My parents story

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Posted 12/10/2012 by twarnockphoto in Digital Scrapbooking


PeaNut 440,937
October 2009
Posts: 18
Layouts: 21

Posted: 12/10/2012 1:52:09 PM
The other day my mother-in-law started asking me in depth questions about my parents (who are 70) and their story after seeing some of their wedding photos. How they met, how long had they been dating, where they went on their first date, and on and on. It came to my attention that I actually don't know the answer to a lot of the questions she asked which made me a little sad. These are things I should know and things I want to know. I would like to make some sort of scrapbook that I can get them to either fill in or give me the answers to so I can fill it in. Any suggestions on how to start this? How this should look? What I should include? I would also like to give each of my siblings one so I am thinking this should be in digital form somehow. Any thoughts/suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


PeaNut 181,117
December 2004
Posts: 3,862
Layouts: 370
Loc: Melbourne, Australia

Posted: 12/11/2012 2:02:49 AM
I think it's wonderful that you want to record these stories while you still have the chance and you never know what magic you might uncover!

A girl I used to chat with on another message board used to email a random photo to her parents every so often and ask them to tell her a story. Her dad was the usual story teller and sometimes he told the obvious stories and sometimes he wrote random memories that the image had sparked. She would often use his emailed replies as the journaling on her layouts.

With both my parents I have found they respond better to a pile of photos that they can look through and tell the stories of the ones that speak to them. This is how I found out things like the first car my dad's parents owned that had a radio was painted pale yellow and coral(!).

I have an old newspaper clipping from when my grandmother got married that describes her wedding dress as well as her going away outfit. I wish I had known about that before her Alzheimer's got especially bad because I would have loved to know why she chose the style of dress she did for her wedding, her bridesmaid, and her going away outfit (and was her going away outfit handbag really plastic like the newspaper said?).

Are your parents likely to write in an album if you leave it with them or will they require prompting to tell their stories? Would they rather write it down or just speak. Would they respond better to specific questions or really broad ones?

Is there anything that your siblings would particularly like to know? What about asking your parents what they think you should know about their story - it would be an interesting way to see what they think are the important parts.

Good luck with your project - it sounds like it will be a great album when it is done.


2Ps Digital Creative Team

PeaNut 242,431
January 2006
Posts: 10,041
Layouts: 665
Loc: Los Angeles

Posted: 12/11/2012 7:45:12 AM
ITA, it's great that you want to make an album about this. I am also the one in my family who tries to learn these stories and document them in my own way (scrapbooking).

I found that my parents were somewhat resistant to telling the stories if asked questions that were too broad, like "tell me about your childhood." I don't see either of my parents often, so I am now in the habit when I see my mother of asking random questions about a personal belonging, like "where is this ___ from?" and sometimes just telling me its origin will get her started on the back story. But, I have to be careful not to ask too many questions at a time because it's overwhelming for an elderly person. A few times when she's started telling me a story I turn the recorder on on my iPhone, and those are the most successful stories since I can listen to them again.

I tried sending my father written questions to answer, and again, perhaps having too many questions in one document was overwhelming, because he didn't want to answer.

So, I guess my advice is know your audience. If you have parents that like to talk about themselves and where they came from, you could just do an "interview." If your parents are reticent about talking about themselves, or if they would get overwhelmed by too many questions at one time, it's definitely better to ask questions one at a time, over time. Showing them occasional photos and asking about its circumstances is a good start for the one at a time questions.

Good luck with your project! You'll enjoy learning those details about your parents.


PeaNut 330,399
August 2007
Posts: 2,998
Layouts: 544
Loc: Virginia

Posted: 12/11/2012 1:23:56 PM
Good luck with your project!

After my father passed away, I realized there was so much that I didn't know. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend some time with his brother, who had some old photos. He loved going back, telling me stories of their school days. However, he'd move so fast, flitting from one memory to another that it was a little hard to keep up (but I wouldn't trade that time for anything).

I wish I'd thought of it at the time - grab a small tape recorder and during a visit, grab some photos, sit down and just chat about them. Maybe after a lunch or dinner, so the atmosphere is relaxed. You could preface the recording with the photo information (do that before you sit with the relative, so they don't feel "obligated" to tell you things), and then just record the conversation, where-ever that may lead. One photo might lead your parents on a tangent to something totally obscure that has nothing to do with the original train of thought - but these are all memories to capture.

Even better, if they are both in the room, recording the back 'n' forth about who did what (or who didn't LOL) might make for an interesting story or two.


PeaNut 57,636
December 2002
Posts: 27,316
Layouts: 2,089
Loc: In the Scrap room!

Posted: 12/11/2012 9:34:22 PM
there is a book you can buy that has prompts in it--but I don't see it at Amazon. but I did find these if you are interested: ask grandma

Deanna (Scrappin-Grandma)
John 3:16
Check out my blog here:
Happily Creating for these wonderful designers Polka Dot Pixils, Jen Martakis, Just Jaimee, and Dianne Rigdon here at 2 peas!


PeaNut 91,198
June 2003
Posts: 85
Layouts: 2
Loc: Texas

Posted: 12/15/2012 9:19:04 PM
Your post prompted me to think that I need to be a better biographer! I once knew all the detailed answers to those questions you posed in your post about my own parents, but I need to sit and write down what I do remember and then ask them the rest of the details.

The way I learn things about my parents is through different ways. Sometimes a photo or a particular food will spark a conversation or question. Sometimes I will ask, "Mom/Dad, what did you do when you first brought me home from the hospital?" or questions like that. Invariably, that one question will spark others. I don't like to ask too many questions because their memories are fading, and I don't want to overwhelm them.

Good luck! Be sure to write everything down before you forget! Recording is such a great idea!



PeaNut 478,124
August 2010
Posts: 317
Layouts: 1

Posted: 12/20/2012 6:46:03 PM
Check out She recently announced (yesterday i think) that she has a new class starting called The History Project. It is all about the stories that make up your life. I am thinking of buying it for my mom (74) and me to do together from our respective points of view. It is a year long class and looks awesome

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