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Genealogy: Record your day in creative new ways

By Barry Ewell

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Dec. 28 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

What do you write in your journal about your day? Perhaps it read something like: "Today I woke up, had Special K for breakfast and went to work where Catherine spent all day gossiping about Jenny's new haircut."

Consider some of the following ideas:

1. Lists: List parts of your day. Try writing about:

  • Things that made you smile today.
  • Choices you had to make today.
  • People you talked to today (and what the conversation was about).
  • Conversations you overheard.
  • Feelings you had over the day.
2. Gather up pieces of paper in your life for one day. The possibilities are endless, and it's fun to look back on years later.

The following are some examples of things you can gather:

  • Your bus ticket in the morning
  • Receipts from any shopping
  • A note from a friend left on your door
  • Scribbles from your notepad at work
  • A cutting from today's paper or magazine that you read.
3. Use your digital or phone camera to make a visual journal for the day.

4. Write your day as if you were telling a story about yourself. Write about your day in the third person: "BJ was tired from a restless night when she tripped over the cat on the way to the shower."

5. Write about the most ordinary parts of your day. Little ordinary details, such as the following, will be interesting reading in years to come:

  • What you ate
  • The journey to work
  • How you choose what to wear each day
6. Write to your future self. This can be a letter, words of advice or simply explaining about your day-to-day life.

Find a comfortable place to journal. Only you will know where you are comfortable doing your journal writing. Will it be sitting at a desk or on the boardwalk by the ocean? Curled up in a big easy chair or sprawled out across a floor? Propped up by a comfy pillow in your bed or slouched under a shade tree at the park?

Listen to your inner voice; it will guide you to that safe, comfortable space. Once you find it, you will be able to produce the writing you want. Don't be afraid to experiment. Try everything to see what works best for you.

Find the best time of day to write. Explore your journal writing at various times of the day to see what works best for you. Some people write when they first wake up in the morning. This way their thoughts have not been disrupted by anything yet. Some people will journal in the afternoon after lunch. Others are night writers who like to do reflective journaling to touch on things that happened throughout the day.

Personal journaling is a gift you give to yourself. Whatever time you choose, make sure that you carve out enough time for yourself to focus on your writing. I like to write at night; the nighttime is my time to unwind. However, if the mood strikes, I will journal anytime, anywhere.

Find the right journal for you. Journaling should feel like coming home and curling up in your favorite space. So what can help you to achieve that feeling? First and foremost, find a journal that represents you.

Will you be carrying it around? If so, you will want a compact one. Do you like to fold the book back on itself? Try a wire-bound journal. Do you want lined pages or blank?

Now for the fun part! Do you like colorful, floral or textile designs? Silly characters? Black-and-white photos or maybe even reprints of famous paintings on the covers?

Think about all of these things and then experiment to see which type suits you best. Discovering your ancestors' writings is a great way to get to know them more personally. Be sure to leave your own written legacy as well so that future generations can have a way to get to know you.

Barry J. Ewell is author of "Family Treasures: 15 Lessons, Tips and Tricks for Discovering your Family History" and founder of MyGenShare.com, an online educational website for genealogy and family history.

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