7 Journal Ideas to Help You Record Your Story

May 12, 2020  - by 
a woman writes in a paper journal.

We live in momentous times! As we experience what life brings, keeping a record of our activities and current events will help us, as well as our descendants, understand our experiences. These days, the ways to keep a journal have increased dramatically. Consider some of the following journal ideas, and try one for yourself!

1. Paper Journals—A Conventional Method

If you prefer a more traditional journaling experience, use a regular journal or notebook to write down your story. Even if you write just one or two sentences at a time, your contributions will make a difference to your descendants and to your personal well-being.

You could also include calendars, to-do lists, newspaper clippings, and snippets from letters and emails to add interest—almost like a scrapbook! Keep mementos from special occasions, such as tickets from concerts or plays. Not only will these mementos make your journal vibrant, but the artifacts along with a few sentences about the event will keep your memories fresh!

2. Digital Journaling: A Journal on the Go

A journal doesn’t just have to be pen and paper—thanks to mobile devices, your journal can always be in in your pocket. One advantage of keeping a digital journal is that you can journal on the go, chronicling events as they happen using either your cell phone or laptop.

Digital journaling can be as simple as opening a document and writing your thoughts. Consider adding lists, lessons learned, goals, and photos to make your journal come to life. You can also make specialized journals that focus on one topic, such as a gratitude journal or a travel journal.

Be sure to back up and save your files regularly and print them occasionally. These steps will prevent your journal from being lost.

Digital journal apps are available that allow you to add weather and location information, recordings, videos, and other features. Try using goal tracking apps, blogs, and social media accounts to keep a record of your life. Be creative and have fun; the possibilities of making a digital journal unique to you are endless.

a man journals from a bench on his digital journaling device.

3. Geo-Journaling: Where Do You Go, and What Do You Like to Do?

Studies show that the rising generation often relates more to experiences than they do to physical items. If you like to hike, bike, walk, or jog, try recording your experiences. Keeping a geo-journal is a journal idea that will keep you active and help you preserve treasured memories!

Experts believe that tracking these events and leaving them behind for future generations to recreate enables you to create a stronger bond than would come from someone simply reading your words.

As your family members go to the same places you went, read your words, and see your photos, they will have a powerful connection with you that can’t be had in any other way. You can share these activities on social media apps you are already using in a way that encourages others to go and do what you did. You might even consider retracing your ancestors’ travels and writing about your experiences.

a photo album showing historic photos

4. Photo Journals: A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

There are dozens of ways to keep a photo journal—and, as always, the best way is the way that works for you! Using a traditional photo album is one method; creating a printed photo book is another. You can also make a digital photo journal by making online albums! The best part? Everything you need is on your phone.

Digital photography makes it easy to keep track of when and where a photo was taken. You can also add a sentence or two to explain the story behind it.

a page from a doodle journal

5. Doodle Journals: Combining Words and Drawings

If you enjoy drawing, why not use your doodles as a form of journal keeping? Becky Christensen, a mother and grandmother who teaches school in Japan, enjoys keeping her family up to date with her adventures through her doodle journal.

Sketch important things that happened throughout the day, make little comics of events that happened, or just draw out your thoughts. Whatever you do, make your journal personal and unique to you!

6. Online Journaling Logs: The Possibilities Are Endless

A journal doesn’t necessarily need to use written words. There are dozens of other ways to capture your memories, many of which are made free and easily accessible through the internet. Try making a private Pinterest board or a YouTube playlist that captures small moments in your life.

Don’t be afraid to record the silly things, such as memes or family jokes! Although they may not seem profound, they are important parts of your life that capture your personality, your interests, and a slice of what the world was like during your life!

an ancestor's journal

7. Ancestors’ Journals: Catching a Glimpse of the Past

Do you have an ancestor’s journal in your possession? Read it and find yourself transported back in time. Then learn about the period when it was written to help you understand the context of what was happening. You might just get some journal ideas from the experiences your ancestors share!

Consider digitizing your ancestors’ journals and adding them to FamilySearch Memories to preserve them and to share them with relatives.

However you decide to keep a journal, the important thing is that you record your experiences. Oprah Winfrey once wrote, “Keeping a journal will change your life in ways that you’d never imagine.” Try one of these journal ideas for yourself and for those who come after you.

Some of this articles’ material was taken from Matt Misbach’s class, “Geo Journaling,” at the RootsTech Salt Lake City 2020 Convention.

RootsTech is held annually and has classes for genealogists of all levels. To learn more about RootsTech, visit their website or read this blog article.

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  1. I like all the suggestions and ideas. Thanks for sharing. One I would add is blogs. Or even writing your own book or autobiography.

  2. Hi, thanks so very much for this post. Just what I needed. I have been keeping journals for over 50 years but paper journals because I just love the feel and the beautiful covers you can get. However I’m interested in something mentioned above in the article? And I wondered how to do it? It is called ‘Digital Journaling.’ Thank you.

  3. I have long been an advocate of brining your ancestry work forward into the PRESENT with photos and memories for following generations enjoyment.

  4. Love all the journalling ideas. I love photo journals the most! Pictures say so much more than words sometimes! Thanks for sharing these ideas.

  5. I don’t think my journals will make any difference to my ANCESTORS as suggested – they are all dead! Don’t you mean my DESCENDANTS?