Make a Memory BookSTEP 1: Begin by purchasing an empty 3-ring binder or a blank writing journal. Look for something that either has removable pages or lies flat when open to make writing easier. I prefer the binder because it lets you print and use your own pages. Even better, it also allows your relative to make mistakes and start over with a fresh page - which can help lessen the intimidation factor.
STEP 2: Create a list of questions. Be sure to include questions which cover each phase of the individual's life - childhood, school, college, job, marriage, raising children, etc. Get your family into the act and have your other relatives, children, etc. suggest questions that interest them. These history interview questions can help you get started, but don't be afraid to come up with additional questions of your own.
STEP 3: Gather together family photos that include your relative or her family. Have them professionally scanned into digital format or do it yourself. You can also photocopy the photos, but this generally doesn't yield as nice a result. A memory book offers an excellent opportunity to have relatives identify individuals and recall stories in unidentified photos. Include one or two unidentified photos per page, with sections for your relative to identify the people and place, plus any stories or memories which the photo may prompt them to recall.
STEP 4: Create your pages. If you're using a hard-backed journal you can print and paste in your questions or, if you have nice handwriting, pen them in by hand. If you're using a 3-ring binder, use a software program such to create and arrange your pages before printing them out. Include only one or two questions per page, leaving plenty of room for writing. Add photos, quotes or other little memory triggers to accent the pages and provide further inspiration.
STEP 5: Assemble your book and decorate the cover with personalized sayings, photos or other family memories. If you want to get really creative, scrapbooking supplies such as archival-safe stickers, die cuts, trim and other decorations can help you add a personal touch.
Once your memory book is complete send it off to your relative with a pack of good writing pens and a personal letter. Once they have completed their memory book you may want to send new pages with questions to add to the book. Once they return the completed memory book to you, be sure to have photocopies made to share with family members and protect against possible loss.