Websites For Personal Historians

My Mother’s Online Memoir

I started Life Stories Online so I could help families stay connected by sharing their stories and family history online. Like many personal historians, I started with the life story of a relative. But this is not your typical memoir!

A Pictorial Life Story

Sadly, by the time I started it, her dementia had progressed to the point that she was unable to remember much, or tell many stories about her past.  She recalled a little, but putting the stories together was a challenge.  About the best she could do was identify people in the yellowed pictures and give me a sentence or two about each.

Oh how I wish I had done this sooner…

Given our limitations, I didn’t have enough to write a full memoir but I did have photos, names, dates and my personal memories to put together a chronology of her life.

Like many personal historians, doing the life story of a relative had a profound effect on me.  It was so much fun to see her in her younger days and see how beautiful she was as a young woman.  It brought back happy memories of my childhood, albeit experienced through the eyes of my young mother.   It was intriguing to see how she aged over the years and how I might do the same.

It was a joy to remember when she was vibrant and in good health.

Pat coming home from work

With my creative and emotional juices flowing, I developed a beautiful website that helps structure and tell my mother’s story.

My mother still enjoys looking at the website and it actually stimulated her memory as well.

Want to learn more?

Contact Linda today for a free consultation

The Family's Reaction

gang2

 

When my son first saw the website, he was delighted and asked for his grandma’s phone number.

My brother liked it so much, he signed up for my newsletter.

My grandson loved all the pictures, especially those of his dad at a young age.  There was even a picture of a cousin dressed up in a medieval costume, holding a sword.  The two year old demanded a sword fight with him!

So, an unexpected but welcome outcome was the family talking more and getting closer.

It’s nice to know that even though her children and grandchildren may not have the time to examine every picture and story now, they'll know where to find them later.

It All Starts with the Pictures

A pile of old photos to be sorted and scanned

 

First, I gathered all the pictures I had of my mother. Then, I separated them into 6 major categories, corresponding with different stages of her life.  It just so happens that most of these stages correlate with where she lived at different times.  So, instead of using the typical life stages of a memoir (Childhood, Adolescence, Young Adulthood, Adulthood, Middle Adulthood, Senior Adulthood), I came up with categories unique to my mother:

  • Ireland (her childhood and family)
  • England (World War II, adolescence)
  • America (young adulthood)
  • Children (my childhood)
  • California (my adolescence and the empty nest years)
  • The New Millennium (retirement years)

I scanned each group of pictures using my new digital scanner.  Thankfully, many of the images had already been digitized for a slide show I made for her 75th birthday!

For everything you need to know about scanning family photos, visit this excellent website: http://www.scanyourentirelife.com.

From each category of pictures, I chose the most interesting to be featured on the front page.

Featured-images

On the home page (pictured above), clicking on any of the featured images links you to a new page with a collection of photos from that stage of my mother’s life.

For example, clicking on “Ireland” would bring you to this collection of photos from the land of her birth:

IrelandClicking on any of these photos enlarges the photo and reveals the caption.

Enlargement of my mother's mother and grandmother in her online memoir

 

If my mother were capable of telling me stories about these times, I would have recorded her telling the stories herself and added the audio to this page. (I add lots of audio and video clips in my next project – the multimedia approach really brings the story to life!)

 

The Interactive Timeline

By far, the best feature of my mother's online memoir is the interactive timeline.

In putting the timeline together, I came to appreciate my mother’s difficult childhood and wondered what it was like to grow up in wartime.

The timeline is very cool and consists of two parts: The slides and their descriptions at the top and the navigation bar with timeline events at the bottom.

You can interact with the timeline by using the navigation arrows up top or by selecting an event from the bottom.  If you click on the third picture, "WWII & the Evacuation Begin," it plays a YouTube video about the children who were evacuated from London during the war. Give it a try!

More Options

At the bottom of the homepage, there are even more options for interacting with the site.

 

More options on my mother's online memoir

 

The first is Family Recipes. This is where you will find some of my mother’s favorite recipes. This was a challenge given that she never wrote the recipes down.  I picked a few dishes I remember from my childhood, tested them and came up with these four delicious recipes for my family’s comfort food.

The Family Tree contains an interactive family tree that was derived from a GEDCOM file I made on a genealogy site.

The Medical History page contains a list of medical problems, diagnoses, and medications that may be useful to future generations.  It is protected with a password.

Want to learn more?

Contact Linda today for a free consultation

What photos and stories would you include in your own online memoir?  What milestones would you put on your timeline?

Leave a comment below and start collecting those photos, stories, recipes and recordings now!

2 Comments

  1. Betsy Storm on June 10, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    You did a beautiful job on this post. I enjoyed reading it and seeing the pix. Best, Betsy Storm, Principal, The Story of You, Evanston, IL http://www.tsoy.betsystorm.com



    • linda on June 11, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      Thanks, Betsy! Glad you enjoyed it!