebar (scroll down).

catch up on your photos: step 8

Step Eight of the Ten-Step Escape Plan:

Start small and easy.  It really helps!  Start small and KEEP GOING!

(Did you miss the last Escape Plan Step?  Click the "how to catch up on your photos" tab along the top.)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Creating Family Stories

A family history is really a family's stories.  My story is what makes me ME, so it follows that a family story (or family history) is what makes a family THEM.

There's actually a lot of power in family stories, too.  Bruce Feiler's {article, "The Stories That Bind Us"} refers to some significant findings on how knowing a family narrative has a unifying effect on a family and on how family stories specifically help children.  Here's what the studies showed:  Children who knew a lot about their families and their heritage had a stronger sense of control over their lives, did better when faced with challenges, were more resilient, and had higher self-esteem.

Family narratives don't have to look a certain way.  They could be about overcoming difficulty, doing the right thing even when it's hard, or times when family members helped someone else.  Family stories reinforce the idea that we are capable and that there is hope.

Feiler also wrote a New York Times bestseller called "The Secrets of Happy Families."  In the book, he states, "Knowing more about family history is the single biggest predictor of a child's emotional well-being."

That's nothing to sneeze at.  Family stories are serious business, and telling them gets results!
How, then, do we tell family stories?
  1. First, start with what you know, as far back as you know it.  Write down whatever family history you know.  Where did your family come from?  What makes your family tick?  What makes your family interesting or unique?  What family stories do you already know?
  2. If you have living grandparents (or living great-grandparents, if you're lucky!), talk to them.  A recording that you can later transcribe (or even just refer to) is a good way to make a record of your talk with them, so think about setting up a video camera or just doing a voice recording.   Once they start talking, they'll probably think of stories they want to tell that you haven't thought to ask about. And don't forget to ask them to tell you about THEIR parents, too.
  3. If you have living parents, talk to them.  My advice here is to LISTEN.  You might think you know your parents, but you'll most likely be surprised.  Seeing them as people, individuals, is pretty enlightening.
  4. Write your own story.  Don't worry if you're "not a writer."  Pish-posh.  You have a story to tell.  However it comes out of your pen or keyboard is YOUR STORY, your way.  It's you.  Being natural and real will help family members get to know you.

If you're not sure where to start, ask questions.

Ask parents or grandparents (or yourself) where they were born, what their earliest memories are, what school was like, what their favorite hobbies were.  Ask:
  • about their favorite memories as a kid
  • their favorite and least favorite subjects in school
  • why they chose their career
  • a hard thing they overcame
  • the funniest thing they can remember happening to them
  • how they met their spouse
  • what memories they have of their wedding
  • what college or military service or trade school was like
  • about being a young parent
  • about church or civic responsibilities or volunteer opportunities
  • what they believe in
  • what their greatest goals in life have been
  • what makes them laugh and what makes them happy
  • what defining moments they had in life
  • what they always want people to remember about them.
Try to make these questions a conversation, not an interview.  Be interested, and make sure they know it.  Ask other questions that come to mind instead of just going down a list.  Ask them what THEY want you to know.

In my experience, most people don't think their lives or their stories are anything special.  But every single one is.  Especially when we're talking about family stories and family history.

And please don't worry if your family stories aren't very extensive.  I have family members of my own who would talk until their voices quit and family members who MIGHT give you three sentences about their lives if bribery was involved.  It's YOUR family, and within that family are a variety of people.  (As you well know, right?!)  Your family story should reflect your family.  Fill in the blanks if you can, but don't worry if you don't have a lot to go on.  Start with what you have.

Preserve and share your family stories.

Once you've gathered your family stories (which can and should be an ongoing process), it's very important to preserve them and then SHARE them.  I will literally get down on my knees and beg you not to type up your family stories and leave them in a word document on your computer.  The digital world is a fickle place.  A {Google study I read recently} states that if you keep your computer for five years, your chances of having a computer crash are ONE IN THREE.  At a minimum.

So if you have a digital version of your family stories, that's fine, but they need to be in people's hands.  This is me begging you to create a hard copy version of your family stories.  At the very least, just print out the document and tie it in a bow to give to people for their birthdays.

As I mentioned last week, storybooks are an easily-accessible, beautiful way to preserve and then share family stories.  {Here are my go-to recommendations for storybooks because of the heirloom-quality and the guaranteed photo privacy} plus {a few other perks, to boot}.

But there are other ways to preserve family stories, too.

Cookbooks, quote books, and even playing card decks are great options.  Remember the "family love stories" book I showed you in my first #familyhistoryfriday post a couple weeks ago?  There are lots of directions you can go for telling family stories.  We'll look at some more ideas next week.

Whatever you do, keep in mind what a great gift it is to know family stories.  In fact, it's the "single biggest predictor of a child's emotional well-being."Save

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This post was first published on March 17, 2017 at by Jennifer Wise.
Find other Family History Friday posts in this series by searching the Blog Archive in the sidebar (towards the bottom) or clicking the #familyhistoryfriday hashtag label below.

Hooray!  This post was a featured favorite here:

catch up on your photos: step 7

Step Seven of the Ten-Step Escape Plan:

Do what works for YOU!  It's so important.  Don't worry about what anyone (or everyone) else is doing.  Do YOUR thing!  

Which one of these three heirloom-quality options would be the best fit for you?

(Did you miss the last Escape Plan Step?  Click the "how to catch up on your photos" tab in red along the top.)

Monday, March 13, 2017

the best way to store your digital photos

This post was updated in 2022.

There are so many suggestions out there, so much advice, on the best way to store your digital photos.  How about we just simplify it?!

Advice from photo experts is this:   Store your digital photos twice digitally (two different ways) and once in print.

In fact, did you know if you Google "how to store photos," the one commonality in any article you read is this:  be sure you have a hard copy.

So let's look at the best ways to store digital photos in both digital storage and print storage.

The issue with digital photo storage these days is that you have to be careful.  Many companies data mine (sell your data and/or your photos), and many don't guarantee permanency (fine print says they can discontinue services at any time).  Most companies require a monthly maintenance fee, so you have to "pay rent" on the service indefinitely.

This option tops anything else I've ever seen:

If you're looking for permanent, private digital photo storage (plus video, audio, and PDF files!) learn more here, or watch:

There are a lot of reasons that Forever Storage tops anything else I've ever seen.  This covers most of it:

Nobody else offers this.  Apple terms and conditions, for example, state that your account is terminated upon your death.  Shutterfly terms and conditions state that they can discontinue their services at any time, "with or without notice."  Many others reserve rights to your photos and your data.  Google says they can share your photos if you've made them visible to others.  

None of that is what I want for my photos.

One other caution about storing your digital photos digitally.  Photo experts say to store digital photos in one onsite place and one offsite place.  Onsite basically means "at home."  I used to store my digital photos in two onsite places.  I have my computer and an external hard drive.  However, both of those items are sitting right next to each other in my office.  So if a tornado comes through and rips the office off my house, all my digital photo files are gone.

That's why offsite matters.  Getting them in one more spot besides your house where a disaster could occur (even just a leaky roof that drips onto your electronics and ruins them would do it) matters.  Offsite means "not at your house."  It's often called cloud storage where your photo files are saved on an internet-based server.  

And don't miss that little bullet point "triple-backed up."  Forever uses three servers in different locations.  Plus, they use bank encrypted security.  

We're talking about the best way to store your digital photos here, so I'm sure you can see why I consider Forever Storage the best!  This little one-minute video is a great overview with a perfect analogy.

As great as storing your photos digitally is, you don't take photos in order to store them.  You take photos in order to SEE them.

Do whatever you need to do to make it affordable, like catching sales and joining the free Club program, but whatever you do, DO NOT SKIMP ON QUALITY.  Nobody wants to spend time or money twice because the first one fell apart.

Although you can choose any top-quality method that works for you, I personally prefer and recommend preserving your photos with their memories using digital photo-storybooks using one of these options All the options listed there are beautiful, heirloom-quality, and a hundred other things, but one of the best things about it is that a digital copy of your completed project is stored in your account indefinitely.  

What that really means is this.  

I took a lot of photos on this special trip in 2015, the last family trip we took before my mom passed away.

If a toddler dumps juice on this book, or if my house burns down, I STILL HAVE THIS BOOK.

That's a huge deal to me.  That's an enormous deal to me.

I consider Forever the best option for storing my photos in print because they use the best binding in the industry (no more falling out pages!) and the best inks and papers in the industry as well, plus they offer me a 100% satisfaction guarantee so I know it's going to be right every time.

Not only that, but there are 3 different software programs available to preserve my photos and memories in this high-quality way.  So whether I want a push-of-a-button option, a professionally-designed template option that I can just plug my text and photos into, or fully creative and flexible digital scrapbooking software, I get exactly what I want.  Every time. 

You can see each of the 3 print platforms here, with a description of each and then a few minutes spent creating in each one so you can see what it looks like.

Keeping your photos safe and protected both digitally and in print is so easily accomplished at just one website!   As great as that convenience is, it's really all about the quality and the permanence and the guaranteed longevity and privacy--because that's what we really want for our memories.  

Get started now by following these 5 simple steps.  I'm so happy I did!
Everyone's looking for the best way to store digital photos!
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Friday, March 10, 2017

Preserving and Sharing Family Stories through Storybooks

Preserving and sharing family stories is a big deal.  That's because family stories give us a sense of purpose and belonging.  Children (including teenagers) develop a stronger sense of identity and overall have higher self-esteem when they know family stories.  In fact, hearing family stories actually helps children tell richer narratives themselves!  Preserving family stories inspires the person doing the preserving, of course, but it also benefits anybody who hears the story.

Storytelling affects our brains in a different way than just facts.  In {this article}, author Rachel Gillette wrote that when we read a story, the language parts of our brains light up, but so do any other parts of the brain that we would be using if we were actually experiencing what we're reading about!  (Talk about literally preserving memories!) 

We love a good story.  And we love it even more when it's OUR story.  Do you know how your grandma and grandpa met?  Do you know what hard times your mom experienced and how she overcame them?  Where did your ancestors come from?  What brought them here?  Are there stories of perseverance or faith or humor in your family?  Do your kids know what you were like as a 10-year-old?   What would these stories mean to you and to your family?

One way to preserve and share family stories is through storybooks.  I'm not talking about "photobooks."  Those are different.  Most of those have a place where you can throw in a caption here and there.  

No, I'm talking about a storybook, a place where you can actually tell Grandma and Grandpa's love story or and adoption story or the survival story of your family member with an illness, a place where you can preserve all the photos from one year in one book and tell the stories of the photos at the same time.  

This is family history--YOUR family's history--happening a century ago and happening last year.

We're not preserving our stories for some unknown future date.  Children and grandchildren will certainly benefit from them in the future.  But our stories are for NOW.  They connect us now.  They bring people together now.  They foster understanding and appreciation now.  They increase happiness now by giving us opportunities to reflect on good times and put bad times into perspective.

I remember reading my great-grandmother's story quite a few years ago.  She had a rough first marriage, saved up money over a period of months so she could run away with her three little boys (like "three-under-the-age-of-4" little) to a place she'd never been before, where she didn't know anyone. When she made it there, she got really sick and was hospitalized.  Alone.  

I remember reading her story and thinking, "Oh my gosh.  I have no problems at all." Family stories truly do give appreciation and perspective.  They make a difference.  And she was quite a lady.  I was glad to get to know her better even though she'd already passed on.

You could focus on one person's life, a couple's life, a family's life, or even the love stories of several generations.  Including 
photos and stories which really make a person you never knew into someone real whose life can make a difference in yours.
One thing I'm serious about is preserving family stories in an accessible and high-quality way.  That's where those hardbound books I showed you earlier come in.  Something tangible that people can physically touch and hold means so much more than a PDF file, and is so much more accessible.  And when you put something in a book, you want it to last and be passed down to another generation.  

These books I'm recommending are published with the highest quality binding in the industry and highest quality papers and ink.  They're intended to be heirlooms.  Like family stories should be. 

Don't worry about the HOW of telling the story--there are links to lots of storytelling prompts here.  

This is a simple platform for creating a storybook, and the printed product is heirloom-quality!  I show you the basics in about 5 minutes.

So the next time you think about "family history" as being walking around graves looking for names and dates, remember that family history really means the story of your family.  Yes, that can be found on headstones with names and dates, but it's really found when you write and collect and preserve someone's STORY.

Storybooks are an important and meaningful way to preserve a family story, but there are some other ways, too, so we'll look at some more ideas this month on #familyhistoryfriday.

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This post first appeared on March 10, 2017, at by Jennifer Wise.
Find the other posts of this weekly series by clicking on the #familyhistoryfriday hashtag at the bottom of each post.

catch up on your photos: step 6

Step Six of the Ten-Step Escape Plan:

Working with other people is helpful to some people and even crucial to others.  Check out the upcoming events in our online memory-keeping community at the "our community and events" tab.

(Did you miss the last Escape Plan Step?  Click the "how to catch up on your photos" tab  along the top.)

Friday, March 3, 2017

Welcome to Family History Friday!

NOTE:  My #familyhistoryfriday series originally ran each Friday from March 3, 2017 through July 27, 2018, then biweekly on Fridays through October 26, 2018.  Fellow blogger Krista Palo invited me to write blog posts for her blog, Evolve, focusing on connections, family, stories, memories, and photos.  The original Evolve website is now gone, so my Family History Friday posts will be reposted here at my own blog, LifeTales Books, backdated to their original posting dates.  So enjoy these inspiring and idea-filled posts by finding them posted on Fridays between March 3, 2017 and October 26, 2018.  Scroll down through the right sidebar to find the Blog Archive and you'll be able to find them all, or click on the #familyhistoryfriday hashtag at the bottom of each post to see others.

What do you know about family history?  What does that even mean?  What does it entail?  And what difference does it make?

Well, you might be surprised.

One aspect of family history, of course, is in the past.  Not surprising due to the word "history," right?  But did you know that another aspect of family history is the present?  We are living history right now.  Events that make up our life story are our history.  Life changes are our history, and those happen all the time.  Right now.  So family history involves looking to both the past and the present to capture and preserve what will be meaningful in the future.  Family history is essentially the story of your family.

Each Friday we'll be looking at one aspect of family history, and we'll do that through inspiration, ideas, motivation, solutions, and some really fun stuff, too.

There are lots of ways to make connections within your family, and I really love thinking outside the box and finding special and unique ways to bring people together and help them make connections.  And there are some awesome benefits of knowing family history, too.  In fact, many of them have been proven in scientific studies!
  • Children who are familiar with family stories have more robust identities and a sense of belonging.  
  • Teenagers have higher self-esteem and lower incidents of depression and anxiety.  
  • Connecting to your family story and legacy, both from the past and in the present, increases gratitude and gives a sense of perspective and purpose.  
  • Knowing what other members of our family have experienced and overcome gives us hope and strength.
So let's explore LOTS of ways to bring the story of your family (family history) into everyday life.  It makes an enormous difference, and it can be a whole lot of fun at the same time!  This month, we'll look at different ways to preserve and share family stories.  See you next week.

SaveThis post first appeared on March 3, 2017 at by Jennifer Wise.