Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How to choose a quality memory book or memory journal

You may be interested in a memory book for your mother, father, grandmother, or grandfather. Not all memory books are created equal. Here is what to look for in a memory book or "memory journal" for your parents or grandparents. Sometimes having some structure makes it easier to interview a parent or grandparent. Here are some things to watch for when choosing a memory book or memory journal:
1) How are the questions organized? Does it provide a clear structure to allow your loved one to cover all the major events of life? Does it make it easy for them to describe people that shaped their lives, memories from growing up, adulthood, and beliefs and values? These are all critical to building a complete life story. Memory books should offer many topics that may not be obvious. For example, topics like pets, volunteerism and philanthropy, friendship, and lessons through the years are all parts of life that can be written about.
2) Will the memory book evoke the kinds of things you as children or grandchildren really want to know? In other words, do the questions get to the core of WHO your mom or dad really is and inspire them to reminisce more? Will the autobiography questions go deep enough? For example, some memory books might only provide two or three questions about your mother's parents, while the Memory Journal has fourteen questions on the topic of "Mother" alone.
3) Is the memory book asking positive or neutral questions? A memory book's questions should not be leading a person to answer in a negative way (although they can always choose how they will answer a question). For example, one memory book asked the question, "Did your mother hug you enough as a child?" Not a very good question to ask. Even if your mother hugged you plenty, you start to ask yourself, "Did she hug me enough?" Instead, the Memory Journal asks you to... "Describe your mother to someone who has never met her." The tone of questions is positive or neutral.
4) Is there a next step? Can the memory book become something more? Families are typically interested in having a copy of a parent's or grandparent's memory book. Although the pages can always be copied and simply stapled or bound together, there are other ways to bring the story to a final form. For example, the Memory Journal's questions match those found at so you can easily transfer information from the journal to the web. Next, one or multiple copies of leather, hardcover books can then be made from the person's story and distributed to family and friends.
We hope you enjoy hearing the stories and memories of your loved one. A memory book will bring out many things that don't come up in typical conversation. If you have the time, it is wonderful to ask the questions over the phone especially if you live faraway from your mother or father. Don't miss out on the amazing things your older relatives have to share.

There's no time like the present and no better gift to the future.

Is your New Year's Resolution to capture life stories of a loved one?

I was reminded over the holidays as we sat around the dinner table that these are precious people staring back at me. My parents are extra special and so are my aunts and uncles. I look at their lives and realize all the good times and hardships that have shaped them over the years. I realize that they have interesting opinions and perspectives on life that deserve to be recorded and remembered by me, by my children, and someday by my grandchildren....and on. Since I am the founder of LifeBio, I've done my best to capture their life stories in print and audio recording (some video recording too), to know them deeply, to record their voices and photos. There are more questions I could ask. There are more people, times, and places that they could share with me. It's such a gift to me when I interview them that I need to set aside some time to work on my own family more. Such interesting people. There's nothing more fascinating than people's life stories.

Is your New Year's Resolution to write an autobiography?

Resolve to begin writing an autobiography. It's funny but so many people think they have nothing to say. I met a gentleman just the other day and told him about the work we do at LifeBio and how we've helped thousands of people with our autobiography template. He laughed and said, "I've got nothing to say." I reminded him that his life is made up of all these incredible people who came before him--parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts. He's also got a ton of memories from his childhood and he can discuss historical events too. Then there is his life as an adults--work, love, marriage, kids, grandkids. Of course, there's his values and life lessons too. So I convinced him (I think) that he actually has something to say, and I reminded him that he's the only person who can actually do it. No one else can share the people, times, and places of his life.

Monday, December 28, 2009

We've learned a thing or two. Wisdom is a good thing.

I'm a bit older and wiser now. This uncertain decade has taught me a few things. September 11th taught me that life is precious--every day is a gift. Jobs may disappear. Home values may drop. It's easy to be fearful and doubtful....but better days are ahead. But it's the people that matter the most. Expressing love and listening is very important right now. Yes, it's a good thing that we're all a bit older and wiser.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Free family and friends conversation kit -- perfect questions for that family gathering!

We hope you enjoy the new conversations and connections that happen as a result of using’s Family & Friends Conversation Kit. LifeBio makes it easy to capture life stories. Enjoy reminiscing with family and making new friends too. Interview grandma. Interview grandpa. Interview mom or dad! Write an autobiography or learn how to write an autobiography. With LifeBio, it’s as simple as answering straightforward biographical questions. You should write a book! LifeBio gives you the structure to get started without delay.

How to write an autobiography

Writing an autobiography really doesn't have to be rocket science. Here are 5 great tips to help you get started.

1. Think. Think about the people who shaped you, your childhood memories, the real world of adulthood, and the values and lessons you have learned through the years.

2. Ask. Ask questions of your relatives when you are together or by phone. After all, their lives are a big part of your life. Change your conversations from the same-old, same-old to something new. You've probably never asked a parent or grandparent to describe their childhood neighborhood to you.

3. Write. Answering questions is a great way to get started ( You've just got to put pen to paper and not be afraid of grammar or spelling ( Some of the most amazing stories are just raw, honest, and from YOUR point of view. Nothing fancy.

4. Edit. Your family and friends really don't want every detail of your life recorded. This is not a is your life story! Some of the deep questions of life mean more than knowing just the facts or just the funny family stories. Give your family and friends a little bit of everything in your story.

5. Preserve. Your story could be on your hard drive, saved on a website, or sitting on a CD somewhere. Create a book from your story--and make sure key people get a copy of your autobiography. Ensure your family can easily locate this along with your other important papers. You've made the effort so it's important that your stories live on--long after you're gone. Genealogists and your great-great-great grandchildren will thank you! Your story is a gift.

Beth Sanders
Founder & CEO

Saturday, December 19, 2009

There's no time like the PRESENT and no better GIFT to the future. The gift of memories

What better gift can your loved one give you than the gift of his or her life stories? You can give them the gift and answer the questions, "How do I write an autobiography?" Frankly, many people have wanted to do it, but they aren't sure where to start. LifeBio makes that easy by giving the prompting questions that are exactly made for people of different backgrounds and ages to create a lasting record of life lessons, values, traditions, and memories. There's no time like the PRESENT and no better GIFT to the future.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

All I want for Christmas is...

Dear __________________, (Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Sue, Uncle Bill or another loved one)

All I want for Christmas is your life story recorded.

I always want to be able to read your book and know that important things have been recorded. I know this is a priceless gift and it's something that only YOU can give me. Now, when I say your life story, I mean that I want you to share....

• your memories from childhood (even little details like your best friend, favorite toy, game, food, radio/TV program, etc.).

• historical events and how they affected you and our family.

• heirlooms that mean a lot to you and WHY they mean a lot.

• those funny stories you always tell me when we're talking on the phone.

• our family history (not just genealogy but what makes our family tick). Also, I can't remember that one important fact about our family that I wish I had written down by now.

• what a day was like when you were a kid.

• what great-grandpa liked to do.

• the names of the people in the photo album that I don't know.

• what hopes and dreams you have for the future.

Also, could you talk about ME. What was it like when you held me for the first time? What funny things did I do or say when I was a kid? Do you have any words of advice for me? These things don't come up in normal conversation most of the time. Yes, I'd really appreciate it if you'd write an autobiography about YOU. That's the book I want the most. If it is recorded, it won't be lost or forgotten. Thank for giving me a priceless gift.



Sunday, December 06, 2009

How to begin an intergenerational oral history project

1. Decide who will participate. Is there a likely connection between older adults and youth in your community? For example, a group of older people in your church and a church youth group. OR seniors living in assisted living and the high school National Honor Society.

2. Define the scope of the project. Will this be a short term or more long term program? One session or multiple times of meeting together? Keep it simple at first. Not too many participants (maybe 5-6 of each age group) and just meet together 1-2 times to see how it goes.

3. Determine the resources you need. Storyboards are a wonderful idea and so are Story Cards that get people talking about things they don't normally discuss. Computer projects or memory journals can also be great tools for capturing the life stories of older adults. Maybe the older adults can capture the life stories of the youth too! It can be a two-way street.

4. Connect. Once you have a plan--go for it! Don't worry that everything has to be perfect, but try your best to break the ice and bring older adults and youth together comfortably. An opening fun introduction or some kind of food shared will help people start to talk before they jump into the oral history project.

5. Evaluate. Make sure you survey your first participants and learn from the experience. Then you can incorporate this knowledge into your growing program...and see great success!