"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
May 27, 2015
Saving Stories, Saving Families
by Kathryn Grant

The power of a good story is undeniable. And if an imaginary story has power, a true story has more power yet. And true stories about our families can have, for us, the greatest power of all.

What do family stories do for us? Researcher Bruce Feiler discovered that family stories can be a key ingredient in creating a resilient family ó a family whose members have the strength and connectedness that helps them deal with the inevitable challenges and triumphs of life.

Rosalene Pacini never knew her great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Xavier Tait, in this life. But as a child, Rosalene heard stories of Elizabethís faith in the Lord, and of her courage and determination in overcoming obstacles. Rosalene found herself turning to these stories again and again for strength as she weathered the storms and challenges of her own life.

For example, when Rosaleneís husband took a position in a foreign country and the family moved there, Rosalene felt overwhelmed. But she recalled that Elizabeth too had had the experience of going to an unfamiliar land and dealing with a new culture and surroundings.

Elizabeth had endured and thrived, and her experiences gave Rosalene the strength to endure and thrive as well. She eventually came to love and appreciate her time in a land far away from home.

As we gather and record the stories of our families, we can strengthen ourselves and our loved ones, perhaps for generations to come.

Family Tree allows you to record stories about your ancestors in several different ways.

Add a Life Sketch

On the Details tab of the Person page, you can add a life sketch ó a brief overview of a personís life. The life sketch in Family Tree is limited to 10,000 characters, which translates to about 1,500 words. Many life sketches may be shorter than that. Hereís how to add one:

  1. In Family Tree, navigate to the Person page of the individual for whom you want to add a life sketch. At the top of the page, under the gray banner, thereís a section entitled Life Sketch.

  2. If you see the word Open to the right of Life Sketch, click it to open the section (if you donít see the word Open, the Life Sketch section is already open).

  3. Click Add.

  4. In the box under Write a Life Sketch, type the life sketch. Some people find it easier to draft the sketch in a word processor, and then copy it into the box.

  5. Click Save.

  6. For more information, see Create a Life Sketch in Family Tree.

Add a Story

If you want to add an experience from someoneís life (rather than a life sketch), or if you want to add a life history longer than 10,000 characters, you can do that too:

  1. In Family Tree, navigate to the Person page of the individual for whom you want to add a story. In the gray banner at the top of the page, click Memories.

  2. Look for the Stories section (you may need to scroll down to see it). If you see the word Open to the right of Stories, click it to open the section (if you donít see the word Open, the Stories section is already open).

  3. Click Add.

  4. Click Create New Story.

  5. Type a title in the Title field, then write your story in the Story box. Again, you may find it helpful to draft your story first in a word processor.

  6. If you want to add a photo for the story, click Attach Photo, select a photo, and then click Add.

  7. When everything is the way you want it, click Save. (You can always come back and edit the story later).

Create or Capture Media on a Handheld Device

Finally, you can use the Memories app on a handheld device to capture and add digital recordings and photos to people in Family Tree. (Currently the app is only available for iPad, but FamilySearch says an Android version is on the way.) Visit the FamilySearch blog for more information.

Now Itís Your Turn

So hereís the assignment for this column: Think of ó or find ó a story from your family history that needs to be told, and add it to Family Tree. (One way to find stories is to talk to others in your family: parents, grandparents, siblings, and other family members.)

Stories donít have to be long or about some unusual thing. The point is to capture something of a personís life and to preserve their experiences for those who follow. You never know who might need to be inspired by the story you record.


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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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