Family History Journal Prompt Jar

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by Jennifer Sizemore (Feb 18, 2008)

I have a shoebox full of old photographs in my closet, photographs of my parents in their youth and of their parents in the early part of the century. I know who they are, as my mother had me write all of the names on the back of the photos when she passed them to me. My favorite photograph is a picture of my grandfather and his brother, posing with pistols aimed at each other. I know it was taken next to the barn on our family farm because I recognize the spot. But I imagine that my grandfather could tell me a wonderful story about that photograph, about his relationship with his brother and about life growing up on the farm.

That shoebox full of photographs and how little I know is what prompted the project in this article, which I gave to my parents this past Christmas. I want to know more about the people and places in those photographs, and what their lives were like. I also wanted to know about people that were not shown in photographs, something I knew would be shared if those memories were triggered.

Here is what you will need to do to make a life story journaling gift like mine. The time needed to make this project is only an hour. Coming up with the questions was the time-consuming part of the project and I have done those for you (although you may wish to ask questions of your own).

  • Journal for each person you are gifting
  • Decorative embellishments for the journal
  • Decorative box for journals and pen (optional)
  • Decorative jar for journaling prompts
  • Journaling prompts (shown below)

To personalize the journals, use your scrapbooking and stamping supplies to decorate a store-bought journal. I used monograms on the cover of my journals, so that my parents could easily tell the two apart. The journals were purchased at Target, but you could choose any journal that fits the personality of your recipient. You could also make your own journal, using any bookbinding method.




2_53To make the journaling prompt jar, choose a jar that matches the home décor of your gift recipient and is large enough for all of the prompts. My jar is a little more formal, and was purchased at Michael's. Because it was beautiful as is, I simply added a rub-on from Creative Imaginations that fit my heritage theme. Copy and paste the prompts from below into a word processing application. Space out your sentences, remove the numbers if you like and then print. Each prompt was cut and then folded a few times before placing it in the jar.

When you present your gift, it will probably be necessary to give the recipient a verbal lesson in how to use the journaling system. (unless your lucky recipient is a scrapbooker and already knowledgeable about good journaling). Be sure to let the recipient know that the intent of the prompts is to stir memories, any memories. Their answers should be detailed and may even stray from the original question. You can also encourage your recipient to write down any story that comes to mind, even those not prompted by the journaling strips.

Have fun making your journaling gift and as always, share it with the rest of us in the Scrapbook.com Gallery.


Basic information to include on the first page:

  • Name:
  • Birthdate:
  • Birthplace:
  • Maiden name (if applicable):
  • Parent's names:
  • Maternal grandparents:
  • Paternal grandparents:
  • Siblings:

Journaling prompts:

1. What did your father do for an occupation?

2. Where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor? Were you old enough to remember?

3. Where were you when John F. Kennedy was shot? What did you feel?

4. Where were you on September 11, 2001? How did the events of that day impact your life?

5. What was a typical Sunday like when you were growing up?

6. What did your family do for vacations when you were growing up?

7. What is your favorite birthday memory?

8. How was Christmas celebrated when you were growing up?

9. What was your favorite subject in school?

10. What instruments did you play in band? Which band(s) were you in?

11. Did you belong to any clubs in high school?

12. Where did you go to college? What years?

13. Were you ever in a school play or musical?

14. What did you do after school?

15. What was your first job?

16. Is there a Christmas or birthday present that really sticks out in your mind?

17. Where were you when man first walked on the moon? How did you feel?

18. Who were you named for?

19. What was your favorite age or time period in your life?

20. What was the hardest thing you ever had to do?

21. What fads have you seen come and go? Did you participate?

22. Is there something you wished you had done, but didn't?

23. Have you ever experienced a natural disaster? How were you affected?

24. What person affected your life the most?

25. When and where were you married? Did you have a honeymoon?

26. How many aunts, unless and cousins do you have? Were they a part of your childhood years?

27. Was there a family member you were especially close to?

28. What is your proudest accomplishment?

29. How did you meet your spouse?

30. What places have you seen in the world?

31. Is there anywhere you would still like to visit?

32. Did you know your grandparents?

33. Did you have a best friend?

34. Did you have pets?

35. When did you learn to drive and what kind of car did you drive?

36. When did you get your first TV? What shows did you watch?

37. What was your favorite candy? Favorite meal?

38. Did you go to the movie theater? The drive-in? What types of movies did you like?

39. What was the first movie you saw? Is there a movie you would watch over and over again?

40. Was there a job or career you wanted at one time then didn't pursue?

41. Do you remember any special stories you grandparents told you?

42. Did you attend church regularly? What faith?

43. Were your parents very social? Did they dress up everyday or to entertain?

44. How did the Great Depression affect your family?

45. How did WW 2 affect your family? What do you remember most about that time?

46. Did your mother and father have favorite sayings?

47. What did the home you grew up in look like?

48. What was the first home you purchased like?

49. Did you like growing up in a small town? Did you dream of moving away or did you want to be there forever?

50. Did your family eat in the kitchen or dining room? What did the table settings look like?

51. Was there much music in your home? If so, what kind do you remember?

52. Did you have a garden? Flower or vegetable?

53. Do you remember your childhood home having a particular scent?

54. Did you have a nickname? Do you have any nicknames now?

55. Did you collect anything as a child? Do you now?

56. Did you have chores as a child?

57. How did you and your siblings entertain yourselves as children?

58. Did you go to camp? What was it like?

59. What was your neighborhood like when you were a child?

60. Did you eat lunch at school? If so, what was it typically?

61. What did you do in the summer when there was no school?

62. What did you do the day you turned 21? 40?

63. What was the fanciest New Year's Eve party you ever attended?

64. Did you have family picnics?

65. What was your favorite song in high school?

66. Did you go to your high school prom or other dances?

67. What were the clothing trends/fashions when you were in high school? Did you wear them?

68. Did you do well in school? Did you ever skip school?

69. Where did you go to college? How important was it for you to go to college?

70. Where did you live while in college?

71. Were you in clubs or a fraternity/sorority in college?

72. What degree did you get in college? Did you use what you learned in the rest of your career?

73. Did you change significantly while you were in college?

74. How were you impacted by the Vietnam War?

75. Did you ever see a favorite performer in concert or at a show?

76. Did you have a favorite radio show? How did your family listen to radio shows?

77. How did you feel about Elvis? The Beatles?

78. What do you like to read? Do you have a favorite novel or author?

79. What type of art do you enjoy? Have you purchased? Have you created?

80. What was your first job? What other jobs did you work before having a career?

81. Were you friends with your co-workers? Do you keep in touch with any of them?

82. What was your career? Were you happy in that career?

83. Who was your first love? Did you have any crushes on celebrities?

84. Do you have any bad habits?

85. What can be found on your refrigerator door? In your pantry?

86. Is there anything you must do every day?

87. What is your favorite season? What about it do you love?

88. Do you like time alone, or do you need to be with people?

89. Which President did you admire most in your lifetime?

90. Did you ever wish to live in a different time or era?

91. What have been some of the biggest changes in your lifetime?

92. How did you look as a child? As a young adult? Did you like your appearance?

93. Was there something you always wanted to change?

94. Did you ever have an accident?

95. Do you think you grew to be like your parents? In personality? In appearance?

96. Who have you lost in your life that you miss the most?

97. What advice would you pass on to grandchildren?

98. Did you ever travel by train? By ship?

99. What was your mother like?

100. What was your father like?

101. What was your childhood neighborhood/town like?

102. At what type of stores did your parents shop in your childhood?


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