12 February 2021

Prompts for Family History Stories

This press release from Ancestry.ca reminded me of a conversation earlier in the week.


TORONTO, ON. February 11, 2021 – Ancestry®, the global leader in family history, reveals that three quarters (74 per cent) of Canadians wish they knew more about their families[1]. As Canadians continue to live in an extended period of lockdown, keeping in touch with loved ones is often top of mind, particularly at a time when we cannot all be physically together.

Despite Canadians itching to learn more about their family history and half (50 per cent) stating that family stories are a great conversation starter, a quarter of those polled don’t know where their grandparents were born, and 15 per cent do not know their grandparents’ full names.

While the desire is there, Canadians struggle to get the conversation started with previous generations when it comes to family history. To remedy this situation, Ancestry® has worked with genealogist and family history expert, Lesley Anderson to develop 12 questions that will help people learn more about their family history.

Discussing family history and stories from the past helps us feel more connected to our family and helps older relatives in times like this feel more connected to younger generations. Family video chats can be fun, but for many people topics of discussion are starting to dwindle, so consider asking these 12 questions at your next virtual gathering:

12 Questions to Ask Your Family:

What are your earliest memories?
What do you remember about your grandparents, aunts, and uncles?
What were your parents like and what are your clearest memories of them?
What memories stand out from your school days?
Who were your best friends in childhood and what did you get up to together?
Who was your first crush or first love, and what can you remember about them?
What do you remember about your first job and what was it like doing what you did for a living?
How did you meet your husband/wife/partner and what can you remember about your wedding?
Where was your first home, and what was it like getting your own home for the first time?
What was it like having your first child?
What memories do you have of raising your children and what did they get up to when they were young?

If you were to write your life story for future generations, what other stories would you want them to hear?

 “I was quite young when I started looking into my family history and thankfully, I was able to ask my Nana what she knew about our ancestors. She told me the story of her mother being orphaned when my Nana’s grandmother died of Typhoid after a flood and had to go and live on a farm with her elderly grandparents,’’ said Lesley Anderson, Family History expert at Ancestry®. “Finding her in the 1871 census living at Windwhistle farm as an 8-year-old confirmed that story and seeing her in the records told me more about her life.  And happily - I was able to go to England and visit the farm!”

The twelve questions are a great place to start and can help uncover more about your own family history but for those wanting to learn more, visit www.ancestry.ca.

The conversation I had was about StoryWorth. The person I spoke to was getting weekly questions, story prompts, developed by the company, the gift of a loved one. They prompted her to write one page, more or less, which at the end of the year would be bound in a keepsake book. She said she felt confident that dividing the writing task into bite-sized chunks was likely to mean she'd have a book at the end of the year she'd never otherwise have produced.

There are likely other companies than US-based StoryWorth providing a similar service. Do you have experience with any other?

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