Senior Living, Storytelling, Preserving Memories

Capture and record the stories of World War II veterans —  before it's too late

The guy piloting the landing craft got as close to the beach as he could. I was up by the ramp when it went down. Let's get the hell out of here! Bullets were flying all over. You had to get off and keep moving, because if you didn't, you were a dead duck…

“June 6, 1944, is a day I’ll never forget,” said William E. D'Huyvetters, a 90-year-old World War II veteran. He recalls hitting Omaha Beach on D-Day in his interview here.

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Stories like William’s are lost before they’re ever recorded. Everyday, World War II veterans are dying, and with them are stories of terrors and triumphs. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, an average of 362 WWII veterans die each day and it’s estimated that only 350,000 United States Veterans of the original 16 million Americans who served are still alive. The youngest of these heroes are in their late eighties, and some are more than 100 years old.

The passing of the WWII generation

World War II veterans are a diminishing demographic, and it’s important to capture their stories now, while they’re still with us. This generation holds the stories of bloodshed and sacrifice - the stories of things they had to endure to be here today.

There are numerous benefits to storytelling. By starting the conversation with the Greatest Generation, we’re giving them the opportunity to share wartime experiences and life advice for future generations. We only have a short period of time until WWII is complete history.

Capture these stories

Fortunately, there are initiatives in place to capture these stories before it’s too late. One of which is the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project which collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans.

However, a program like this doesn’t need to be government-backed. One 19-year-old made it his mission to film interviews with the remaining WWII combat veterans. With the support of donors, Heroes of the Second World War has been able to interview 849 men.

Go out of your normal social circles, venture into senior homes and talk to your elderly neighbor. If you have the privilege to work at a senior living organization, you probably hear these stories daily. A Legacy Preservation Program initiates the conversation and ensures these stories are preserved for generations to come.

When you’re speaking to a veteran, you tend to forget that the person who they were. That person in the picture, that handsome kid, is the same man 70 years earlier. It almost seems like it’s the story they’re telling of someone else. When it hits you, that you’re talking to the same person, it’s a combination of joy and sadness - this kid went through hell, just so that we could be here.

It means a lot to these veterans to create a relationship with you and feel valued. You can see the youth come out of them when they have a good conversation and they have the opportunity to reminisce for a few minutes.

You don’t need to go searching for celebrities. There are plenty of real-life heroes just a phone call away.

 


 

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TSOLife (The Story Of Life) focuses on preserving legacy and passing down life stories for future generations. Inspired to capture the stories of the veterans in your care? We help senior living communities leverage technology to capture, preserve, and share the life stories of the residents in their care. Let's talk!

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Senior Living, Storytelling, Preserving Memories, Company

TSOLife Case Study: A Legacy Preservation Program meets both mission and operational objectives

Grandpa and Girl smiling

In today's world of senior living, assisted living communities are expected to do more with less. Families have come to expect amenities and care that go above and beyond, while staff are under significant financial and time constrains. Now, imagine if there was an affordable program that attracted prospecting families, elevated current resident satisfaction, and engaged families. That's exactly what the TSOLife Legacy Preservation Program does. 

Click here to view the case study

Understanding the need for communities to increase person-centered care and resident engagement in order to increase occupancy, the TSOLife Legacy Preservation Program was designed to do just that by pairing state-of-the art technology with face-to-face interaction. Our innovative technology makes the process simple and timely so that staff can focus on what matters most: the senior. Meanwhile, meaningful interactions are encouraged, seniors are engaged, and the resident feels celebrated and valued. 

The technology was designed with seniors in mind. For example, instead of requiring typing, which can be an obstacle for some people, the TSOLife mobile app converts spoken phrases to text, which is sent to family and friends, all of which is automated on our end. 

A TSOLife Legacy Preservation program is the embodiment of a community that cares for its residents. We've put together a case study that demonstrates how effective TSOLife is from a business's standpoint while highlighting the impact this program has on seniors and their families.

Read Now


 

To see how it works in action, schedule a free web demo today! Learn more about the Minerva System and the TSOLife Legacy Preservation Program here.

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Documenting Your Story, Ancestry, Family History, Storytelling

5 Reasons To Tell Your Life Story

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To be a person is to have a story to tell.” – Isak Dinesen 

We’re fascinated by stories. Think about it. We spend hours watching movies, reading books, listening to music and podcasts. It’s human nature to gravitate towards stories.

There’s actually a science behind it. When we are being told a story, not only are the language processing parts in our brains activated, but any other area of the brain that would be used when experiencing the events of the story are too. For example, if someone tells a story about a delicious treat, our sensory cortex lights up. A good story can put your whole brain to work.

Science aside, our stories hold power. Storytelling transcends our past and gives a glimpse to the future. Stories are how we think and how we make meaning of our lives. Your life story can heal you and your story can heal someone else.

Below are 5 reasons to tell your life story:

1. Other people can benefit from your wisdom.

Telling your story can inspire and teach others. You might not think your stories overflow with wisdom, but they allow your audience to feel something that they haven’t felt themselves – whether it’s pain, joy, heartbreak, or love. Your experiences can teach something that young people especially can benefit from. You might be just the role model they’ve been searching for.  We’re all humans. The stories that you tell will echo onto others - as we all live, love, hate, and die. 

2. Your stories are important to your family.

The experiences and stories from your childhood, of meeting your future wife, Sunday dinners with your grandparents, all provide context to your family. Your descendants will appreciate and cherish your life stories for generations to come. Simply sharing with your children and grandchildren the family they were born into can be exactly the reassurance they need. The older they get, the more curious they will be about who you were and what situations shaped you. Your stories are a glimpse of a life they'll never experience and the memories you leave behind will be cherished and spread by your loved ones. Your family will thank you for documenting your stories.

3. Build self-awareness.

Storytelling is a way to reflect on who you used to be and the journey to where you are now. By building your self-awareness, you’re able to understand people better, how they perceive you, your attitude, and your responses to them in the moment. Reflecting on your past self helps you celebrate your milestones and learn from your mistakes. Your narrative identity is the story of your life – but it’s more than just stories. How you understand your narrative frames your current actions and future goals. As Dan McAdams, Northwestern University psychology professor, explains:

The stories we tell ourselves about our lives don’t just shape our personalities - they are our personalities.

4. Relate to one another.

Sharing stories brings people together. When you hear a good story, you develop empathy with the storyteller and the situation. Think about it. Your friend tells you a story about her family from her childhood and you suddenly have a significantly better understanding of her and in return your relationship is strengthened. Sharing life stories allows the teller and listeners to find commonalities. Stories give context to the person’s life and connect us to something greater than ourselves. Humans are social beings and meaning is found in community.

5. It’s fun!

Writing your life story can be complex, involving narrative flow, character development, and dialogue. Or it can be surprisingly easy and fun. If you’re a natural storyteller and writing is a hobby of yours, writing a memoir or autobiography can be very fulfilling. However, you can still reap all the benefits of storytelling without over complicating your story. When was the last time you reminisced on your youth? This nostalgia is good for us in more ways than one, research shows. An ancient memory of rainbow snow cone juice running down your sticky chin might be the forgotten memory that will put a smile on your face.

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GET STARTED

If storytelling has all these benefits, why isn't everyone doing it? Staring at a blank piece of paper or screen when you have a lifetime of memories inside of your head may seem like a daunting task. To help get you started on sharing your life stories, we’ve developed an easy and fun (and free!) guide. The process was modeled after life writing workshops, and is led by a professional writing instructor who coaches you every step of the way through short videos. 

Start Writing Today!

No one has lived or seen the exact same things than you, in the same place and moment. Do you understand how special that is? Take the time and tell your stories. You’ll feel good and you just might touch others, too.


 

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About TSOLife

TSOLife focuses on creating innovative ways to preserve legacy and pass down life stories for future generations. Our mission is that no grandchild should have to wonder what their grandparent was like. Our unique solutions create the most personalized way to pass down personal stories that families will share and cherish for generations.

Documenting Your Story, Preserving Memories, Storytelling, Writing Your Memoir, Memoir

How to Start a Memoir

I remember when I was very young, and my father showed me my great grandmother's memoir that he and his cousins constructed into a book. Reading her memoir made my family history incredibly more meaningful. Because I never had the chance to meet her, Elizabeth's stories of living in the Great Depression, her experiences at Bennett College, how her father made my great grandfather wait to marry her, all painted a picture of the adventurous, intelligent, spirited woman that I was named after (well, my middle name). My great grandmother had no idea what impact her memoir would have on her great granddaughter, who might even read it to her granddaughter. I have a much greater admiration for my great grandmother, knowing that she took the time to carefully construct her memoirs, planting seeds she would not see the fruit of.

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So, why should you write a memoir? You most likely have explored the idea of writing your memoir, and are doing a bit of research into the process and best practices before you commit the time and energy. Whether you were inspired by a loved one's memoir or recently read a great memoir book (check out Jeanette Wall's The Glass Castle!), you're new to the idea and searching how to start a memoir. This post will help answer the why's and how's to get you started on writing your personal memoir.

WHAT IS A MEMOIR?

First, let's start by explaining what a memoir actually is, not to be confused with an autobiography, book, or journal, though a personal memoir can be constructed from or into any of these. It is defined as a collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events that took place in the subject's life. It can be any type of combination of history and reminiscence, personal or public.

WHO WILL READ YOUR MEMOIR?

Memoirs are not just for the famous or those who lived especially eventful lives. Everyone has a story to tell. You can simply be sharing with your children and grandchildren the family they were born into. Your personal piece of history might be the lasting legacy you give to future generations. Your memoir is a glimpse of a life they'll never experience and the memories you leave behind will be cherished and spread by your loved ones. Nobody has lived or seen the exact same things than you, in the same place and moment. But, of course, as we’re all humans, the stories that you tell will echo on the others - as we all live, love, hate, and die. 

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However, even if you have no children or you're not convinced anyone will read your stories, the personal fulfillment is worth it. A memoir is a way to reflect on who you used to be and the journey to where you are now. My great grandmother initially started her memoir for her own enjoyment. An ancient memory of blue Popsicle juice running down your sticky chin might be the forgotten sweet memory that will put a smile on your face. You don't need an audience in mind to write a memoir, and this may also contribute to a much more enjoyable experience when you're not distracted with the idea of who will be reading your thoughts.

Further, writing your memoir has been proven to result in improvements in both your psychological and physical health. According to one study, participants who frequently engaged in writing about their past, current relationships, and their emotions had significant mental and physical health benefits and social and behavioral improvements. To name a few, writers had reduced blood pressure, improved mood, altered social and linguistic behavior, feelings of greater psychological well-being, a higher grade point average, and improved memory.

YOUR PERSONAL MEMOIR

Pretty astounding, right? If simply writing your memoir has all these benefits, why isn't everyone doing it? Staring at a blank piece of paper or screen when you have a lifetime of memories inside of your head may seem like a daunting task. To help get you started on your personal memoir, we've put together an introduction to writing your memoir with best practices, tips and tricks, and inspirational writing topics! You can download the FREE guide below:

Download the Intro to Writing Your Memoir Guide! 

You're now convinced of the importance of writing your memoir and you have the tools to do so. As William Zinsser said, "Writers are the custodians of memory." Take the time and write your memoir. Make it yours. You'll feel good and maybe with a little luck and patience, you might touch others too.  



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ABOUT TSOLIFE

TSOLife, a personal historian service and online tool to help you capture, record, preserve and share the story of a life well lived. TSOLife makes it easy and enjoyable to document a personal history that will be cherished by future generations. We invite you to schedule a FREE hour with a personal historian to help start documenting your life story.

Learn More!

 

Family Tree, Genealogy, How To's and Tips, Family History, Storytelling

Is Social Media Making Us Narcissistic?

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Social media tempts us to live in an attention seeking society and it seems that everyone is on board with it. The usage statistics of these cites are astounding. Every day, on average, 60 million photos are uploaded to Instagram. More than 20% of the world's population publishes details of their lives on Facebook, creating over 3.2 billion likes and comments every day.

To many, this might not come as a surprise. If you're reading this, you most likely came across it through social media. We've joined Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn , Facebook and all the rest and are fascinated, not looking away, even when we're having a face-to-face conversation. It's never been easier to see what your friends are up to, stay in contact with people, and, most noticeably, become a publicity-seeking narcissist. The constant desire to display our lives to the public, searching for this approval from others, has influenced a culture of vanity and self-endorsement.

But, is this really what our society has come to? For many, social networks are to blame for their narcissism, but others just need to find a balance before teetering on the edge.

I'd like to think that social media hasn't shaped an entirely egotistical existence. These platforms have opened up creative outlets, given a voice to the ignored, fostered relationships, assisted in a job searches, introduced us to new ideas and concepts, built time capsules for users, created a platform for documenting our life stories... The list could go on.

However, what happened that transformed our use of social media from casually checking our accounts into habitually surfing and refreshing for notifications? It's imperative to find a balance and prevent the dark side of social media from shadowing the positives. There are several good habits you can practice that will help you resist the urge from constantly checking your phone or computer:

1. Schedule "me" time. It's important to have time to yourself, but with hectic schedules, we're often moving from one thing to the next. Instead of using any free opportunity to check your social networks, do something that betters yourself first. Go for a walk, write a letter, read, call your grandparents, stretch, or simply sit quietly by yourself.

2. Get into the habit of not checking your phone for the first hour of your day. For many of us, it's first instinct to look at our notifications as soon as we get up. Instead, practice mindfulness and resist the urge. Start your day off on a positive note. Ensuring you begin your day quietly with minimal outside distractions can have a positive influence on the rest of your day.

3. Avoid distractions. When working or studying, exercise restraint from looking at your notifications. This can lead to unintentional time lost. If you have a strong desire to constantly check your social media, look at it on the hour as a reward for a distraction-free 60 minutes of work.

4. Don't compare yourself with others. You are simply viewing a certain aspect of someone's life, and everyone posts only their best photos or the exciting aspects of their lives. Be happy for their accomplishments, and understand that the people your viewing also face trials and tribulations.

5. Don't worry about being approved. Some people rely on social media for their self-confidence. Refuse to constantly check to see who's liked your post, waiting to feel validated. Feel happy and approving of yourself and don't give that control to others. Instill a healthy sense of esteem offline before logging on.

6. Give quality time to others first. The real relationships in your life are the most valuable. Establish a rule with your friends to collect everyone's phones when you're out to eat or instill in your children that phones at the dinner table are unacceptable. Giving attention to your friends and family when they're with you will be the memories you'll cherish in the future.

Only by being less self-obsessed and placing more value on personal relating can we impart these values to the next generation. A healthy balance of social media can be formed where the threat of becoming narcissistic is inexistent. Everything in moderation. And avoid announcing to social media your attempts to reduce your social media usage.

 

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ABOUT TSOLIFE

The Story Of Life (TSOLife) is revolutionizing how we record stories and present our legacy to future generations. We empower you to document your own history through our TSOLife web platform, allowing you to be remembered the way you want to be remembered. On TSOLife’s beautifully simple and integrative platform, stories, videos, photos, and memories can be securely preserved. Start writing tomorrow’s history today.

Get Started  Try it FREE for 30 Days

Company, Genealogy, Documenting Your Story, Family History, Storytelling

TSOLife: the Story You Never Knew

cover-photoAs TSOLife’s founder, I constantly get asked where the inspiration for the company came from. It is a question I have answered practically on a daily basis since September 2014 when the company was founded. We have produced videos, blogs, and marketing material that explain where this dream came from. However, one thing I rarely get asked is, “Ok, after you had the idea, then what?”.

That is a question that would cause any entrepreneur to pause. We get so caught up in the vision, working around the clock, that we forget to look back and appreciate all the small building blocks that had to come into place, making the company what is today. All the triumphs and failures, learning and unlearning, construct the stories behind TSO.

Truth be told, the company was built one Google search at a time. I began with simply an idea, no capital, no ability to build the product, no network of potential customers, and no clue or concept of how to market or make sales. I even had to search how to come up with a good company name.

We’ve come a long way since 2014, and are excited for what the future holds for TSOLife. In these years, we’ve been able to help our users preserve their legacies and share their life stories, enabling future generations to be able to hear their stories from the first perspective.

TSO has decided to share its journey through its own TSOLife account, revealing the stories from its commencement to the present. Every other week, we will be releasing a new behind the scenes story about the company, creating a timeline of our journey. Next time someone asks how the dream turned into a tangible business, we can refer them to our TSOLife account. Further, this entertaining series will serve as inspiration for other entrepreneurs and show our audience that they can do the same for their business, whether it be a fourth generation family business or a young start-up. To get these updates, follow us on Facebook!

ABOUT TSOLIFE

TSOLbackground

The Story Of Life (TSOLife) is revolutionizing how we record stories and present our legacy to future generations. We empower you to document your own history through our TSOLife web platform, allowing you to be remembered the way you want to be remembered. On TSOLife’s beautifully simple and integrative platform, stories, videos, photos, and memories can be securely preserved. Start writing tomorrow’s history today.

Get Started  Try it FREE for 30 Days

Ancestry, Family History, Genealogy, Storytelling

2016 in Retrospect

 

Brexit. Trump. The Olympics. These are the topics that dominated our conversations and social medias in 2016. Some of these stories have come to a close, while many are just beginning. Whether positive or negative, these events will shape our future generations.

2016 was a year against all odds, making the seemingly impossible happen. To put it into perspective, lets take a look at the probability of a few headlining events last year:

Leicester City winning the English Premier League: 5000 to 1

Donald Trump winning the U.S. presidential election: 25 to 1 when first announced

The Chicago Cubs winning the World Series: 30 to 1 at opening pre season

Brexit odds of leaving: 9 to 2 at peak

Last year the unimaginable occurred, and for many, that meant that 2016 was a year of new beginnings. In CNN's article, "Dear World, I wasn't all that bad. Signed, 2016," the significant strides the world has made in 2016 are monumental and noteworthy. The high school graduation rate is at its highest at 82.3%, and the unemployment rate is at its lowest in ten years. Your story of getting a new job after the historical economic recession is one of triumph and a story that not only your family members would love to hear but many in similar situations would be interested in listening to.

Our children will want to hear our perspective on the 2016 election. Future generations will wonder about where we were when we heard about the Orlando shootings. Our grandchildren will ask again and again to hear the story of when we were all gathered around the television, watching the final run that broke the curse as the Cubs won the World Series. Headlines that announced Fidel Castro's death are far more than newspaper stories to the Cuban immigrants who fled to the States in recent years. It is events like these that will dominate conversations at the family dinner table when we are visiting our grandchildren over the holidays.

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It's the little moments in life that they'll be curious about. Remember the summer trip to Europe you took with the family? How will you tell the story of the first time you saw the icons of Italy you've only read about or the breathtaking landscapes that dominated your travel books? Did you fall in love? Did you stand by your childhood best friend as she married her college sweetheart? Did you become an aunt or an uncle? Where were you when you heard the news that your oldest child was pregnant, making you a grandparent for the first time? What was it like when you watched your youngest walk across the graduation stage?

There is no denying that 2016 was a monumental year. But wasn't 2015? And 2000? And 1950? Finding out that your grandparents were influential leaders in JFK's presidential campaign in 1960 is story that will inspire you and help you better understand who your loved ones were in their youth. What was their stance on the Vietnam War?

In a few decades, 2016 will be looked back at with the same interest as the JFK presidency and the Vietnam War. There is a parallel to the events of 2016 and the historical events that occurred over 50 years ago. They are not only the events that dominate news headings but are also instrumental in our everyday lives, shaping us to be political activists or causing a close family member's life to drastically change. It is important to preserve these stories now while they're fresh in our minds, writing tomorrow's history today, because one day, future generations will ask what it was like to live in a year against all odds.

“It is important to preserve these stories now while they're fresh in our minds, writing tomorrow's history today, because one day, future generations will ask what it was like to live in a year against all odds.”

As the first month of 2017 comes to an end, we can only be optimistic about the future. Many will look back on 2016 negatively, but it is important to note the positive. Both the small moments and the historic events mold us individually and will shape our future generations.

ABOUT TSOLIFE

TSOLbackground

The Story Of Life (TSOLife) is revolutionizing how we record stories and present our legacy to future generations. We empower you to document your own history through our TSOLife web platform, allowing you to be remembered the way you want to be remembered. On TSOLife’s beautifully simple and integrative platform, stories, videos, photos, and memories can be securely preserved. Start writing tomorrow’s history today.

Get Started  Try it FREE for 30 Days

Ancestry, Family History, Genealogy, How To's and Tips, Storytelling

Ancestry and Genealogy Research Resources

Unlimited genealogy research resources exist in the world. Fortunately, many of these resources are now available online. These days anyone can take an interest in genealogy without having to spend hours digging through libraries and archives and paying for photocopies. Online resources have changed the genealogy research world; however, navigating all the online resources can be an adventure.

“How do I know where to start?”

“What websites have the information I am looking for?”

The research process involves experimenting with different resources. Not one website works for absolutely everyone, because the sites pull from varying databases and collections. The documents these resources offer add value to your life story and your family history. As mentioned in our previous blog post, these documents add a sense of legitimacy to your life story. Here are some popular places to start your ancestry research and find these supplementary documents:

FamilySearch

FamilySearch is free for anyone to use. It is one of the biggest genealogy websites in the world with billions of online resources and additional physical locations with volunteers to help you in your family history research. FamilySearch connects you to other online genealogy searches increasing the amount of information available to you.

Ancestry

Ancestry.com works like a search engine by digging through databases and collections to find documents. This method has allowed Ancestry to collect billions of records from census reports to images to articles to the most extensive collection of immigration records. These documents can allow you to map your family history throughout the years. Ancestry.com is a subscription service and can cost more than its competitors. Ancestry’s extensive databases and additional services, for some people, may make it worth the price.

MyHeritage

MyHeritage is a fantastic genealogy search engine allowing you to search through billions of documents from around the world. The site serves as a community that allows you to connect with genealogists and better understand your family history. MyHeritage emphasizes that family history is for the family. They offer ways to get everyone involved with genealogy by providing games for kids and an easy-to-share family tree. Unfortunately, MyHeritage does not have Native American resources available. The site is easy to navigate and offers great features, such as DNA testing, a family tree builder, and a custom chart designer. My Heritage is known as a reliable resource and an enjoyable experience for the whole family.

FindMyPast

FindMyPast is not as feature-rich as other sites, but it still serves as a valuable search engine with access to 1.6 billion records from English-speaking countries around the world. The site does offer an easy-to-use family tree builder. FindMypast does not offer much support besides research articles and the FAQ section.

Archives

Archives has access to 4.6 billion records of varying types, including immigration documents, yearbooks, adoption records, and newspapers dating back to the 1700s. Archives is a great resource for rare and interesting citations and records on your U.S. or U.K. roots. If you have roots in the U.S. from 1790 to 1930, you can find U.S. Census records for your family. However, if you have family outside of these countries, you will not be able to find data about them.

GenealogyBank

GenealogyBank is a search engine for finding newspaper articles focused in the United States dating back to the 1690s. You can find records such as obituaries, marriages, community events and arrests in newspapers, making them useful in learning about your ancestors and the environment they lived in. GenealogyBank also collects local histories, funeral sermons, biographies, directories and other books allowing you to find more than just the usual standard birth, marriage, or death certificate.

The Genealogical Research Library

The Genealogical Research Library has a more global focus compared to other sites. The database is organized by geographic location, so it is easy to begin researching the places important in your family’s history. It does not have extra features like many of the other sites offer. However, it does offer some unique resources such as antique maps, historical books, and a collection of family trees. It is not a comprehensive site, but it is a great starting place to begin your research.

DNA Testing Options

Many companies offer DNA testing services so that you can truly find your roots! Ancestry.com offers DNA testing for $99. You do not have to have an Ancestry subscription to purchase the DNA kit. MyHeritage is now offering DNA testing for $79. 23andMe offers two packages for their DNA testing services, one priced at $99 and the other priced at $199.

Honest Products Review provides a review of the 5 best DNA kits here. Take a look if you're exploring these options.

 

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Source: 23andMe

 

There is an overwhelming amount of information on the internet. These databases are a great place to start. It can be difficult to know which services will be of the most value to you. Researching your family history will take some time, but the knowledge gained will be immensely rewarding.

Check out how these sites rank on TopTenReviews.

ABOUT TSOLIFE

The Story Of Life (TSOLife) is revolutionizing how we record stories and present our legacy to future generations. We empower you to document your own history through our TSOLife web platform, allowing you to be remembered the way you want to be remembered. On TSOLife’s beautifully simple and integrative platform, stories, videos, photos, and memories can be securely preserved. Start writing tomorrow’s history today.

Get Started  Try it FREE for 30 Days

Ancestry, Genealogy, How To's and Tips, Storytelling, Family History, Preserving Memories

How Do I Make My Life Story Stand Out?

You spent hours. Many of these hours were spent wadding up papers or exercising the backspace on your keyboard. Despite these setbacks, the duration of these hours have led you to where you are now. You sit there staring at your creation. Your life story lies before you, in whichever form it may take. You exhale, and in the process, relax the furrowed lines of your forehead developed while deciding what events and memories were worthy of inclusion in this narrative. You inhale, empowered and exhilarated because of what you have just accomplished. It is not finished, of course. What life story ever is? But, you have found that stopping point where you can stop writing and move on to the next step, which is what exactly?

You wrote your life story. Now it is time for someone to read it. This reader may be a family member or someone you have never met. That decision is up to you.  It is one thing to write a story, but making a story interesting and engaging is a whole other ball game. How do you interest people in reading it? You may have heard the adage, “Build it and they will come.” As many of us learn in life, this saying does not always represent the truth. When it comes to writing and sharing your life story, more effort is involved than that of “Write it and they will come.” As a writer, you are tasked with keeping the reader interested while still staying true to yourself. So how, as a writer, do you make your life story stand out? Fortunately, there are many ways to create a dynamic and interesting life story without using excessively flowery writing or including exaggerated details.

THE NEXT STEP

Welcome to Step 2 of the writing process! It is time to add photos, audio files, videos, supporting documents, and a new perspective to bring your life story to a whole new level.

PHOTOS

Photos are a sure way to bring some excitement to your life story. Photos are useful in engaging those with short attention spans who are turned away by lengthy blocks of text. They are memorable and interactive.  People say a picture is worth a thousand words, however photos are even more powerful when combined with text than when they stand alone. When adding photos, it is important to document who was there and what their names are. Do not force future generations into playing the “Guess who is in this photo?” game, because you did not write a caption or label the photo. You can describe how happy you were on your wedding day. However, for a reader to feel that they were there, they need to see it. Add a photo to your story from your wedding day, so that they can see for themselves the contentment and excitement in your smile.

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AUDIO

Record yourself telling your story, and add the audio files to your story. We understand how much value the spoken word holds. When recording your audio, tell the story. Do not just read the script. Let those reading and listening hear the inflections and tone of your voice. Let them hear your voice crack with emotion or increase pitch with excitement. Adding emotion will bring your story to life. The experience of listening while reading a story is much more dynamic than that of just reading the text alone. Generations from now, your family members will be grateful that they can listen to the voice of their great-great-great grandmother or grandfather.

VIDEO

We live in the digital age, so people commonly film important moments in their life. It is easy to capture even the smallest moments because of how widespread smartphones are. If you have the videos, add them. Do it. Videos are just fun, and are a sure way to drive engagement. They have the ability to influence the reader’s mindset and emotions while they read the story leading to more interest and involvement. It is fulfilling to watch a video snippet, see a moment as it unfolds, and then read the story about the events leading up to that moment and those that followed afterward. The addition of videos creates a very holistic storytelling experience that inspires the writer and the readers.

DOCUMENTS

Many stories can be supported with documents above and beyond photos and videos. Newspaper articles, birth certificates, artwork, scans of handwritten letters, diplomas, and census information add legitimacy to your stories. You may have some of these items laying around. Many of these items, however, may not be as easy to find and can require some research. Fortunately, many resources exist to assist in the search. A few of the more popular options include Family Search, Ancestry, and My Heritage.

PERSPECTIVE

Show your life story from a different perspective to keep people interested. Fortunately, TSOLife offers multiple ways to make that happen. The map view allows your life to be viewed from a global perspective and highlights your footprint on the world. Readers will immediately be able to see where you have traveled. Readers can also view your story on a vertical or horizontal timeline which offers them a chronological walk through of your life. These different viewing options allows your life story to interest a diverse group of readers.

By utilizing what resources you already have available to you, you can truly make your life story stand out. No matter who is reading it, whether it be family members, friends, or people you have never met, they will enjoy the exciting storytelling experience you are offering them. Even if you are writing for yourself as a way to reflect on your life, combining your written words with other aspects facilitates a more investigative and holistic experience. Pages of lines of text, tedious and not visually appealing, are a poor representation of the beauty and struggle in life—in your life. You have so much more to offer, so let your story shine.

Next week look forward to more information about resources available to find public documents and genealogical records.

 

Check out how photos and an audio recording bring this story to life.

Find supporting documents at Family Search, Ancestry, and My Heritage

Check out these new perspectives on a life story: map view, vertical timeline, and horizontal timeline. To learn more, read How to Write a Good Life Story.

 

ABOUT TSOLIFE

The Story Of Life (TSOLife) is revolutionizing how we record stories and present our legacy to future generations. We empower you to document your own history through our TSOLife web platform, allowing you to be remembered the way you want to be remembered. On TSOLife’s beautifully simple and integrative platform, stories, videos, photos, and memories can be securely preserved. Start writing tomorrow’s history today.

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Genealogy, How To's and Tips, Documenting Your Story, Storytelling, Preserving Memories

How to Write a Good Life Story

Writing your personal narrative can be an extremely rewarding experience. To read further about why your life story matters, read How Do I Make My Life Story Stand Out. Unfortunately, documenting these anecdotes can seem labor intensive and overwhelming. However, sitting down and writing your life story does not have to be a scary experience. Here are a few tips that make the process exciting and stress-free:

  1. Pause before you write.

Think about what you want to write before your hand ever touches the keyboard or picks up a pen. Taking a moment to write your story in your head first gives you a mental first draft and can lessen the chances of you experiencing writer’s block or freezing as soon as you pick up the pen.

  1. Start off by thinking big.

Throw away the misconception that writing your life story means you must work chronologically from birth to present. This method may work for many and will result in a finalized memoir document, but it is a tedious and tiresome process. You will probably find yourself writing about an event, because it is next in line chronologically not because it is critical to your life story. Start writing about the stories that are most important to you. Make the process easier on yourself by writing the stories that come naturally. Write about what memories excite you and what memories make you who you are. This advice comes from Sandi Newmark, journalist and TSOLife client. As a feature writer, Sandi possess experience and expertise on highlighting the important events. She advises writing your life story like a feature piece. Spotlight the important stories, and go back to fill in the minor events later.

  1. Sweat the small stuff.

Details really set great stories apart. Include specific information, such as names, dates, and addresses. Take a moment to set the scene. What was the weather like? What was everyone’s moods that day? What stands out about the moments where your story takes place? The right details allow you to share your story with your reader and move them to that moment and that place. Details allow for a more holistic and engaging reading experience. Focus on the pertinent details. Focus your writing on elaborating upon the life event you are describing; however, avoid embarking on unrelated tangents.

  1. Think about what you wouldn’t think to ask someone in person.

There are many important questions and topics that are important to a person’s life. Many of these topics, unfortunately, do not come up naturally in every day conversation. People converse all day every day, but how meaningful is what they are communicating? Write about what does not come up in the conversation in person. How did you first know you were in love? What is your biggest regret? What is your proudest moment?

  1. Add recommendations and advice.

Think about what retrospective knowledge you can pass down to others. Consider why you are writing this story and who will be reading it. Do you want your audience to take something specific away from it? When telling a travel story, where do you recommend someone to visit? When writing about the best date you had ever been on, what advice can you offer others for their next date? Documenting the story of your life gives you the opportunity to pass down knowledge to others, and it is important to take advantage of this opportunity.

  1. Show your personality!

This is your life story, so make sure it shows who you are. Feel free to include humor when appropriate. Throw in your favorite saying. Your writing style can be very poetic, or more conversational. Let your writing style reflect your character and personality.

  1. Find your inspiration.

Accept that writer’s block is normal. Sometimes we sit down to write, and our mind becomes as blank as the paper at which we are staring. Find your writing inspiration and look to it when you are stumped. Think about your favorite book, a memoir you have read, a conversation you had in the past, or the dream you had while sleeping last night. Reread what you have already written. Looking through old photographs can trigger many memories and many stories. (More about writing about photographs in our next blog post.) Take a moment to clear your mind and hit reset. Go for a walk or close your eyes for a few minutes. From where one draws inspiration is different for everyone.

  1. Be fearless.

Do not be afraid to look inside yourself. Write about all that is good as well as all that causes you pain. When you feel exposed and uncomfortable and find yourself outside your comfort zone is when true reflection, self-discovery, and brilliance takes hold.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” — Anaïs Nin

The writing process is different for everyone, and sooner or later you will find what works best for you. The tips above will send you in the right direction. Writing your life story can be an uplifting and wonderful experience, and is one that everyone should experience. Best of luck and happy writing!

Need inspiration? Check out these 100 Prompts for Writing About Yourself.

 

ABOUT TSOLIFE

The Story Of Life (TSOLife) is revolutionizing how we record stories and present our legacy to future generations. We empower you to document your own history through our TSOLife web platform, allowing you to be remembered the way you want to be remembered. On TSOLife’s beautifully simple and integrative platform, stories, videos, photos, and memories can be securely preserved. Start writing tomorrow’s history today.

Get Started  Try it FREE for 30 Days