Tips to Create Your Life Story

I revealed last week that I’ve embarked on a video project to document the history of my mother Elsie, and through her, my ancestors. Today, I’ll share more about the process of creating “The Elsie Blum Story.”

First question: Why do it? I’ve emphasized repeatedly the value of a family knowing its heritage in order to remain connected and thriving for years to come. David Issay, creator of StoryCorps, cites research demonstrating that stories connect and heal us. Families yearn for connection. Retelling family memories helps families continually reconnect. We recently had a Blum cousins’ reunion where we sat around retelling old family stories that we all already knew, but everyone left that lunch feeling a deeper bond to each other. Documenting your life story keeps those golden moments alive for future generations. Bruce Feiler reaffirms: “The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.”

Next question: How to do it? Technological advances make it easier to document your history. The choices range from books, to audio recordings, to videos, to recorded Zooms, to custom-produced films. Resources continue to emerge, including these options:

  • Live On Services – Records a Zoom interview with Ruth Luban prompting you to share treasured memories, traditions, and stories. The extended package incorporates up to 50 photos into the recording.
  • Axcelora – Creates a brief audio recording that goes out at death in a link to loved ones.
  • Life Stories Company – Helps you write your private memoires and create a Life Legacy Book.
  • EverydayLegacies – Records a video/audio history of your family heritage stories.
  • Wells Fargo Family & Business History Center – Generates an oral history in your own words and voice.
  • Epic Bound Books – Publishes a coffee table book.
  • Legacy Commissions Films – Produces a custom family legacy film.

Regardless the route you choose, my advice is to do it now. One reader this week shared: “I wish I knew more about my grandparents’ beginnings and tried to get my mother to tell her stories into a recorder, with no success. I need a kick in the a—to get started.” Well, I’m here to give you that kick, and urge you to engage a service to help make it happen. Many shy away from telling their story. It’s normal to find the process intimidating. When my mom tried to back out, having a third party there to encourage her made all the difference. We worked with Ruth Luban at Live On, who kept the conversation flowing and pulled out some stories from Elsie that I’d never heard. Click on this LINK for a one-minute teaser video of “The Elsie Blum Story.”

Do some advance preparation to make sure you include the most important topics and stories. We used a chronological approach, starting with memories of my mother’s parents and my father’s parents and their escape from oppression to immigrate to America. The focus then shifted to Elsie’s childhood in Montgomery, Alabama during the early Civil Rights movement, followed by marriage to Julius, moving to Fort Worth to raise Irwin and me, to more recent years as a grandmother and great grandmother. The video concludes with inspiring stories of the strength Elsie modeled when she coped with the heartbreaking loss of Julius and Irwin. In her sweet southern accent yet “Steel Magnolia” resolve, Elsie advises future generations to stay strong through adversity and follow her example by clinging to faith, family, and productive work.

I’ll conclude with the words of Ruth Luban in a Live On blog post Preserving Family Heritage: “The fact is, we’re all walking stories, every single one of us. We came into the world with a story on our backs, lifting the life stories of our parents and forbears. Those stories embody traditions, tribes, geopolitical whereabouts, and cultural patterns that inform what our lives will become…. And many people simply don’t realize that their stories actually matter…. Participants have reported how transformative it was to recollect, to attune, to acknowledge their life history…. [That] story is the tapestry within which people thrive.”

I urge you to give your heirs the gift of your life story. It will be a gift that will keep on giving.

Marvin E. Blum

Elsie Blum agreed to do a Zoom video recording of her life story as long as her son, Marvin Blum, sat by her side. The result is a gift the Blum family will forever treasure.