As genealogy becomes more mainstream, so is the genealogy landscape in how family history is recorded.
Many genealogists have begun to record their own life story as technology has advanced to make this pastime simpler and more convenient.
In this post, we will look at why we should record our own life story for ourselves in the present, future and for when we become our family’s ancestors.
The importance of preserving your life story and memories
As mentioned in the introduction, technology is developing at such a rapid pace we almost can’t keep up with the tools at our fingertips. This is particularly true for when we look into forward-looking genealogy as opposed to the traditional tracing of lineage backwards.
By forward-looking genealogy, we are referring to recording your present lives of yourself and those living for the benefit of your future families who are looking at their family history.
Can you imagine through your family history research that you came across your great-great-grandmother who not only recorded her family history but along with it you got to find out about her way of life, challenges she overcame and joys she celebrated?
Then imagine when reading these intimate details of her life you could relate in similar scenarios today? When facing the impossible in your own situation, having the knowledge of how she battled through and overcome her difficulties can motivate and inspire you to defeat difficulties in your life.
On top of this, you got to see her, hear her and even connect with her stories as you get to witness them first hand through a video recording.
This is the wonderful genealogy recording capabilities available to us today, so let’s take full advantage!
1. The benefits to your current self
Many people who have begun recording their life story, be it through an app, writing a book or even though pictures have described the process as healing or therapeutic. There are a few reasons for this.
Life has meaning
When you live your life thinking about the legacy you’ll leave behind, life tends to become a little more meaningful. You begin to make decisions and actions based on your ideal self- the image of you that you want to be remembered as.
Your actions become calculated and you even begin to make changes to your life that brings it meaning. What’s important to you will eventually become a reality as you positively work towards these goals.
As you become more self aware, you strengthen your journey of personal growth and development.
Similar to living life with meaning, as you capture your personal life story you unknowingly begin the habit of daily journaling.
There are so many benefits to the self when you write daily. Not only does your mental health improve, but it can also aid your physical health. We’ve already written a whole post on the benefits of journal writing, so if you’re interested to know more take a look here.
The process of recording your life story in itself can be a very therapeutic process. From facing past trials and tribulations to your most proud and happy moments.
Going over your most intimate moments in life can help you face problems you have buried down deep inside. Thus the process of recognising your past pains and fears and helping you overcome insecurities and weaknesses today, and shape you into a better person. This process can help you forgive and forget, understand and love more easily.
Your process of recognising these moments can be a very precious story in itself to anyone reading, it may be of particular importance to your future family reading your life story in the same way you can be inspired and relate to an ancestor of yours.
Strengthen your family
All these above benefits to writing your life story will for sure have one big impact- how you view your relationships. Thinking proactively about life when you’re gone, puts in perspective life itself. You actively recognise that the people you’re recording your life story for are important- which helps influence your interactions with them.
Sharing your life story will help strengthen these relationships and create a tighter family unit. As research shows, children who have stronger family ties and know about their family history are more confident, resilient and have a higher emotional well-being.
2. Benefits to your future self
Many people feel inspired to record their life story for an entirely different reason than for family history.
Many people who are caring for someone living with dementia have witnessed first hand the benefits of knowing their family history when their loved one begins to lose their memory.
People with memory loss and severe memory loss often are living mentally in an earlier part of their lives, (normally their teenage to early adulthood). This is referred to as the ‘reminiscence bump’.
In the dementia field, many families and carers are using reminiscence activities to be able to connect and communicate with loved ones who are living with it. It is encouraged for family members to create and record a ‘life story’ so carers and other family members can use it for reference when caring for someone with dementia.
Aged Care Revolution found that many people who are living with dementia often claim after diagnosis that, “one of their greatest fears is not having their life history and achievements known, and being treated like a number or an object by care providers,”
Many people today are recording their life story as a tool for the possible ‘what if’ scenario that they may develop dementia. And if they don’t? They have on hand a piece of family history to be cherished by the family after they’ve gone.
3. Benefits to your progeny
Today, we have the amazing ability to tell our stories through all sorts of mediums. If we so desire, we can record an oral history of our lives. Our children, grandchildren and so on can watch a video recording of us in our younger days talking about our memories, biggest fears, wishes for the future and so much more.
It often isn’t until our children have children that they begin to see their parents as individual people like them. Children grow up thinking they know mum and dad, but they only ever know the parental side.
Until you begin to share your stories with them of your past, your childhood, teenage years, young adult life- your children begin to understand not only who you are but who they are too. After all, they are living with our DNA inside them.
Families who share their family history stories raise children who can be more empathetic, have better coping skills and lower levels of anxiety.
It’s a good habit for parents to recite tales of their past at dinner time, car journeys or even as bedtime stories. Even better is capturing these stories in a time capsule that can be listened to over and over again by all of your future families.
By recording your own life story, it will inspire and encourage your children to take an interest in genealogy and family history themselves. They will be more likely to add to your genealogy research and even record their own life story for their future families.
Technology can be used as a tool to encourage children to get involved. They are often more familiar with smartphones than adults, so using a medium that they are familiar with is more likely to create a hobby that will stick.
It will also encourage your children to record their life story with purpose instead of the mindless activities that are so popular on social media today.
Recording your life story gives you an opportunity to leave behind your personal advice and thoughts to your family members- making it a more cherished family heirloom.
4. Record the life stories of your family who are still with you
As well as recording your own life story, you should take it upon yourself to record the life stories of family members who are still alive.
I mentioned in a previous article about the joys I’ve received talking to my grandparents about their life stories.
I found out how my grandparents met. My 17-year-old grandfather was a soldier stationed in London when he saw my grandmother and her sister walking home.
He offered to see them home safely, then the next day she received a letter asking her on a date to the pictures. With her father’s permission off she went the next night! That was the beginning of their long and wonderful marriage.
I have so many more stories that make me smile and understand my family more. Your family will also appreciate the effort you took too.
Interviewing life stories
We are strong advocates for interviewing your family for their life stories. Especially when capturing emotions, body language, dress and tone of voice in video format.
This precious footage will bring to life the emotion and power behind each story and strengthen the viewer’s connection to their relatives. Moods behind words are hard to capture when written, but there is a unique beauty in being able to view and listen to the reciter tell their tales. You can hear their accents and see their expressions. It makes the life story all the more dear.
5. Leave a legacy in your own words, not from others perspective
When the time comes that you aren’t here to tell your own stories, there will still be those who need to hear them. We touched upon it earlier, but knowing the struggles and problems you overcame in your life will be a source of power and strength for someone in your family.
It may even be seeing your happiness and contentment with life could put in perspective the importance of life for another. Your grandchildren may see how grateful and satisfied you are with life’s simple things, and this may enable them to have a reality check and be content with what they already have, instead of chasing unimportant desires that many people get caught up in.
These simple stories may seem like nothing to you today, but they could have a life-changing effect on someone in the future.
6. Why should you use a dedicated life story app rather than social media?
You may think my future family can see my life through pictures and videos on social media, so why should I use a life story app?
Most people will honestly admit that their social media profiles aren’t really a good representation of all they believe, the good, bad and ugly, ambitions, professions, emotions, past stories and how your life has shaped you.
Benefits of a life story app such as Reliving
Here at Reliving we have made it our mission to help people record their lives and the lives of their loved ones, now before it’s too late.
Using our dedicated life story app allows you to share all of you. A true accurate representation of yourself, instead of the external, one-sided portrayal that is the norm on social media.
You also have privacy, so you can reveal your true thoughts and feelings alongside in a daily journal.
You can link your recordings, videos, images and daily entries to a family tree. So even when you use our interview feature, you can safely save the interview of your relative to their profile on your family tree.
Our app allows unlimited uploads of images and video to add to entries, and these are all safely stored on a secure cloud-based database.
7. How to start recording your life story
If you feel inspired to begin recording your life story, we recommend that you begin with uploading your memories every day.
What should I record?
Sharing your personal stories with the people you love should be an enjoyable and enriching activity. Whatever your personal stories and however they turned out will be welcomed.
To start you off you could record any of the following:
- Your childhood memories
- Good times
- Your beliefs
- Your life goals
- Your hardships
- Your happy moments
- Your proudest moments
- Your thoughts and feelings
- Big life events
- How you managed through external life events (such as the Coronavirus pandemic for a recent example)
- Your biggest secrets
- What you wished you had told people who are now gone from your life
- Your photos
- Your videos
For more ideas on what to write for your life story and when you interview others for their life story, you should check out our list of over 50 life story questions.
If you don’t record your life story in your own words, then who will? Begin today, define your own legacy. Download the Reliving app here.