The Importance of Preserving Family Stories

“Tell me a story! Tell me about the time when you ……….”

Kids love learning more about their parents, especially the mischief they got into, the adventures they had and the activities made their life different from present day life. Kids like to hear what their parents did at school, how they spent family holidays or what caused them to be grounded for a week. Teenagers like finding out about Dad’s first car, or Mum’s first pair of heels.

Years ago, in the days before TV, storytelling was a regular bedtime activity.  Sometimes this meant sharing a book before bed, but often as not the stories told were oral ones. Parents told stories about their own childhood for kids to enjoy.

My father had a few favourites he recounted regularly, until I became almost as good as telling the stories as he was. Sadly, he restricted his repertoire to a few familiar stories, possibly because I loved them so much I kept asking for them.

I enjoyed the stories explaining the different life my father led as a child. The stories told of everyday events from the early years of the twentieth century. I listened, fascinated at how different my father’s childhood had been from my own, yet containing many familiar elements as well. Now I’m older I appreciate the value of those stories. They tell about my family’s past.

Family stories, told often enough, become a part of family history. They are part of who we are.  They also preserve important information about past family members that could be lost forever if the stories are not told.

Stories as a part of oral family history have been handed down over the centuries, passed on from generation to generation. More people are now making the effort to listen to the stories from the past and write them down. This way they are preserved as a more permanent record, rather than risk disappearing into time.

Writing family stories is becoming a more popular activity, not just recording the family history, but recording the little details of everyday life. These stories are part of our heritage. It’s never too early to start telling your children about your own childhood, comparing it with theirs. Share your highlights and your disappointments. Let them discover how different their lives are today .  Family bonds are strengthened when these moments are shared between parent and child.

If your own parents are still alive be thankful there’s still time to learn about their past.  Talk to them about their childhood and younger lives. Share experiences and feelings with them. Listen carefully for things that give you a better understanding of your parents.

Buy a notebook or journal and make time to write down their anecdotal stories. They don’t have to be in chronological order, or be for anyone’s eyes but your own. They do need to have enough substance for you to recall them in further detail at a later date if you want to.

Family stories are part of everyone’s heritage. Encourage story telling in your family. It will strengthen family relationships.  And, remember, everyone enjoys a story.

8 thoughts on “The Importance of Preserving Family Stories

  1. Unfortunately my parents never did tell us much about their childhood days so I feel I missed out there, but my children certainly know how their childhood days differed from ours and have been fascinated by our stories. A very enjoyable post, Val, and yes I did have your blog link.

  2. I wish more people would write and leave their memories for future generations. I amazed a group of teen age kids when I told them that less than two hundred years ago the fastest mode of transport was a horse. They have no idea how fast our lives have change in living memory I often wonder without two mighty World Wars where would we really be today ?

    Keep up your campaign… You have my support

  3. This is so very true. I recently read a book by fellow blogger Richard McBee and it contained actual letters from his relatives time in the civil war. It is so amazing how much you can learn from just a few pages of written family history.

  4. I have a box full of letters that my mom wrote from Cortes Island in the 1950’s – plus she told us many stories of her childhood in the 1920’s and 30’s. I am trying to make them into a book but it’s tough to know if anyone will care. These letters mixed with the stories make a sad and hilarious picture of an ordinary life.

    • Barbara, people will care. There’s a huge interest in how ordinary people lived their lives in the past at the moment. I’ve just published my school memories from the 1950s. The 50s are a largely undocumented era still. I say go for it, you’ll be surprised at the interest!

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