“But Mom, when are you going to write your life story?” On several occasions, my youngest son has goaded me to record my own stories. “We really don’t know them—you really don’t talk about yourself much.” It is true. I have relished recording lifetime memories of older family members and hospice patients I have worked with, but I have never taken a serious stab at writing my own stories. For one thing, condensing all the years of my life into something meaningful as well as interesting is quite overwhelming (and therefore too easy to procrastinate)!
So, it was with some hope that I found Storyworth, a unique and easy way to record personal history “one story at a time.” Storyworth is one of many apps approved by FamilySearch for inclusion in their App Gallery. You can find this and other apps in the App Gallery by scrolling to the bottom of the FamilySearch opening page and clicking on the “App Gallery” link. Impressively, Storyworth was the the Rootstech 2015 Innovator Summit grand prize winner and the People’s Choice award winner. It has been featured in articles in the New York Times, Slate, Business Insider, and on the FamilySearch blog (also found at the bottom of the FamilySearch home page), which reported: “StoryWorth brings memories to life and facilitates the preservation of memories and personal histories through simple question prompts emailed directly to users each week. . . . In time, with minimal effort and using only technology that’s already familiar, users create their personal histories, one story at a time.
“‘One of the most important things we can do for both the future and the past is to record our memories,” said Nick Baum, founder of StoryWorth. ‘When we write our stories, and share them with our families, it brings families closer together in the present (Paul G. Nauta, “StoryWorth Sweeps RootsTech Innovator Showdown,” FamilySearch [blog], Feb. 13, 2015).’”
So after signing up on the family plan, I selected five other storytellers in my family besides myself. I chose my 89-year old mother, my husband, two of my siblings, and one of our children. You really need to try to convince these folks. Believe it or not, all people in your family may not be excited to share stories about themselves or may not be able to find snatches of time to participate. (Who knew?) If you have reluctant participants, you can pitch a good case to them about strengthening family connections, preserving your family history, and getting to know each other better. Ultimately of course, each will decide whether or not to respond and read shared stories. If someone decides not to participate, you can easily replace him or her with another family storyteller as well as customize recipients. Once stories are recorded, they are saved privately and securely and can easily be downloaded anytime, as well as printed and bound as books.
All storytellers are sent one question each week, and they can answer that question or choose a different question to answer. With 600 interesting and unexpected questions to choose from, ranging from light and frivolous (“Did you ever pull any pranks?”) to deep and introspective (“What has strengthened your faith?”), the storytellers found it simple to find questions that appealed to them. Storytellers can also add photos and audio clips to illustrate the story.
Our family’s experience with StoryWorth was a positive one. Five storytellers contributed stories, but not all did so each week. You can set the frequency for each storyteller to receive a prompt, and weekly seemed a bit much for some. My 89-year old mother liked the ease of the phone option and recorded her stories like leaving a voicemail. “It takes too long to write, and it’s too hard when I have to worry about getting the words down!” she exclaimed. For me, being a storyteller was a chance for family members to get to know me better. Family story recipients remarked: “It was fun to get the stories—I loved it!” “Getting e-mails of short little stories I could read quickly about things you hadn’t heard or thought to ask was a fast, fun way to get to know my family.” “It was insightful to find out a lot about family and see a different side of a person. It’s a great app!” A son who lives across the country also liked the connection he felt to family despite living far away.
StoryWorth.com offers a free 30-day trial of their program. Founder Nick Baum initially created the concept as a way to entice his father to share his stories. Now thousands around the globe are using StoryWorth to preserve their family history, one story at a time.
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