Our family stories are complex and dramatic. There are challenging times, personal triumphs, villains, heroes, life lessons, and moments of levity. Every family has a story, but unfortunately, these memories can become lost to time if they are not shared with the younger generations.

The holiday season provides the perfect opportunity to preserve our family stories and legacy. With multiple generations all gathered under one roof, everyone can dig into the family history and learn what brought them to where they are now – and where they’re headed in the future.

Set Aside a Time for Storytelling

The holidays are wonderful for getting the family together – but the season can also bring a little bit of controlled chaos. During holiday events, you’ll have some family members in the kitchen, some in front of the TV or fireplace, others running around outside, and some in a chair on their phone. (Sound familiar?) If you want to have family storytime, you need to set aside a time and a place for it. Gather your family members around the table or in a group of chairs, and tell them you want to hear their stories. Turn off the TV. Put away the phones. When your family shares their stories, be present and active listeners.

Get the Conversation Started

Once you’ve got your family gathered, it’s time to get the conversation started. Not sure where to begin? Try an easy, open-ended question. Plant the seed by asking questions that begin with “Remember when…” or “What happened…” (Yes or no questions do not usually promote good conversation). When your family members recall their stories, be sure to listen closely and ask follow-up questions. Some family members may go off on a tangent – but don’t try to redirect the conversation. Tangents can lead to some of the most interesting, unexpected, and meaningful memories. Here are a few suggested conversation starters:

  • Where were you born?
  • How did you end up with your name? Does it have any meaning?
  • What are your siblings like?
  • How would you describe your parents? Your grandparents?
  • Did you have any chores when you were younger?
  • What was your typical day like when you were a child?
  • What’s the best vacation you took as a child?
  • Did you have a nickname when you were younger?
  • What was your school like? Did you have a favorite subject or teacher?
  • Did you have a best friend growing up?
  • Did your family have any holiday traditions? How did those get started?
  • What are some jobs that you’ve worked? Which was your favorite and why?
  • What’s one of the best decisions you’ve ever made?
  • Have you been involved in any significant historical events?

Record the Conversations

Chances are, you or someone at your holiday gathering will have a smartphone. You can use the phone’s video or audio recording apps to preserve the conversation amongst your family. For the best recordings, choose a spot that’s quiet and doesn’t have a lot of background noise. Put the phone in the middle of the group, or position it near to the family member who’s speaking. The group will soon forget that the phone is even there, and you’ll have a priceless recording of a relative sharing their own stories. Once you’ve finished the recording, you can save it to your computer or the cloud, and share it with other family members.

Brian M. Douglas & Associates Can Help Preserve Your Family Legacy

Family stories, our collections of life experiences, can be a source of strength and wisdom for future generations. By learning about our family members and what they’ve endured and accomplished, we get a better understanding of who we are and how to move boldly in our own lives. If you have questions about estate planning or preserving your family legacy, please reach out to us at (770) 933-9009 or via our online contact page. We’d be happy to help. Happy holidays!