Record the Stories That Lack Documentation

Write Stories That Lack Documents

Does everything that happens in our life produce documents and photos? And are these moments less important because they lack such evidence?

There are so many things that we know about ourselves and our family members that should be recorded. Some funny, some sad, and some just normal but treasured. We can add more to our family history and deepen our connections with one another if we’ll record the things that no documents can prove.


I have a friend who has eight children. When they were traveling cross-country on vacation, they stopped at a gas station. The parents, children, and the dog got out to take a breather and fill up the car with gas and snacks. When all was finished, the family loaded up and headed off.

Two hours later, the mom said, “Where’s Fido?” It seems the family had left Fido back at the gas station two hours back.

Should they turn around? Would Fido be deceased? Would Fido find his way home?

The family high-tailed it back to the gas station because it was then they realized that Fido would surely be fine because their son Joshua was back at the gas station too.

This family story still makes me laugh. The family didn’t realize they left Joshua behind. They realized they left the dog behind and then felt horrible guilt that their son was with the family pet!


Sandra and Sarah were first cousins and close as sisters growing up. Sandra and Sarah had the same social circle and noticed a handsome young buck at the same time. They both desired to be his gal and began to put sabotage each other in attempts to win the fair hair gent’s affection. Unfortunately, the swain was not the type to settle down and left a wake of broken hearts when he moved on to the next town. The cousins’ relationship was in tatters and they never spoke again.

How many family feuds or neighbor battles began over something so small in hindsight?


Vicki had stage four cancer, but you wouldn’t know it. She gave every once of goodness and joy she had to all around her. If you asked how she was doing, she’d say she was, ‘finer than a frog’s hair split seven ways.’ As death knocked at her door, Vicki began to joke, “I’m finally going to go to medical school.” Her body was being donated to science. It had been her dream as a young woman to study medicine but that dream had come to a heart-wrenching halt due to life’s circumstances. Despite the disappointments and sadness in her life, Vicki heroically faced death and cancer and won, even if the disease claimed her life.

I want to be like Vicki in more ways than one. I think about my daily grumbles and think, would Vicki be happy or sad?


This summer, take time to record the stories in your family that lack documentation. They brighten our days, explain the tension, and motivate us to do better.

If you need a few story triggers, think about these:

  • What stories are around the dinner table at family gatherings and begin like this, “remember when….”?
  • What questions does your family still wish they could answer?
    • The family doesn’t know what happened to Jim when after he joined the merchant marines
    • The family doesn’t know what happened to Samuel after he eloped with his bride
    • No one knows why Ephriam sold his successful business and became a poor farmer
  • What things do you wonder about?
    • Who in our family had red hair?
    • Why is Bob 6’3” and everyone else is 5’10” or less
  • What stories were shared between family members?
    • Understanding what it’s like to be adopted.
    • Remembering what it was like to have a child die in your arms after a husband went off to war
    • How to pick up after a natural disaster wipes out a business or cholera claimed the lives of your children.

Documents and photos provide evidence of our ancestor’s lives.  The details that no document can provide make genealogy about humans and their connections together

It's your job to record the family stories that you know before they go to the grave with you. #genealogy #ancestry #usgenealogy #genealogy101 #beginninggenealogy #preservation #storytelling #legacy…
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Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

4 thoughts on “Record the Stories That Lack Documentation

  1. So true. I recently finished a book about my 3rd Great-Grandfather and I included the 'recorded' story of his death and everything that suggests the story is bunk. I also included information where his son is buried, even though the records can't definitely prove it. For me, the key is to record all the stories and let folks know what is documented and what is hearsay.

  2. Absolutely. My family stories are buried with my parents, grandparents, and so on. I wish I had the technology and the knowledge to record their stories 20 years ago.

  3. Devon, this is an excellent point. I know some genealogy folks think we need to document and prove every story…but even if the story is not completely accurate or we lack documentation to back up every detail, we should record it. Tell the story behind the story, meaning what is factual and what hasn't been proven–or why this story has resonated through generations, if it's not accurate.

  4. It is really important to record family stories before it is all gone forever including the people who can share those stories.

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