9 Tips for Writing Personal Family History

Leather bound journals on a desk

How can you get the most out of doing your personal family history? Some people may struggle with their personal family history because they don’t know what to write about in their journals or they feel they have too many pictures to scrapbook. However, you may be surprised to learn that not only is keeping track of your personal family history important for posterity (and yourself), but doing so can be easy and fun as well. Here are 9 tips that will help you get the most out of your personal family history, and help you to enjoy doing it.

Start Your Personal Family History and Don’t Stop

That journal isn’t going to write itself and those scrap books aren’t going to be filled by you pretending they aren’t there. In Brad Wilcox’s Ensign article “Why Write It?” he says that “[t]houghts come with writing, and writing may never come if it is postponed until we are satisfied that we have something to say.” So start your personal family history today and keep it up regularly.

Mormon ad encouraging people to keep a daily journal

Write & Scrapbook One Day at a Time

Don’t feel overwhelmed by the impossibility of completing your personal family history. It is not something you finish in a matter of weeks. Keeping your personal family history is an ongoing task that lasts your whole life. So simply do a little at a time. You don’t have to start with the day you were born, you can start anywhere you want.

Mormon Ad encouraging people to Choose to Write a personal journal

What to Write About?

If your are having writer’s block with your journal then ask yourself a question:

  • What are your dreams?
  • What are your favorite . . . ?
  • What are your happiest memories?
  • What are you biggest regrets?
  • Who are your friends and family?
  • What historical events have you lived through?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • Who is your biggest hero?
  • What spiritual experiences have you had?

Find questions you could ask, write them on pieces of paper, and put the pieces in a jar. On days when you feel stumped, reach into the jar and pull out a question to write about. Don’t give one-word answers to your questions; write about all the juicy details, tell us why you liked or did something. For more journal writing prompts, check out Can Teach, Creative Writing Now, and Pinterest.

young woman writing in her journal

Take Pictures

Some people have too many pictures while others have the opposite problem. If you are lacking in the visual aspects of you personal family history, then bring a camera with you when you go out. Take pictures of activities you go to, family outings, your kids being silly, anything and everything. Pictures can document a lifetime, so say cheese!

Woman capturing life’s moments with a camera

Make Journal Writing & Scrapbooking Fun and Creative

Whether it is a journal you decorated yourself or silly scrapbook pages, make whatever you are doing with your personal history fun, exciting, and interesting. Try writing a poem about your day or describe it from a different point of view such as 3rd person or the perspective of your dog. With scrap booking, their are infinite ways in which you can get creative with stickers, paper, layout, etc.

Personalized journal with flowers

Use Memory Triggers

This is another great technique for ridding yourself of writer’s block and helps you more easily write about you personal family history. Memory triggers can include:

  • yearbooks
  • letters
  • photos
  • home videos
  • souvenirs
  • newspaper clippings
  • awards
  • conversations with family and friends

Old family pictures in a scrapbook

Men and the Dreaded Diary

There are many excuses for people to not write in a journal: too busy, forget to do so, don’t know what to write, etc. However, for men the most common excuse they have is that the alternate name for a journal, diary, is seen as girly. Guys, you can call your journal whatever you want. Don’t put aside documenting your personal family history based on a name.

A man writing in a daily journal

Use the Medium that Suits you: Paper vs. Digital

Your journal can be typed on the computer or written by hand. Your scrapbook can have stickers and paper or be an InDesign file. If your want to have a blog instead of a journal, then go knock yourself out. Or if you enjoy different ways of documenting your personal history, such as making a collage, then do those. Keep your personal history in whatever way you want to.

Typing a personal journal on a computer

Be Yourself

Be honest and sincere in your writing. Brad Wilcox says that “the pages of my journal invite me to share myself—my real self. They are a safe place for my most personal goals and deepest dreams.” So open up to your journal. It is a safe haven that will keep your joys and sorrows, your secrets and your accomplishments, your life.

Mormon ad encouraging people to write down their experiences

Through these tips I hope you receive fulfillment from doing your personal family history. It is not only important for your posterity, but yourselves as well. Brad Wilcox tells us of a time when many of his in-laws possessions were burned in a fire, including their personal journals. But his mother-in-law said that “[t]he process we went through writing our journals can never be burned. Every hour we spent on those books helped to make us the people we have become.” Keeping your personal family history will help you see your life and yourself in new ways.

Abby graduated from Utah Valley University with a Bachelors degree in English and an emphasis in Writing Studies. She enjoys reading, writing, baking good food, and eating it too.