Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Covertly Gathering Family Stories - Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the stories my grandmother wrote in a family history. Since my grandmother won't answer my questions about her family, I was happy to discover these stories and learn more about her life. But the problem with the stories was that she never identified who she was talking about. She would just refer to other people in the story as "her brother," "her daughter," her "uncle," etc. Since I knew if I asked her directly, she would tell me that she didn't remember, I had to find another way to get the details.

That's when I decided to crowd source the stories. Who else would remember these events? My dad, aunts and uncles!

Here's what I did:
  1. I typed up all the stories from the book.
  2. The whole narrative is just a collection of random mini stories. They aren't in any chronological order ans she skips back and forth between her childhood and raising her own children. So I split the narrative into the little stories and put them into a spreadsheet. (I am only using the stories of her children for this project since they obviously won't remember their mom's childhood.)
  3. I added a column to the spreadsheet for a date.
  4. Each Friday I send a mini story out to my dad and his brothers and sisters.
  5. Over the weekend, they send me back their version of the story and other memories that the original story triggered. They give me all the details that I was missing. They also use "reply all" on the email so that they can build off of each other.
  6. On Monday, I write up the new story that we have created from just a few lines.
I have enough stories to get through the middle of November, which is perfect because at the end of the year, I'm going to put all the stories together in a book along with some family photos. It's going to be an amazing family heirloom.

Now you might be wondering how effective this technique has been. Stay tuned to tomorrow's post when I share how 4 lines of text turned into 2 pages.

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