The Easiest Way to Write Family History Stories Revealed!

The Easiest Way to Write Family History Stories Revealed!

I have been meaning to start writing my family history stories for years and years! But the sheer magnitude of the project stopped me in my tracks and I’d put it aside for a time when I could devote more time – which miraculously never materialized. Then, I attended ’s family history writing class at UGA Family History Conference a few weeks ago and I was inspired! I could do this! Here is what I took from Eleanor C. Jensen’s class, who generously gave me permission to share it and how I am applying it.
1. “A family story that teaches a lesson becomes a guiding beacon for your family and binds generations together.” We all have learned life lessons in the school of hard knocks. Each of us has character traits that are important to our souls and very being. These are the values we wish to pass on to our children and grandchildren. Hint: If you want to your child to listen, do not start with “Well, when I was your age blah, blah, blah” begin with “Let me tell you a story.”  Instant attention! If you don’t write the stories and their lessons down – they are lost forever.
2. “Today’s problems can be solved with yesterday’s stories. What is the difference between a story and a problem in life? In a story, we know the ending. In life, we will determine that ending by the choices we make.” Help your posterity see the end of the road, the consequence of choices made through someone they love’s eyes. So, how are we going to cherish our family? Tell them a story. Stories have POWER!
3. Decide who your audience is. This was a major breakthrough for me. Eleanor had family stories that were only one page long! These stories were geared to younger children, her family calls them ‘Grandma Stories’. The stories all followed this format:
a. Introduce the person the story is about and the subject.
b. Tell the story
c. Sum up the lesson with your personal witness, thoughts and feelings about the lesson in 2 or 3 sentences.
d. Stories for teens and above are written as “The Rest of the Story” and are a longer, more detailed or have a more mature lessons – but they still follow the same format.
4. Stories are finished but the book is not! Another light bulb moment for me. As each story is finished, it is printed for all the family members and put in a plastic sleeve and binder for each person. Eleanor writes stories to be added to the binder throughout the year and gives them as gifts each Christmas. You mean I don’t have to have it all done right now! WOW!
5. Make a template. I came home from the conference and made up a template and wrote 2 stories in one Sunday afternoon! Here is how mine looks:
Clara Saves the Day!
If you want a copy of this template leave a comment and email address below and I will send it to you. I tried to save it in Google Docs to download but it lost the formatting.
6. Organize Your Stories. Eleanor suggests that you 

  1.  Determine who you want to tell a story about or
  2. Figure out the subject you want a story about. This will help you recall stories you want to share.

7. Create Story Indexes. Have an index by topic like “Courage” and another index by ancestors name. This makes it easy to find just the right story at just the right time.
As I collect stories I may have a professionally printed book down the road, but for now I am in love with the open ended freedom that comes with a binder.
The great news about this is it works! No longer am I waiting for that mysterious block of time to write my family history stories. I can produce a story in a hour or less! Then I am done…until I am ready to add another story, adding as I wish.
Thank you Eleanor C. Jensen, this in not only brilliant but it has been a life changer!


  1. What a great post, Valerie!!! There’s no excuse for any of us.

    PS – I would love a copy of your template…

  2. Great ideas. I need to try utilizing some of her ideas in the Hero stories for the grands.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thank you, this post came at a time when I truly needed it.

    Will you please send me a copy of your template?

    Sue McCormick

  4. THANKS so very much for this creative post. I am SOOOO going to paint the famiyl tree up behind our piano, and mount the current family pics I receive every Christmas. AWESOME. Thanks for finding that.

  5. Thanks so much for all the great comments. Mrytle, I am glad someone else was inspired about the ideas in my Christmas gift post. You are going to have to take pictures and post them when yo finish your wall! I am going to paint one into a wall niche and see how that turns out.

  6. Good points! Small, manageable bits are often the key for the wannabe DIY’er to get going. Then don’t stress about finishing it. I have a “draft” of my maternal lineage family history that just may never get finished, but it is far better to have something than nothing. A DIY’er working on her autobiography told us recently that she sees our personal history service the same way she sees her fitness instructor, someone to keep her motivated on a regular basis.

  7. These are good points! I love when things are broken into tinier bits. I actually have heard of this before and planned to implement, but without a template. I would love a copy please if you don’t mind! Now I am off to do some more exploring about your blog! Love it! Thank you!

  8. Great Post and awesome idea which makes perfect sense. Maybe I can start writing these little stories now? I would love a copy of your template, it looks great. Thanks –

  9. Great post! Sounds like a fantastic class. I can really see the benefit of this approach. I think having a template would be a big help, and would love to get a copy of yours. My email is Thanks for sharing!

  10. Thanks for a thought provoking post. Yes, I’d like a copy of the template.

  11. Thanks for your article. I believe the smaller stories will help to keep me focused and on track. I would love for you yo send me the template and thank you for sharing with all of us. My email is

  12. I love the idea of a template. Why didn’t I think of that? Lol! Please send me a copy of yours. Thanks!

  13. Thanks Valerie. A different perspective and approach from one I’ve used with my stories…much appreciated. Worth putting into book form once you have your collection. Agreed one never feels it’s finished enough for a book but worth doing just the same. Happy writing.

  14. Thank you for this article. It can at a very good time as I am collecting information on my mother-in-laws family to be put in a book. I would very much like a copy of your template.

  15. I’m a little late coming to this post, but I saw it and was immediately drawn to the topic. This idea is so perfect because it breaks that huge “family history” mammoth task into small, easily-accomplished chunks. Thanks for the idea!
    Thanks also for dropping by on my blogiversary. I appreciate your comment and support!

  16. Template looks great. I would love to have a copy.

  17. Wow, I think this may make the difference for me – thank you for sharing this!! And – I would love a copy of the template.

  18. I have been working on mine for over 1 year now, and about ready to put it up. Getting stuck on putting it together. I love this idea and would greatly appreciate a template to try. Thank you for this post 🙂

  19. I would love a copy of this template, I am in the process of putting our family stories together right now and this would help me a ton!!

  20. nikita kuruganty :

    This article has given me the inspiration I need to get started. Please send me a copy of your template as reference — thanks

  21. Wendy McAtamney :

    After 50 years of marriage I want to write about the highs and lows we’ve experienced during that time, so you article is of great interest to me. Please send me a copy of your template. Many thanks.

  22. 15 years research and still nothing but a computer driven tree! I need to write something just a little bit interesting..and now you have inspired me. May I have a copy of your template?Thanks

  23. Thank you so much, have all the material but not how to make it a story of interest. Love a copy of your template as reference

    again many thanks

  24. I would love to receive your template. My email is:

  25. I have an interesting story to tell surrounding WWI. I don’t intend to tell all of my family history. That would be a “War and Peace” exercise! Your guidance has confirmed some of my approach and enlightened me on others.

  26. Valerie, would still appreciate a copy of your template. Thanks

  27. caroline mcilwaine :

    Hi Valerie – I would like a copy of your Template please. Caroline McIlwaine – Thanks!

  28. Sylvia Bow, Queensland,Australia. :

    Hi Valerie – I am trying to make an interesting book for my children, grand kids and great grand kids before I get much older. I have many wonderful old photos going back to 1830 and already know quite a lot of history on my mother’s side but I don’t know how to put it all together. Your web site has given me a good starting place so I would very much appreciate a copy of your template. Thank you.

  29. Hi Valerie, I’ve just been asked by a cousin to write some family stories from my family to add to the family tree she is working on. I would love to see your template to see if it can help me put stories together.

  30. Carol Kitchens :

    Valerie – thanks so much for the great ideas. I have been doing one page stories for a long time, but your template is much much better than what I am doing!!! I now want to rewrite all my stories for 5 & 7 year old grandchildren. Thanks so much.

  31. Bonnie McVeigh :

    Woul love a copy of your template.

  32. I would like a copy of your template. THANKS

  33. Yaw N. Brobbey :

    This is great, thanks a great deal.
    PS: I will love a copy of the template. My email address is:

  34. I would love a copy of your template!

  35. Please send a copy of your template. Thank you!

  36. Love your story telling system. I would appreciate receiving your template.

  37. Deborah Weeks :

    Thanks for sharing this! I would love to have a copy of your template.

  38. Great format! Hoping to write something down so hopefully me new grandsons will show some interest when I’m gone on how they came to be. Would love a copy of the template.

  39. I’m wanting to encourage my mom (86 years young) to write her family stories. She was one of ten children and can verbally tell them but we are seldom all together and I think she could write them. She was a secretary for many years and typed fast and accurately. Surely I can get her to do this. Would you send me your template? Thanks I subscribed to your site.

  40. Hi, just found your site in crash course in family history. have been gone for a while. Can I have a copy of your template? Please!! Sandra Shumway

  41. would love a copy of your template

  42. Lora Markham :

    I would love to have a copy of your template. I would love to be able to do this for Christmas gifts to how with the old home movies I am giving.

  43. I have been trying to put my stories and photos and information into book format but having big trouble with inserting the photos and some information would love to have a look at your template to see if it can assist.

  44. Melissa Stoudt :

    I am planning on writing mine and my sisters life, with pictures and giving it to her for Christmas. You page has given me a good start on how to do it. Thank you. also I would love your template.

  45. Elizabeth Dolan :

    Great advice and I would love a copy of your template. Many thanks,

  46. If it’s not too late, I would like a copy of your template. Thanks – great site.

  47. I would love a copy of the template please

  48. Woodrow Spriggs :

    I would like a copy of your template please.


    I have been trying to write our famliy story, I would love a copy of your template, Thank you

  50. I would love a copy of your template, thank you.

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