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Family History Fun & Simple

Last year when I went back home to visit my family in Australia, my mother pulled out the coolest thing I have seen in my entire life – a handmade, hand-bound, hand-drawn, hand-written (you know I love the ‘hand’ stuff) giant comic book documenting the 3 month trip her and my dad took as newlyweds.

Last year when I went back home to visit my family in Australia, my mother pulled out the coolest thing I have seen in my entire life – a handmade, hand-bound, hand-drawn, hand-written (you know I love the ‘hand’ stuff) giant comic book documenting the 3 month trip her and my dad took as newlyweds on a boat from Australia to England, and then traveling throughout Europe. They didn’t have much money so a camera and photos were not accessible for this trip, but she wanted to record the adventure. It is HILARIOUS and brilliant! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it sooner. I discovered all kinds of stories and things about my parents that I otherwise wouldn’t have known. It got me thinking about all the other untold stories and snippets of my family history that are hidden away, wanting to come out and be told but perhaps not quite knowing the way…

But how to proceed? Where? When? How do we get bitter old Uncle Tom to open up? How do we remember to find out all the good stuff, the little memories from the corners of Granny’s mind?

Slowly (as to not frighten my family members entirely) I plan to whittle information from them to write down/paste in/keep forever in a special book/s for future enjoyment. With a new year freshly in our midst, I created a simple list of weekly questions or personal prompts that you yourself can answer/participate in as well as sending to your family members for their responses. Think of the juicy family goodness you will have compiled at the end of the year!

You know your family best. Some members may respond, ahem, less enthusiastically than others to your grand idea. Be gentle. Find a way to make it fun for them. Have your children be involved to soften those hardened old hearts! I used to beg my grandmother to tell me stories of my dad being a naughty little boy when I was a child, so have your parents dish the dirty on you to pique their interest. Go about your history collecting in whichever way works for you:

*Create or buy a blank journal/notebook to give out with the list of questions, so the recipient may write their own responses in the book, to be collected by you at the end of the year.

*Print and cut each question into a paper strip and put them in a jar (your children can help do this and decorate the jar) to be pulled out at random and answered.

*Each time you go and visit an elderly family member, have your children ‘interview’ them! If they are old enough to write have them keep the stories in their own special journals, or give them a clipboard and paper to bind the pages into your family history book.

*If your family live far away like mine – keep the list on your computer and on a designated day each week email them the question.

Nagging for a response is optional. I’m thinking I’ll have an 85-90% success rate with responses from my mother….while I’ll be happy if dad even answers a few of them! Still, I’ll try…and I won’t be ashamed to turn to bribery if I have to (or emotional blackmail come to think of it).

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So, happy asking and answering! I’m excited to see what the year brings in hidden family gems and scandals… I’ll be setting a good example and answering some of the questions in my own journal for my children’s future entertainment (I can hear the groans of embarrassment already). This family stuff, it’s important you know!

Emily J

PS – Join me on my blog this year also for ‘52Q’ – 52 weeks of personal questions and answers in a mini art journal challenge!


  1. Take a photo of the clothes hanging in your wardrobe
  2. Describe a favorite childhood toy
  3. How did you travel to and from school?
  4. What did you eat for lunch at school?
  5. What was the naughtiest thing you did as a child?
  6. Who did you feel closest to in your family?
  7. What chores/responsibilities did you have as a child?
  8. Where did you like to go to get away?
  9. Where would you holiday if money was no object?
  10. Favorite meal of the day?
  11. What do you love most about your parents?
  12. What frustrated you the most about your parents?
  13. Describe your perfect day…
  14. Most memorable adventure you have had…
  15. What do you think you are the most clever at?
  16. Something that made your belly shake with laughter…
  17. First car you owned…
  18. Proudest day of your life so far…
  19. Something you always wanted to learn…
  20. Valuable advice you have received…
  21. Yummiest thing you know how to cook…
  22. Scan or photocopy a drawing or letter that is important to you
  23. 3 favorite photos
  24. Photograph the things in your bag/car today (without cleaning first!)
  25. Song currently playing in your cd player
  26. Somewhere you have never been to but would like to visit one day…
  27. A favorite childhood memory…
  28. What your parents do/did for work…
  29. First time you experienced snow?
  30. Painful lesson you have learned…
  31. Save all your receipts from today
  32. What language do you wish you were fluent in?
  33. Do you prefer handwriting or typing?
  34. Photograph the contents of your fridge today
  35. A Christmas memory
  36. Which was your most memorable birthday?
  37. Something you yearned for as a child but never received…
  38. What do you like to wear the most?
  39. A favorite experience being a parent…
  40. All time favorite movie
  41. Most reckless thing you have done
  42. A regret…
  43. What you would do if you were 12 again for the day…
  44. Name the different places you have lived.
  45. Save at least 3 items from your day today that you would normally throw away
  46. Send a letter/email to someone who lives far away, and save a copy
  47. A skill you wish you had
  48. Something you are afraid of…
  49. The happiest thing that happened to you this week…
  50. What did you wish to become when you grew up?
  51. Are you an indoor or an outdoor person?
  52. Share a funny story about each of your siblings…



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