Record Your Memories

Record Your Memories
By Dale E. Lee


  • Why to record
    • Life slips by and the window of opportunity may pass
  • When should I record memories?
    • NOW!
  • Where should I record them?
    • Find a private place
  • What should I record?
    • Things that are important
    • Things that show your personality
  • Who should you talk to and about?
    • Future readers
    • Those that have impacted your life
  • How to Structure
    • Collect important points
    • Organize them into a sequence
    • Talk about the points
    • Polish up the words
  • How to Record
    • Hand writing
    • Computer
    • Audio
    • Video
    • Etc.


Reasons for recording

Many of us get so caught up in life that we forget to record what has happened to us. We think that if we aren’t high up in government or other organizations that no one would be interested in knowing about our lives. And besides, who would be interested in the boring stuff we do every day?

Actually, probably more people that you think. And they may be people other than your Grandkids. Many years in the future there will be those that are trying to figure out how the people in our day survived all of the things that happened to us, and without records, our knowledge will be lost.

In a thousand years people may stop believing in the great inventions of our day and think that we were too primitive to have developed advanced architectures that really do exist today, just like there are those that continuously claim that man could not have built the pyramids, it had to have been done by aliens. But personally I do believe that man was just as intelligent in the days of the pyramids as they are today and will be 1,000 years from now. The difference is that we can build on knowledge of the past to create new and wonderful inventions. Inventions that would not exist except for our ability to record and examine the records of the past.

So why me? Well, why not me?

When should I record my memories?

The unequivocal answer to when is NOW. It was NOW in the past, it is NOW in the present and it is NOW in the future.

So, yes, it is time for the “going to Hell is paved with good intentions” lecture. But seriously, with our busy schedules it is difficult at times to find the time for everything we need to accomplish. I get that, I’ve been there and done that. I have a Masters in Accounting, a Career in Software Engineering and a Hobby in Genealogy. But time management is simply a matter of priorities.

To be successful, you need to do the most Important thing at the time. Don’t confuse this with the most Urgent thing to do at the time, the two can be very different. Important things are those things you need to do to improve your FUTURE. Urgent things are those things you need to do to meet deadlines in the PRESENT. Those that excel, work on the things that are both Important and Urgent in the present and those things that are Important, but not urgent in the future.

The best way to explain this is with the use of Eisenhower’s Matrix. Eisenhower because a General, then the President of the United States.

Urgent Not Urgent
Important Do it Today Schedule it to be done
Not Important Delegate it to someone else Eliminate it. Stop doing it.

I’ve found that the easiest way to get genealogical work done is to schedule a time during the week when you will have about 3 hours with no other distractions.This may be after the kids go to bed, or on a weekend when you can have time alone. Whenever you decided to do it, make it part of your schedule and follow through as closely as you can. There may be times when you will have important things come up that need to be handled during this time, but get back on schedule as soon as you can, or you’ll forget to get it done and may never get back to it.

Obviously there are many more projects that can be undertaken in Family History than recording your own memories. Just make sure that in all the research of other people, you don’t forget to let others know about yourself! You are important too!

Where should I record things?

During our lives we record many things about ourselves as a matter of course. The more important things are put in public official records, such as Births, Deaths, Marriages, Wills, Titles and Mortgages, Graduation certificates, etc. So part of recording information is a normal part of the course of events. And these are recorded in official records of the institutions governing the event in question.

However, there is so much more to a person’s life than dry dates and places. In High School I found I was thoroughly bored of the way History was being taught. It was all rote memorization of names, dates and places. But when I started reading the personal histories of my ancestors, the stories came ALIVE. Here were people that had real life experiences, real emotions, real trials and who showed courage in overcoming life’s challenges. They weren’t just a bunch of names and dates and places… AND they were related to me. This made it personal. This is what you want to give to those that will read your memories in the future.

Find a place that is private and where you can block out the noise of the world for a short period of time. If your home won’t do, go to the local library. If you don’t have a local library, maybe a fast food restaurant will do. I heard that a Real Estate Investor once claimed that he had 50 offices in his city, they were the ones with the golden arches on them (McDonalds).

What should I record?

Obviously you should record the things that have been important to you. Think of the Eisenhower matrix above in the context of what you should write.There are important things you should get down right away and there are important things you need to get to in the future. But don’t get so efficient that you don’t let your descendants know things that may not be important to the world, but ARE important to you and which you’d like others to know about you.

There are snippets of my life that I’ve recorded that are fond memories I have that are not of any particular interest to others, but they were important to me, such as when my Father would take me to a wood shop to buy materials to build and hand carve a Rose Table. It was a finely carved table displaying a Rose that took up most of the surface of the small table. And he did it all by hand using carving and wood shop tools.

Names and dates and places are important, but don’t forget to add the personal touch to your memories.

Who will you talk to and about?

Remember your audience. Anything you write needs to be addressed to a specific audience, or you will lose your audience. You are talking to people that will read your memories at some time in the future, and that may be a very long time into the future. Be sure that you are not so caught up in minutia you forget to give the big picture. And be sure that you don’t assume that things that are commonly understood today will be understood in the same way in the future. Things change and a little explanation of what you are talking about can go a long way to help others understand the context you were living in at the time, so they can understand why you are saying the silly things you are.

Also remember to respect the people you are talking about in your writings. You may not agree with them, but it will not make you look good to future readers if you don’t respect them or if you go off on a tangent as to why you don’t like them. That kind of writing can be best used in a different arena than in Family History. If you must write something negative, only touch on it briefly as an explanation of the background for something you had to deal with and how you overcame it.

How to write your memories

Writing your memories is a personal thing. You don’t want to become so formal that the reader doesn’t see your personality shining through. You are sharing part of yourself with others.

However, some have difficulties getting their ideas off the ground so they can soar in the clouds. They get writer’s block. To overcome writer’s block, avoid the trap of thinking that you need to do everything at once and come up with a polished Pulitzer prize winning article.

Start by simply coming up with a list of things you want to talk about. Think about the important points you want others to know about first. Don’t go into depth about them, just get a list of bullet points of what you want to talk about and don’t obsess with what you’ll write about them.

After you have your list of things you want to talk about, put them in the order which you want to discuss them in. Some things will be important to say up front and others can wait for a while, and you may even want to have a punch line at the end. Just think through the order in which they should be presented to the reader so that they make the most sense to the reader, not you.

Then when you have your discussion points and have organized them, simply expound on each of the points you wanted to talk about. Don’t worry about how the text will sound, at this point you are only concerned with getting the information out that you had buried deep in that brain of yours. The most important thing is to get it on paper (or computer) before you forget about it. And then go back to see if you’ve missed anything important or want to add to what you’ve already said.

Once you have it all down on paper, then is the time you’ll want to go back and review it to see if it is worded smoothly. I’ve found that if you do the editing of your masterpiece at least a day after you originally write it and read it to yourself carefully, you’ll find that there are better ways to word your message. Just read it as if you were someone else and see if the wording flows smoothly. If not, reword it. Remember that for Personal Memories you are not writing for an award winning contest, you are writing to help future generations understand who you were and what you experienced. They are interested in you, not your masterpiece.

But what if I don’t what to hand write my memories?

If you don’t feel comfortable with writing as the media to express your memories, today you have other media that can be used. While personal handwriting may be important to your descendants in the future, it is definitely not in use these days. I’ve even heard that there are students in High School that don’t know how to sign their own names because they were never taught cursive handwriting. I personally think this is sad, but it illustrates the fact that most of the upcoming generation will probably use computers for their writing exploits in the future.

But the printed word is not the only thing that we use to record things in this day and age. Audio and Video media is also being used. My siblings cherish an audio telling of a story my Father used to tell us when we were young. It was a story that he would come up with on the spur of the moment from his own imagination. I was able to record one of the sessions we had and later to digitize the recording. Although it may not be meaningful to others, it was very meaningful to our family.

You may also want to think about getting in front of a video camera and talking about your life, so you can share it with your family. My family never did this but we do have videos of Christmases we spent together as a family, and watching them brings back fond memories of the people we used to know that are no longer with us. Don’t forget to get recordings of yourself, while you spend time trying to get recordings of others. And don’t forget to get recordings of others while they are still alive, or you’ll miss the chance to do so. You never know how long they’ll be with us and once they’re gone, you’ll have missed that window of opportunity.

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