In an old joke the question is posed, “How do you eat an elephant?” The response is “one bite at a time.” This witticism illustrates the utility of breaking a large project down into smaller, manageable tasks, and it applies to writing one’s personal history as well as to anything.
The #52stories project launched this year by the Family History Department can help with that.
“Each week in 2017, FamilySearch, the world’s largest genealogical organization, will publish topic questions designed to trigger your memories,” wrote Paul Nauta, manager of public affairs in a blog on the organization’s website. “You just need to focus on the topic and write a response.”
He went on to say the length of the response or manner of recording it doesn’t matter.
“You can write in a journal or in a document on your computer, or you can make a video or audio recording,” he suggested. “When 2017 concludes, you will have 52 stories about your life to enhance your personal history.”
The initiative expands upon a similar, successful challenge FamilySearch offered four years ago, said Wendy Smedley, project manager for social media. “This year, however, instead of having a list of only 52 questions, the writer can choose his or her 52 questions from a list of 144 questions.”
Brother Nauta noted that the project has been divided into 12 monthly themes with 12 separate questions for each theme. The themes include “Goals and Achievements,” “Education and School” and “Holidays and Traditions.”
The questions can be downloaded on 12 colorful pages from the FamilySearch website, FamilySearch.org. Also, a different question is being highlighted each week on Instagram (@FamilySearch) and the FamilySearch Facebook page.
For example, January’s theme is “Goals and Achievements,” and the downloadble list of questions includes these:
“What goals are you actively working toward right now?”
“What was the greatest achievement of your life?”
“What is something you taught yourself to do without help from anyone else?”
“What role has failure played in your efforts to achieve your goals?”
For the February theme, “Love and Friendship,” questions include these:
“Do you know the story of how your parents met and fell in love? What about your grandparents?”
“What valuable lessons about love and devotion have you learned from the most successful marriages in your family?”
“When you were young, what qualities did you think were most important in a future spouse? Did your list change as you grew and matured?”
An advantage to constructing one’s personal history in this way is to make the project less daunting. Some people go about it chronologically, starting at the beginning and working through to the present or to the end of one’s life.
“That’s the most challenging way to go about this project,” wrote Angie Lucas in a FamilySearch blog post. “Memory isn’t orderly, structured or predictable. Recollections are more likely to surface randomly, sparked by various external triggers. Embrace the randomness, and just start writing. You can always organize your stories later if chronology matters to you.”
The stories can be shared free in a FamilySearch Memories profile on the website. Brother Nauta said FamilySearch will not make the stories public while the author is living, but will make them available for future generations after the author has died.
“These stories allow you to preserve and share the story of your life and your ancestors’ lives, your triumphs over adversity, your recovery after a fall, your progress after all seemed bleak, and your rejoicing when you finally achieved your goals,” he remarked.
For more information on #52stories and links to downloadable content, go to familysearch.org/blog/en/52stories/.
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