3 Prompts to Collect a Family Story

Just ask a few questions, and with that you can collect a family story to share in the oral tradition of storytelling, or write in a journal or memoir. Here are 3 questions you can ask, you can change them, or rearrange the order. Make a point each week to ask a family member some questions and start to chronicle the family story. I have inherited some family stories and with additional research they have become family treasures from 150 years ago!

Question #1: Where was you favorite place to play as a child?

Question #2: When were you truly scared?

Question#3: finish the statement; Late one night when I was alone…

So here is my quick story that came to mind when I looked at that cluster of prompts.


My favorite place to play as a child was across the street in Nancy’s yard in Coventry, Ct, where I grew up. We were very young, too young for the adventures at the river like the big kids. We had a little stream to play in. It varied in size with the rains and disappeared sometimes in the summer. At that stream we captained ships, played house, chased frogs and salamanders, brought our dolls on picnics and so much more. We could see both my house and Nancy’s, we were right by the edge of the yard. It is really just the accumulated water of the hill behind where I grew up headed to the brook and that brook eventually wound its way to the Skungamaug River. The little streamlet passed under the street in a cement tube and flowed into Nancy’s yard.  Here by the stone wall was our magical kingdom of play.

One night when I was alone at home I heard a loud crash. Many year had passed since I played in the little streamlet, but that was where the sound came from. I parted the curtains and looked out. In the dark night there were red tail lights sticking up out of the little stream. The crash had been a car going through the guard posts at the edge of the road there and tipping the car into the  ditch that carried the little course of water. This was a time when I was truly scared, and alone! I was in a panic and quickly grabbed the phone and called the police. I couldn’t report any injuries as I had not gone out yet. My heart was racing, just as I hung up the phone there was a loud knock at the door, I jumped.  Jane, our Newfoundland dog and the biggest softy in the world came running to me. The family always joked she would carry a burglar’s tools for them. Not that night, she sensed my fear and came to my side as I went to the door. I held her collar and opened the door. Did you crash? I asked of the young man on the other side. Are you hurt? I’ve called the police for help! He stood wide eyed on the steps, somewhat in shock I am sure. Do you need to sit down, do you want to come in? I didn’t really want him to, but I was worried he was hurt and wasn’t sure what to do. I was assured by the thought that the police were on the way. He absorbed all I said slowly and still had that wide eyed look as he stared at Jane, collar in my hand. “I’ll stay out here with my car, I’m all right, I guess”. He never took his eyes off the 125 pound dog at my side.


I glanced down at her and was shocked to see her defense stance and hackles raised. She had a ton of black fluffy hair and with it all on end she looked 300 pounds and intimidating! I had never seen her in protection mode before. He said if they were coming to help he would wait out there and signal other cars to go on. He thanked me for calling and turned and walked down the driveway back toward his upended car. I closed the door and dropped to my knees to give Jane a big hug for protecting me. A drooly kiss came in reply. We went to the front window where I watched the police and the tow truck extricate the car from the brook. By the time my parents came home all was cleared up and dark. I couldn’t wait to tell them about Indigo’s Mandy Jane the Newfoundland guard dog!


5 Responses to 3 Prompts to Collect a Family Story

  1. Hi Carolyn, Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful George Henry Story CD. It is indeed terrific and I understand why it was chosen as Parents’ Choice medalist. It is wonderful to hear this tale. You speak well. Shows your good education and thoughtful and thorough approach in preparing for this. I thank you for your generosity. Your folks would be so proud of you. I know they were always. Best, Cheers, and with gratitude. Fran

  2. Love how you are focusing on this important genre of storytelling. Recently I’m faced with sorting my parents’ home. They were boarder line hoarders.; collected and kept too much. However I found a notebook I must have given my mother titled generations. It must have been sheets of prompts such as you presented in blog with a notepad of lined paper. The prompts are missing but her answers remain. One was her earliest memory which was standing on a farm stye watching a pair of foxes run across the wide green Yprkshire moor. She moved to southern England when she was 3 so this is a very early memory. It made me see the picture of my mother as a fair curly haired toddler in a dress with her hair whipped by wind. Enough of an image to create a story … Perhaps

    • Now that is a treasure to find! Enjoy reading it and matching some of the posts to photos you have.

  3. I’m the family history in our family so I”m thrilled to find your blog! I came here looking for A-Z posts, though…are you not participating this year? Gail

    • Thanks for coming to visit. I do a lot of work with family stories both old and current. I had to pull out of A-Z I had several issues all come at me at once, I new I could not keep up. I hope to participate next year. Come back to visit I have more family posts coming up ( about 1 per week is my usual rate of posting)

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