Ways to Capture Your Family’s Unique Story

That grainy picture is of my Bubbeh, z”l, playing the piano.   She also sang beautifully.

I’m hoping to find a song she wrote and let the world – and especially our family – know about it.

Memoir is Not the Only Option

Every few days, it seems, I am reminded of the urgency to collect, document, and share the stories of our families.

These three bits from this past week seemed to converge and shout at me: “Get started!”


#1 – Yiddish Gathering

I invited some friends over to celebrate Yiddish.

We read a funny lesson from the magazine Pak ‘n Treger about what to do if you run into a bear in Yosemite Park – and how to find out if it’s a Jewish bear!

We sang Bei Mir Bistu Shein, Shein Vi Di L’Vone, and Tumbalalaika with a Neil Sedaka CD

And I found wonderful versions on YouTube of  Rozhinkes mit Mandlen (with Esther Ofarim), and Oyfn Pripetshik (with Jan Peerce) for us to sing along to

We also shared stories, like this one:

“When I was little, my grandfather lived with us.  Every day when I’d get up from my nap, I saw him reading the Forvert (daily Yiddish newspaper).  He was always sitting on a beautifully carved wooden stool.  And he’d call to me “Kum [come].  Sitz [sit].  And he taught me to read.”

— [Thanks to BD for this charming story!]


#2 – Finding the Family History

After months of searching, I found the 3-ring binder in which our daughter had, during middle school, captured much of the family history for a school project.

I am so grateful to that school, for that project!  She has documented tidbits that no one is left to confirm.

What a mechayeh [joy, relief]!


#3 – Preserving My Mother’s Story

A few weeks ago, we had a mini flood in the house (broken pipe), which, during the clean-up, led me to find a short story that my mother wrote a long time ago.  (Isn’t it amazing how one not-so-good thing can help you find your way to a great something?)

Although I’d long heard about it, I’d never read it.  Turns out, it is an absolutely enchanting story about clothespins and clothe lines, about moving into the light, about enjoying the sunshine – and about a way of life that, for most of us, is gone.

So my goal (my hope) is to work with an illustrator friend and have this story  reproduced for my mother to inscribe and give to all her great-grandchildren in time for Hanukkah this year.


What’s the Takeaway?

I’m realizing that there are countless ways to preserve our stories, far beyond just the perhaps-intimidating-to-start memoir.

  • Write up one anecdote. 
  • Put a favorite family recipe on cards and hand them out to kids, grands, nieces/nephews.   See what this son and daughter did to preserve their mother’s recipes: http://www.ourmothersrecipesonline.com/)

Have you discovered new ways to preserve your family’s history?  Please let us know.

Please use the “share” button below to share with your friends.


  1. says

    Some great advice! We are doing many of these things to capture our granddaughter’s life and preserve it for her. My awesome sister made Amara a recipe book to collect recipes from family and friends and all of us have been adding to it. Plus the whole reason for my blog is to capture all those anecdotes! And my most favorite way to preserve our family history is my camera! I love the digital age! Just stopping by from the GRAND Social Linky Party. Hope you get a chance to do the same!

    • Ellen says

      Thanks so much for sharing, Grandma Kc!! I love that you are collecting recipes from lots of family and friends. And yes, I’ll stop by the GRAND Social Linky Party. Just learned about it 🙂

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