• Marty Sullivan II

Preserving Family Memories through Art and Storytelling


"Family Shoot 5" by left-hand is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0


The sharing of family memories and stories are two things that can connect multiple generations of a family line. Photographs of grandparents when they were the age of their grandchildren can create a bridge that connects an age gap and gives insight into the life of family elders. With art and visual storytelling, genealogy can expand past an artistic family tree and include elements that provide a deeper understanding of family than branches connecting names.

Genealogy platforms used to uncover one’s history, such as, Ancestry.com and 23andMe, allow for users to find connections and family members that are attached to their lineage. However, these platforms may not always be trusted based on their methods of data collection as groups like the U.S. Military warn against them. As genealogy platforms create a starting point to know who is related biologically and by marriage, viewing a family tree, alone, does not provide space to document memories and stories that are passed through generations.

What if there was a way for people to understand their lineage and create ways to save this information for family members to come? With time, research, and conversation, this could be possible. Learning more about family genealogy shares parts of history that are not always told on personal levels.

Collecting Family History

Collecting family history is a key point to being able to pass it on from generation to generation. Outside of genealogy testing, this can be done by sitting down with family members and asking questions that allow them to share their knowledge of their life and the lives of those that came before them.

Preserving Family History

Another element to saving family history is preserving what is already created. Passing information through art creates tangible items to learn from that can be forgotten through storytelling. However, storytelling does not limit the transfer of information that is important to keep family traditions and memories alive. The importance of elders providing information to carry on has become incredibly important for some people as their lifestyles depend on it. A NY Times article talked about the loss of tribal elders and its cultural crisis on traditions and lifestyle.

Documenting Family History

The process of documenting family history can start at any time. It can be as simple as recording stories, taking photos, or saving family trinkets and items. For rediscovering the past, this could look like finding old photos from special events to talking to relatives that know much of the family history to share.


Using methods that share more on who a person in a family line was compared to how they were related could help younger generations connect and learn from their lives. Art and storytelling provide a medium that can be saved and added to as history is created each moment people are alive.


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