Tell Me a Story


Margaret purple dress

My sweet grandmother, Mary Margaret Ellis.  One of the great storytellers of my life.

As a child I loved to listen to my Grandma tell me stories.  I would ask her to tell me the same stories over and over.  She never tired of telling them.

As an adult I love it when my parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, husband, cousins, children, or anyone really, start telling favorite family stories.  They draw me in.  They make me feel connected to something.  Connected to my family, to love, struggle, courage, faith, kindness, hope, and so many other things demonstrated in the stories.

Ever since RootsTech I cannot stop thinking about stories.  Stories from my life, from my living family member’s lives, and stories of my ancestors.  The big theme of the RootsTech keynotes was “Story”.

Steve Rockwood encouraged us to think of powerful stories that mean something to us and then tell them in a minute or less to our family members.  To use those short stories to draw them in and help them love their family and feel a connection to their family’s history.

Doris Kearns Goodwin expressed her concern that because of our instant world “we are losing the art of storytelling”.  She went on to dazzle us with incredibly told stories.

David Isay asked the powerful question, if you only had forty minutes left to live, what would you tell this person sitting across from you?  He shared StoryCorps clips that demonstrated the power of the big and small, everyday stories of our lives.

Mike Leavitt told us that he tricked himself into writing his personal history by making a quick list of stories worth telling – just a word or phrase that would remind him.  This list started with 10 items, then 100, then 1,000.  Eventually he wrote these stories out.

As I have considered each aspect of “Story” that was presented to us, my mind has swirled with thoughts all centered on stories.

How often have I found records about an ancestor and said to myself, “There is a story here.”  Or, “I wish I knew the story behind this.”  It feels an awful lot like the little girl version of myself asking Grandma to, “Tell me a story”.

None of my ancestors on my mom’s side left written histories of themselves or other family members.  There are no surviving journals, auto biographies, or short histories.  (That I’ve found.)  What I wouldn’t give to have even a small handful of stories about these people.

All of these thoughts have finally come together into my “Tell Me a Story” challenge.  This is a personal challenge but please feel free to join in.

Each week on Thursday I will post a “Tell Me a Story” post.  There are three elements – story list, one minute story, and detailed story.  My post may include one, two, or three of these elements.

The idea is that I will select a person – myself, a parent, grandparent, child, etc. – and make a quick list of ten stories.  Ten key stories that I think are the most important to tell about this person.  The list only needs to make sense to me.  A word or phrase will do.  Then I will choose one of those stories and come up with a compelling one minute version.  The kind of short story that can hook even the least interested of my family members.  The next step is to tell that one minute story in greater detail, maybe even find a photo, if one exists, to pair with the story.

Preserving one story each week about myself or loved ones will slowly build a treasury of family stories.  I hope these stories will strengthen and connect my family now and in the future.

Care to join me on my storytelling journey?

I’ll post my first “Tell Me a Story” post tomorrow.

Tell Me a Story

Author: thegenealogygirl

I'm a girl who loves genealogy. Let me tell you about it.

30 thoughts on “Tell Me a Story

  1. Great idea! I look forward to seeing how this works out. I also love stories and am always trying to imagine the stories of the people I never knew (and of some of the people I did know).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am looking forward to your story posts! What a great idea! I think I will try this too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This looks like a great idea! I may join you! I look forward to seeing a post tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great idea. Count me in! (I’ll at least try to list 10 story ideas that I can write up later).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a fantastic idea. When my son was little, he loved being told stories about my family. They started as bedtime stories, spread to bath-time and then to car trips. He called them “shoe down the river” stories because of one about the time my brother floated one of my shoes off down a stream when we were picnicking on a little island.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sweet idea. Looking forward to reading your Thursday posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi. I’m doing this offline at the moment. This method is a very good shorthand to jump start the entire process. My late Mom kept her one to three line entries in a book for recording a baby’s first year. I find the short and to the point entries contain enough info to start the process very well. I recommend making the list a fun project, something you’ll consider visually as well as mentally stimulating. You can paste a few photos or even add a graphic or use colors that stimulate memories.

    What might happen is that you go back and develop the shorter entries into longer ones. My advice is to treat each story as a episode that is self contained. Eventually you’ll have enough episodes that can be arranged in some kind of order. Chronological or by topic or however they best flow. It’s a great way to write their stories. You’ll see! Soon they’ll come together.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Amberly,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I saw your post through Jana Last’s Fab Finds. I was also incredibly inspired by the theme of story at RootsTech this year. I have written a blog post, set to go live next Tuesday, with a very similar challenge. (i postponed my post by a week so I could prepare my first multimedia story to share with the post!) I will share and link to your challenge at the end of my post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and nice to meet you!

    Melissa Finlay

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Miscellaneous Monday…NEW stuff i gotta share | Explore Newness

  11. Pingback: Tell Me A Story – Divinity & the Great Depression | thegenealogygirl

  12. Pingback: Tell Me A Story – “You have my mother’s eyes!” | thegenealogygirl

  13. Pingback: Tell Me A Story – “You missed a B♭.” | thegenealogygirl

  14. Pingback: Tell Me a Story – “Nao-ma” | thegenealogygirl

  15. Pingback: Tell Me a Story – Zucchini Bread | thegenealogygirl

  16. Pingback: Tell Me a Story – $1 Dog | thegenealogygirl

  17. Pingback: Tell Me a Story – The Day You Were Born | thegenealogygirl

  18. Pingback: Tell Me a Story – “So this is Margaret, so this is Margaret” | thegenealogygirl

  19. That’s how I grew upto with grandma telling me stories. Enjoyed your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s