Friday, June 29, 2018

Leaving a Legacy through Stories

"The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.”  -Kalu Kalu
This is exactly {why every human heart needs his or her family history}!  Stories give us a foundation, something to stand on.  Our experiences, our stories, shape us.  There’s always something to learn or appreciate or remember from everything we go through–even difficulties.  

From our own stories and experiences to the life lessons learned from family history, we are responsible for making sure our legacy is shared.  Family stories, including our stories as a smaller part of family stories, teach our children (and ourselves) that we can do hard things, that good times should be remembered over and over again, and that family ties can be a tremendous source of strength.

What is Legacy?

Everything we do and say is part of our legacy.  What will you do today that will be remembered?  In a culture that is so addicted to wasting time, this is an important thing to consider.  How much of what you do will be valued by friends and family 10 or 50 years from now?
"Please think about your legacy because you are writing it every day.”  -Gary Vaynerchuck
Your example, talents, gifts, and values are among the things people remember about you.  They remember your sense of humor, your mind, and the care you show them.  Yes, this may be what they remember about you when you’re gone, but this is also what they will remember about you on Monday when your name comes up at lunch.  

Your legacy is basically what you give to the world at this moment, tomorrow, and forever.
"Legacy is not what’s left tomorrow when you’re gone. It’s what you give, create, impact, and contribute today while you’re here that then happens to live on.”  -Rasheed Ogunlaru
Your Legacy

Now for all you SAHMs who are reading this between the fourth and fifth loads of laundry, know that your legacy is like everyone else’s:  it’s {drops of awesomethat accumulate over time.  (By the way, if you don’t know what Drops of Awesome are, you should definitely visit that link!)  You may not feel like your legacy will ever be like {Susan B. Anthony}'s or Eleanor Roosevelt’s, but it really will.  

You are creating people (think of that!), families, traditions, and life lessons.  Plus you keep those little people alive with the food, shelter, and clothing you work so hard on every day.  Your legacy will be a lot of things, but it is in large part a legacy of the purest kind of love, and it doesn’t get any better than that.  Ever.
Here are high-quality ways to record your story

Your story is important to every person who loves you.  Taking time to record it is an invaluable gift to them!  If you missed this month’s post about writing and preserving your own story, {you can find it here}.

Your Family’s Legacy

Your family’s legacy is your family’s stories.  It’s how your ancestors came to this country, and it’s what they did (and probably overcame) to get here.  It’s how your parents met, how you decided to pursue a trade vs. a college degree, your family’s faith, and what’s important to you.  Your family’s legacy includes funny stories, good memories of time together, stories of grit and perseverance, and cherished family traditions.  It’s your family history.

You can contribute to your family’s legacy by writing down what you know.  {Our story} and {your storyare good places to start.  “My grandpa always said…” and “I remember we would always…” ARE your family history.  They’re your family’s legacy.
"When our hearts turn to our ancestors, something changes inside us.  We feel part of something greater than ourselves.  Our inborn yearnings for family connections are fulfilled when we are linked to our ancestors.”  -Russell M. Nelson
Build Your Legacy in Three Steps

Brooke Davis breaks down legacy-building into three parts in her article {Three Steps to Building Your Own Powerful Legacy}:
  1. Look at where you are now, what you’ve learned, and what you can share.  (I love that she also mentions changing direction if you want to.)
  2. Focus on the message you want to convey, then work to develop it.  (“Your legacy is created by intentionally showing up.”)
  3. Think long term to the future while still being present now.  (Look at where you want to be over time.) 
"You began building your legacy the moment you came into this world. Now it’s time to start or continue being intentional about it. By starting with what you’ve already built, defining your message, and thinking long term, you can continue to become the person who has an impact both in this lifetime and beyond.”  -Brooke Davis

Brooke’s insightful advice can apply to both personal legacy and family legacy.  Look at where you are and where you want to be, then make decisions and changes and efforts to get you there. 

Remember that everyone’s legacy happens drop by drop.

Make a Record

Oral histories and oral stories are great.  Hopefully we’ve all sat at the knee of a great, engaging storyteller.  But for most of us, sitting down and reminiscing or telling family stories isn’t a very common occurrence.  If you’re anything like me, stories just sitting in my head somewhere can be forgotten.  Even if I remember the story, I can forget to tell it.  

I wrote a couple of months ago in {Building Bridges between Generations Using Photos and Memories} that it took a somewhat random moment for me to remember a life-changing experience I had that I had never told my children!  It’s a great story, and one I cherish, but it had never come up in conversation, so I’d never told them about it.  It just never occurred to me.

Create and publish {heirloom-quality digital storybooks here} or {let me do it for you}.

Taking the time to sit down and review your life (with its attending lessons and experience) is not only therapeutic, but it helps you remember things you might not otherwise.  A journal is a great resource if you have it, but if not, you can find some thought-provoking questions here.

This tutorial walks you through the steps of creating your own legacy storybook for your family:

Recording your stories is one of the best ways to spend your time because it’s one of the best ways to share your legacy with those who love you.

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This post was originally published at on June 29, 2018, by Jennifer Wise.  Find more #familyhistoryfriday blog posts about stories, photos, memories, connections, and family by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Overcoming the Memory-Keeping Obstacles of Time and Money

I've been a memory-keeping consultant and storybooking coach for over 13 years now, and I've talked to a lot of people who WANT to preserve their photos and memories, tell their family's stories, and create connections between generations using family history and stories.  I've found that the two biggest obstacles to achieving these goals are TIME and MONEY.

 (If you haven't been here before, memory-keeping means preserving your photos WITH your memories, not just throwing photos in a book.)

Last August I ran a series of articles on finding time and money for memory-keeping for a *blog I am a contributor for.  I'd love to share them with you today!  You'll learn:
Leave a comment and tell me what struck you in these articles, what made you stop and think, "I could do that!" 

*UPDATE 2019:  These blog posts which were originally published elsewhere have now been moved to this blog, LifeTales Books.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Your Loved One’s Story: Part of Your Family History

Learning, collecting, and then recording your family’s history can seem like a daunting task unless it’s broken down into parts.  It’s much more than time spent on ancestor websites or recording information off headstones, though.  This month on #familyhistoryfriday we have looked at many aspects of a family history:  family stories, your own life story, “our” stories (such as love stories), and more.  These are “bites” of family history, and they all matter!

You are the person best-equipped to tell your own story, so starting there is perfect.  Who do you know and love who might need a little help or encouragement to record his or her story?  It only takes a couple of generations before someone’s life story is lost to the world.  

My grandparents died before my children were born, so it falls to me to make sure my children know about my grandparents.  I can leave a legacy for my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the form of a written story!  Today we will look at a few ideas to help you tell the story of a loved one.

Photos and Reminiscence Therapy

Sometimes all it takes to begin telling a story is a photo.  If you are writing your grandpa’s life story, ask him for photos of him as a baby, as a teenager, in the military, at his wedding, etc.  Simply asking questions about the photos and recording his responses is a great way to get started.  Reminiscing itself can be very sweet.  Looking back on good times in life (or even hard things you overcame) is good for the soul.  Even people who might balk a little at being “interviewed” for a life story can open up easily when pictures are involved.

Have you ever heard of {Reminiscence Therapy}?  According to a study in Geriatrics and Gerontology International, Reminiscence Therapy can be an effective way to enhance the cognitive capacity of those with vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  We learn from the Alzheimer’s Association that with this particular disease, memories are lost in reverse order.  In other words, a person can’t remember yesterday but can still access the areas of the brain that house memories from 40 years ago.  Reminiscing reaches back to older memories, which are easier to access for those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Whether your loved one has memory struggles or not, photos are a wonderful place to start telling a story.  {Simple prompts} about each photo might include:
  • Who is in this photo?
  • When was it taken?
  • Who took this photo?
  • Where was it taken?
  • Tell me about the people in this photo.
  • What do you think about this photo?
  • What was your life like when this photo was taken?
  • How old are you here?
Questions to Ask

When trying to learn more about a person, it’s important to ask questions.  Even for people who are talkative or forthcoming with information about their life stories, having a list of topics and questions can ensure that you don’t forget about something you wanted to cover.  These two articles have several resources and links within them that will give you a great collection of questions to ask when you’re preserving a loved one’s story:
 It doesn’t need to feel official or stuffy– in fact, it shouldn’t– but the better prepared you are to know what you want to ask, the easier the life story can be told.

You can take notes or have a voice recorder or video recorder running in the background so you don’t miss anything.  Each of these options gives you something to refer to later.
"We need each other.  Those of us who are old need you who are young, and hopefully you who are young need some of us who are old."  -Marjorie Hinckley
Publishing Their Story

Once the story is told, there’s still one more important thing to do.  A personal story should not be just left on a computer.  Aside from the risks of computer crash or unreadable files, family members may not even know that special story is there or be able to find it among many files.  A story needs to be printed or published so that it can be read and shared.  I feel that publishing it in a special way with pictures included makes it a true gift.

2021 UPDATE:  Photo and Story Treasures recommends only heirloom-quality publishing with companies that will save your digital photo-storybooks in your account.  Both Forever and Heritage Makers prioritize quality, and you can learn more about them here.  Between the two companies, you can choose from 4 different platforms for creating books, so watch the videos at that link and see what works best for you.  

Alternatively, I can be the hands behind the physical putting together of a digital book for you.  Just {contact me} for information.

My Experience

I have written {my own life storybook}, which I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago.  It was a neat experience –kind of like extended journaling– to look back on my life and see what I have done, learned, and appreciated.  

The only other life storybook I have written is {my mom’s} (shown below), which I wrote a year after she passed away.  It was very healing and cathartic for me, and it really felt like a very special way to pay tribute to my mom.  And I loved that my whole family could enjoy it for years to come, too.

There’s just not a greater gift than to have something tangible to hold in your hand when someone is gone.  I pulled out my mom’s book on Mother’s Day this year, and it was a joy to focus on her talents, who she was, and my time with her when it would have been easy to focus on my loss.

Write your story.  Write your loved one’s story.  Someone needs it more than you know. 

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This post was originally published at on June 22, 2018, by Jennifer Wise.  Find more #familyhistoryfriday posts about stories, memories, photos, family, and connections by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

How to Create a High-Quality Family Pedigree Fan Chart Canvas

I am a huge fan of family history and learning about my ancestors.  I am blessed to have ancestors who were also serious about genealogy, so I get to read a lot of what they already learned.  It's amazing!  The sense of belonging is palpable.

Last November I wrote an article about family-themed gift ideas for a blog I'm a regular contributor for called Evolve.  I kinda spent way too much time looking out for great ideas, and as part of my search for super cool gifts I reached out to several Facebook groups I'm in to see what I could learn.  You can see all the neat {gift ideas for the whole family} here.  There are a lot of great suggestions there!

I honestly wrote the blog post for my readers--I wasn't really thinking of trying one of those sweet ideas for myself.  But then {Family Tree Prints} offered me a lovely deal as thanks for sharing their business in the article.  So I went on to the Family Tree Prints website and created my own pedigree chart using their software.

I hadn't necessarily been on the lookout for creating my own family pedigree fan chart because I create so many family and ancestor things using Heritage Makers -- I've made {storybooks of my ancestors} and {collected stories of my ancestors who were pioneers} and written {my mom's life storybook} after she passed away.  I make 4-generation pedigree books for each of my kids on their 12th birthday so they can see their connection to their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. I've got things on my wall and things on my shelf that show our family connections and heritage.

However, I didn't have a pedigree chart on my wall!  I was so excited to try out Family Tree Prints' website and software and see what I could do.  I chose a template where I could fill in my pedigree chart as well as my husband's.  Then I downloaded the large, high-quality JPEG file.

Family Tree Prints offers the software and templates, but choosing how to print the file is up to you.  OF COURSE I wanted to try it using a {Heritage Makers canvas}!  Family Tree Prints told me that they don't usually recommend canvases, only prints (like from Costco) because the fonts don't usually look very good on a canvas.  I knew it was a risk (and I'm not usually very risky), but I went for it.

I could not believe how beautiful it was when I got it back in the mail from Heritage Makers! *swoon*

These are actual photos of my family pedigree fan chart canvas hanging on my wall, but they really don't do it justice.

(So, of course, I emailed Family Tree Prints right away to let them know that their pedigree fan charts look wicked amazing on Heritage Makers canvases!)

We have a 2023 UPDATE before you read on:  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 for:  

·        creative digital scrapbooking applicable in a variety of photo products using Artisan software

·        easy photo-memory books using free AutoPrint and Design & Print software programs

·        private, permanent, secure, and guaranteed photo and video cloud storage (triple-backed-up and bank encrypted)

·        white glove digitizing services for old memories like VHS tapes, slides, old scrapbooks (scanning), 8mm film, audio tapes, and much more

Learn more here to  find similar products at top-quality with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.


There are different sizes and orientations of canvases, but you'd probably want a square one for this pedigree print.  You can choose from 8x8, 12x12, and 20x20.  I went for the big 20x20 and it is beautiful!  As far as using Family Tree Prints to create your jpeg file, they offer lots of styles and colors.  I chose the 4 generation pedigree for both my husband and me (the complete circle), but there are lots of other options as well.

What a great way to SEE your family connections every day!

This would make a very special birthday, Christmas, or anniversary gift, so Pin it and save for later!

Hooray!  This post was a featured favorite here:

Friday, June 15, 2018

Telling Our Story: Another Important Part of Family History

The best way to begin recording family history is to start with what you know.  You are most familiar with your own life, your own story.  Once you have recorded your own history (which we talked about {last week}), think of the “our” stories you know.  Maybe it’s your own love story.  Maybe it’s the life stories of your parents, or the story of how your grandparents came to this country.  What couple or family stories do you know?  If you don’t know any, who is your resource for learning them?  

Let’s look at different possibilities for “our story” as part of your greater family history, from Roots Stories to Love Stories to Everyday Stories.  See which idea resonates most with you on #familyhistoryfriday this week.

Love Stories

{Research has shown} that children who know the stories of their families are stronger and more well-adjusted.  Children who can answer questions like “Do you know how your parents met?” or “Do you know what your grandparents did for a living?” are happier.  Families are created by a series of love stories, so telling the love stories of a family can be a natural place to start a family history. 

I love this idea of telling a love story through a “He Said, She Said” method.  Each person writes his or her memories of meeting, courtship, engagement, and marriage, for the full effect.  (I love this little 8×8 storybook size.  It’s only $30 but will be the most-loved book in the house!  You can create something like this {here}.)

 Another idea is to more briefly tell the love stories of all the family members, from parents and aunts and uncles to grandparents or great-grandparents, all in one place.  This Family Love Stories book is a beautiful collection.  

One of the great things about preserving a family history or family story in a special way is that it also makes a great gift!  Grandparents would love a book with their own story in it.  Grandchildren would enjoy the family stories of the people they love.  A 12×12 book like this is $49 but absolutely priceless.

And we’re going to give gifts anyway, right?  Why not make them unforgettable for generations?

Roots Stories

Every family has a story.  Where did your family come from?  What were their beliefs, interests, careers, faith?  Who were your great-grandparents?  Family members obviously contribute to the family as a whole.  How did family members grow?  What turning points made a difference in their lives?
"Life’s tough.  Write about the hard times; it can help heal you and bless others.” –Legacy Tale
One idea for writing the story of your family is to write a brief life history of everyone in your 4-generation pedigree:  you, your parents, your grandparents, and your great-grandparents.  Include a picture if you can–that really brings ancestor stories to life!

I do this for each of my children when they turn 12.  It’s a beautiful gift emphasizing that they belong to something greater than themselves.  Their Roots Books are precious!  And, of course, I've made one for myself, too!

Life is fleeting, and time passes before we know it.  Take advantage of moments to talk with your parents or grandparents or great-grandparents before they’re gone, or before their memories aren’t what they used to be.  Write down what you learn because, if you’re anything like me, your memory probably isn’t what it used to be, either!

Everyday Memory-Keeping is Family History

 I keep a detailed account of our family’s history as we live it!  That’s what {scrapbooking or storybooking or memory-keeping} is.  I’m telling the story of my little family, from Christmas Eve dinners to award ceremonies at school to vacations and fun times.  I know I often mention the {scientifically-proven benefits of memory-keeping}, but it also counts as family history!  You’re telling your family’s story while it’s still fresh.  (Ask me about last year’s vacation when I’m 95 and you probably won’t get as many details.)

Don’t be afraid of memory-keeping if you’re not a scrapbooker.  Very few people are scrapbookers, but everyone has memories, photos, and a story to tell!  Everyone has a family history.  If you really want to make memory-keeping easier on yourself, {this post} has a lot of pointers and ideas for making goals into reality.

If you’re overwhelmed with your photos, my top suggestion, though is a family yearbook I taught an online class about this recently.  The layout of the yearbook helps you pick your favorites to put into print.  This, of course, reduces the number of photos you’re dealing with, making it much easier to create a family album.  It’s pretty genius, actually.  Check it out in this quick video:

Or if you'd rather have full flexibility and creativity on your pages, you'll love Artisan software:

 Get started here. Choose whichever one fits you best!

Tell “Our Story”

There are lots of “our story” possibilities to tell your family story.  Family history is not unlike regular history in that you are looking to the past to appreciate and learn.  But with family history you know and love the characters.  Or maybe you don’t know or love them yet, and there your opportunity begins.

Even {hard stories are important to tell}.  You never know what you’ll learn.  Try to remember funny stories, things Grandpa used to always say, and good times.  Ask cousins and siblings and aunts and uncles what they remember about life on the farm or growing up as a Jones.  The more you connect with your family history, the more you connect with your heart.

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This post was originally published at on June 15, 2018, by Jennifer Wise.  Read other #familyhistoryfriday posts about stories, memories, photos, connections, and family by clicking the hashtag next to Labels below.

Friday, June 8, 2018

An Important Part of Family History: Your Story

"I’ve learned two important lessons in my life.  I forgot the first one, but the second one is that I need to start writing stuff down."  ~anonymous
As we focus this month on family history, it might surprise you to learn that an important part of family history is your own story.  Connecting with yourself first through recording your own life story gives you a starting point.  It also gives you a sense of belonging, peace, and gratitude.  And that’s a great way to begin a story, and as Socrates said, to {know thyself}.

Why You Need to Tell Your Story

{Last week} we delved into why telling our stories--even the hard ones--is important.  Telling your own story has a therapeutic element to it.  Putting it out there on paper validates your experiences and feelings, helps you sort through your thoughts, and allows you the amazing gift of perspective.  You can choose how to tell your story and what details to include, but it’s important to bring closure, too.  What lesson did you learn from it?  What made you better?  How have you changed things?
"Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.”  ~Sue Monk Kidd
There’s a lesson in everything.  We learn who we are.  We learn what to do or what not to do.  Even struggle and hard lessons develop character and strength.

Organizing your thoughts and experiences and lessons learned is a great benefit of telling your story.  It’s an important key to knowing yourself.  Remember my article last fall, {“Know Thyself Through Your OwnStory”}?  Revisit it to be reminded of why your own story actually matters to you.  It also includes some helpful sources for where to start as you write your story.

The Surprising Thing that Happens When You Suppress Memories

Have you ever blocked out certain memories, only to find that they are actually gone later?  That’s happened to me before.  I used to live in a place that I didn’t really like.  I find now that when I try to remember people, places, or events from that time in my life, they’re so distant and fuzzy that they’re almost gone.  It’s like it never happened.  Maybe that’s why the article {“Suppressing Memories May Cause Amnesia”}  caught my eye.

If you’ve had a bad experience, the ability to completely forget something sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?  It sounds pretty handy, actually.  However, researchers found a startling result of suppressing memories.
"Researchers conclude that deliberately disengaging memory retrieval ‘broadly compromises hippocampal processes’ necessary for the creation and stabilization of new memories. As such, continually suppressing one’s recollection of certain events may prevent the hippocampus from being able to fully encode memories of other events."
Woops.  So if we block out certain memories, we might not be able to remember things we do want to remember.  Telling our stories, then, opens up our brains for wonderful new things that we want to remember.

Writing Stuff Down

We don’t remember things as well if we don’t write them down and come back to re-read them.  We get to laugh again, be happy again, and enjoy a moment again.  What defining moments have you experienced in your life?  Have you written them down?

The information in the Know Thyself link above gives you a great place to start telling your story, and this {Life Story} link is another.

A few years after I turned 40, I wrote the first volume of my life story (called “The First Forty Years”).  I have always been a journal writer, so I wrote my life story using just my journal as a resource.  I basically summarized my journal, added a few thoughts, and voila.  A journal is an excellent resource for a life story.

Printing Your Story

Last week I told you about a man who had done the important work of writing out his life story.  Unfortunately, he just left it on his computer without telling any of his children about it.

A digital file isn’t the best place to keep a life story.  The {digital world is a fickle and risky one}.  You just never know when a computer will crash, a laptop will get stolen, or a file will become corrupted (unreadable).  So although writing stuff down is a very important part of telling your story, so is preserving it so that it can be read.

I published my first volume of my story in a {Heritage Makers book}.  This is the 7.5×10 size.  I did type it up in a Word document first, just to have a backup document.  That gave me a digital (backup) copy in addition to my beautiful hard copy.  From Word, I copied and pasted into text boxes in the Heritage Makers program (Studio).  Then I added a few embellishments (digital art is included in the price of the book) so that it was beautiful.  Then I submitted it for publishing and had it at my door in about 10 days.  I love how professional and heirloom-quality it is even though it’s essentially DIY online.

It’s For Them, But It’s For Me

Telling your story is leaving a legacy that other people can learn from.  When we know each other’s stories, we are drawn to each other.  We look outside ourselves.  We come away with hope and an increase of gratitude.  I hope that my children will appreciate reading my story some day, and I hope my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will get to know me better through this book.

But it’s not just for them.  It’s for me, too.  Putting this book together helped me verbalize some life lessons and life experiences that I otherwise wouldn’t have made the effort to do.  Things that bothered me didn’t bother me so much when I wrote them down.  Things that were really hard experiences became things I learned.  I got to put into words how I felt when I got married, when each of my children joined my life, and when I got to do things I loved.

So write.  Write your story.  Write it for them, but write it for you. 

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This post was originally published at on June 8, 2018, by Jennifer Wise.  Find more #familyhistoryfriday posts by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

(Unsolicited!) Review of "The Secret Ingredient to Self-Care and Wellness"

Remember when I gave away three copies of {"The Secret Ingredient to Self-Care and Wellness"}?  One of the first people to snap one up was Amy from Needed in the Home.  She told me she was really excited to read it because she really wanted to learn more about what pictures and memories really do for you and find out some helps and tips to get going preserving them again.

Amy enjoyed the booklet so much that she wrote a product review for it!  I loved finding out how my book was received, what she learned from it, and what really helped her look at things a little differently so that she can now DO things a little differently.

This was a totally unsolicited, uncompensated review, so it is very honest and right from Amy's heart.  Here are a few of my favorite things from the review:

"This little book is a must read for moms of the digital age, like me, who feel powerless and too overwhelmed to do anything about the years of photos stuck in digital storage." 

"Her book shows me that physical, tangible photographs are so important for children's wellness and self-esteem."

"After reading this booklet, I do not feel ashamed, or depressed, or too overwhelmed to tackle this great task.  On the other hand, after reading, I feel inspired and empowered to pick up where I left off and take care of my photos.  She gives a practical structure of how this time can be scheduled into your routine.  In the past, I thought I was 'being selfish' to want that time to 'do photos,' but now I can see that it is actually needed as a part of self-care and wellness."

Read Amy's full review here:

"I highly recommend reading this booklet.  It will change the life of your family for the better and is needed in the home!" ~Amy at Needed in the Home

UPDATE:  There's now an e-version!  Read the ebook right here:

ebook The Secret Ingredient by JWiseHeritageMakers


Friday, June 1, 2018

It's a beautiful #friyay night!

It's #friyay once again--our monthly feature where we hear from actual Heritage Makers users what they think about Heritage Makers.  This month's #friyay comes from Alena, a dear friend of mine, who has some kind words about my own passion, my own WHY of being a Heritage Makers consultant and helping people get their stories told and photos preserved.

2023 UPDATE:  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 for:  

·        creative digital scrapbooking applicable in a variety of photo products using Artisan software

·        easy photo-memory books using free AutoPrint and Design & Print software programs

·        private, permanent, secure, and guaranteed photo and video cloud storage (triple-backed-up and bank encrypted)

·        white glove digitizing services for old memories like VHS tapes, slides, old scrapbooks (scanning), 8mm film, audio tapes, and much more

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Why Every Human Heart Needs His or Her Family History

Today you’re going to find out that family history is for you.  You will learn that family history is much more than you thought, and you will get a taste of the power it can bring into your life.  Not everyone knows their own family stories, and not everyone loves the stories they know.  So today on #familyhistoryfriday we are going to look at why each human heart desperately needs his or her own family history.  If you don’t believe me, keep reading!

Embracing the Good and the Bad

I know not every story is a good one, and I know not every family is a perfect one.  However, we can always take something good from our family stories.  This tweet from Family Search explains what I mean:
"Learning about both the good and the bad in our family history can inspire us to keep doing good with and for our fellow men and women.  We can learn to have more compassion and empathy for all affected by unfair aspects of life.” -@FamilySearch
Now isn’t that true?!  I’m a pretty sensitive and compassionate person by nature, but I can tell you that all my sadness, frustration, and disappointments give me more compassion and empathy for others going through the same thing.  Even observing good people makes me more compassionate and empathetic for those who don’t have particularly good people in their lives at the moment.

Family stories have purpose.  They teach us.  And the beautiful thing is that we aren’t limited by our stories.  If you have a family story of humble, hardworking folk whose example is worth emulating, do.  If you have a family story of something that should definitely not be passed on to the next generation, you get to write your story’s ending.
"When we deny our stories, they define us.  When we own our stories, we get to create a brave new ending.” Brene Brown

I was interviewed a few months ago by {Cary Mac Arthur} for her podcast, “Dare to Find Your V.O.I.C.E.”  Cary is a coach who connects women to their virtue, power, and purpose.  She recognizes the power of connecting with our own stories, good or bad.  During our interview on the power of stories, she said something that perfectly distills what our stories do for us:
"Our stories give us something to stand on.” ~Cary Mac Arthur
(You can find the podcast about the power of story and more of Cary’s insights {here}.)

Three Things Stories Do

Storyteller Rhonda Lauritzen has three core beliefs about the power of story:
  1. Stories have the power to save families.
  2. Stories turn random events into meaning.
  3. Stories are the only way we will be remembered.
These are powerful statements!  Do stories really have the power to save families?  Can stories give meaning to the random events of our lives?  Rhonda delves into each of these core beliefs in her inspiring article, {The Power of Story}.  She refers to her own experiences (including a sweet video about finding a letter from her dad) as well as research on family stories and storytelling.  (I highly recommend clicking over to Rhonda’s article!  She’s a pro at educating people about the immense value of stories.)
"Story has the power to change people.”  ~Rhonda Lauritzen
Maybe family stories are for you, after all.

Why Including the Hard Stuff is Important
"We all have different ways we tackle the difficult parts of life. Some of us tell anyone who will listen, while others bury it deep in our souls. Some of us go into deep depression, while others just keep getting up over and over again. However we deal with it, I think it is vital that we find a way to talk about it. If we can’t share it at the time it is happening, we need to put a voice to it sometime in our lives, if for no other reason, than to teach those who go after us that we are not alone in our trials.” ~Rachel Trotter
When you write something down, you mostly write for yourself.  We’re not talking about memoirs that become Broadway musicals.  We’re just talking about a few notes in a journal or maybe {a little self-published book that tells your story or the story of your parents or ancestors}.  We’re talking about something that those who love you will want, need, and cherish.

{Personal, heirloom-quality storybooks} are a beautiful way to record and preserve
family stories and history.  

In her article, {“The Hard Stuff.  How Do We Overcome it and Then Write About it?”}, Rachel Trotter offers some important reasons you should be writing the hard stuff:
  • You need a sounding board.
  • Your obstacles may help countless generations.
  • Your stories can help others to overcome their own trials.
  • You can decide how much to tell.
A Personal Experience

When I think of the power of knowing a family story, I often think of one of my great-grandmothers.  She had a very difficult life for a time, and as I read her story I could see that it was because of a few bad decisions on her part early on.  

However, I could also see her character as I read.  She did the best she could in her circumstances, then improved her situation (which was hard-won).

I have compassion and empathy for her as I read about those decisions that would turn out to have pretty bad consequences, knowing that I do unwise things, too, sometimes.  I also feel a sense of gratitude that I didn’t make that particular bad decision!  Even though she might have been embarrassed to write those things down, I can appreciate her humanity, humility, and strength, now three generations later.  More stories from later in her life show quite a bit of gumption.  I love her story, and because of it, I love my great-grandma!
"Life’s tough.  Write about the hard times; it can help heal you and bless others.” –{LegacyTale}
Where to Start:  Family History 101

It can be easy to say, “I’m not a genealogist,” or “I’m not a writer.”  It doesn’t matter.  Your family history, your family story, starts with you.  It goes backward through your parents and forward through your children.  Family stories create connections!  If you’ve never done a lick of genealogy or family history, here are three things to do to start.

Fill out a four-generation pedigree chart.  Write what you know, then ask for help from parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, or grandparents.  Here’s {a pedigree chart} (courtesy the DAR) that you can print and fill out.

Write your own story.  More people care about it than you think!  {This article} has several resources to help you know where to start, including lists of questions and things to think about.  Tell your story your way!  You can write a whole book complete with pictures (and {publish it here}), or you can write a few pages.

Write the story of your parents and their parents.  Keep going further if you can!

There are many online helps for tracking down names and dates these days such as {} and {}.  Back before computers and the internet, my grandmother did genealogy and found family stories the old-fashioned way–handwritten letters!  She came across a second cousin who was as much a genealogy-lover as my grandmother was, and they worked together a lot across the miles.  Who knows what you might find with the whole world available to you online!

Many of my ancestors kept family and personal records.  Over the years, several of my relatives put those stories into  I compiled them in these {precious magazine-style books} for my family.  We love these stories!

What to Do Next–And What Not to Do

I talked with a friend recently who had a conversation with an elderly neighbor.  He mentioned to her that he had written his life story on a computer for his children and grandchildren to have.  After the elderly neighbor passed away, my friend told the grieving children how neat it was that they would have this life story from their dad.  “WHAT?!” they said.  Their father had not told them about it, and they didn’t know where to find it!

Please don't just save your stories on your computer!  Aside from the usual risks of computer crashes and unreadable files, most computers are password-protected these days, so they're not even always accessible.  It’s important to find your story {a printed place to live}.

Once you’ve written the stories, make sure the stories you tell are preserved well so they can be shared and eventually passed down to later generations.  These {heirloom-quality options}are my favorite for both hardbound and softbound books, and I’ve created some very special and meaningful books about my ancestors over the years.

It’s often said that we find what we’re looking for.  If you look for the positive, the miracles, and the good times in your story, that’s what you’ll find.
"If remembering a few miraculous moments strengthens you a little bit, then remembering a lot of miraculous moments will strengthen you a lot.” ~Alan Wright
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This post was originally published at on June 1, 2018, by Jennifer Wise.  Find more #familyhistoryfriday posts below by clicking the hashtag next to Labels.