Story Journals©
Story Journals. Gathering Precious Memory Seeds for preserving personal & family stories.

The secret to opening those precious memories: research, preparation, and participation!

Do your homework before the family reunion. Give yourself plenty of lead time. Older members of your family will be more responsive if they have some significant memory cues to help them. Here's a few keys to unlock some of those hidden family stories:

© 2003 Storytree Productions by Jerry & Ada Forney
Key #1 - where to begin your research:
• Libraries, book stores, online sources, and court house records
• Also look for old magazines, history books and newspapers important to your families past (Historical facts blended with stories add authenticity of time and place)
• Family records: Bibles, letters, post cards, personal journals, diaries, etc. (Always ask permission to read them or get information from them)

Key #2 - what to prepare ahead of time:
• Have family members make cue cards that include names, dates and occasions of importance to the family (reunions, significant birthdays, holidays, special events, etc.)
• Ask family members to share favorite family photographs or photo albums
• Invite families to bring memorabilia (Flags, military medals, recipes, toys, quilts, musical instruments etc.)

Key #3 - finding volunteers to participate:

• Who? All family members, grandparents, parents, children, neighbors, roommates and friends
• What? Have them offer to share favorite sayings, jokes, stories, riddles, games. Invite them to play music, sing and dance etc.
• How? Have them demonstrate folk and food ways (traditional or old time ways of doing something) ie. home remedies etc.

Building Journal Entries: Memory Games You Can Play at Family Reunions:

1. Story Journal. Take the cue cards you have collected and sit face to face with an older family member. Take turns asking the questions and recording the answers in the journal. This may require a moderator and timer. Suggested time periods of no more than 2 to 5 minutes. It can also be an interview or talk show on video like a TV or news reporter would do.

2. Story Quilts. Take a large solid color paper sheet and mount it on the wall. Provide smaller paper shapes, scissors, glue, markers, etc. Each family can create a square for it and mount them down when finished or have family members draw events, memories, etc. ahead of time. Each family group can design a memory square for the quilt as part of a continuing project that grows with each year. New squares may be added as needed. (If there is a quilter in the family, they may volunteer to convert the paper quilt or collage into an actual family quilt.) Be sure you take photos of the squares and record the story material for your journal.

3. Story Chests. Have someone draw a picture of a large treasure chest on a piece of poster board. Moderator divides participants into groups of four and gives each group a pad of sticky notes. Then the moderator draws a cue card. The groups then talk about the cues and jot down short answers on the sticky notes. (This requires a timer and time limits of 2-5 minutes.) When time is called each participant sticks their answer onto the trunk. Then each participant is invited to elaborate on their precious memory for the journal. Record or write them down. These new stories may become cues for the next family reunion.

4. Story Pots. Have family members write down their favorite memories, bring copies of favorite photographs, or other memorabilia or recorded stories on tape. All must be done before the event itself. Buy a clay pot or box with a lid and decorate it however you like. Set it up in the front of the room and have each member share what they brought and why. Then add it to the box, pot or trunk. Raffle off the story pot to a lucky family member. Be sure to record what is shared and copy or transcribe any tapes that are put in the pot.

5. Story Space. Create a convenient sharing space. This is the opportunity for your volunteer family members to get up and share their stories, jokes, folkways and other personal favorites. This can be as elaborate or improvised as you wish. You can set up some tables for food demos, set up a staging area for performances or just gather folks around for sharing. Remember to take plenty of photos and record as much as you can in your journal.

These are just a few of the many precious memory activites you can plan for a family reunion. Diligent photography and journal entires should provide you with a wealth of storytelling material. Your job is to create stories from these story seeds. Good luck!
Have Fun!
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