Facebook for Family Storytelling

Facebook thumbs up via Wikimedia Commons

Facebook is a great tool for “getting the word out” to your people quickly. It’s not just where I go to post news to my family and friends, it’s also where I go to see what news they might have to share.

If you are going to use Facebook to share family history there are some things to consider. At the risk of overthinking this topic, I offer these reminders:


Public vs. all of your Friends vs. Private Group

There are a lot of tutorials already about creating groups on Facebook. Potential groups might include

  • Your immediate family
  • Everyone in your friend group who is related to you and/or in laws
  • Groups from “each side” of an extended family – for example, people related to my mother might not be interested in information I want to share with my father’s relatives

Public posts are searchable and will be readable by anyone on Facebook. I sometimes use this option if I am trying to “cousin bait” and locate people who are family members but might not be in my friend list (yet.)

To Tag or not to Tag

Tag (CC SA 3.0 via wikimedia commons)

You can tag family members when you write a Facebook post. If you do choose to tag someone in order to get their attention, keep in mind that the people in the person’s friend list might see the post. Perhaps think twice about posting childhood photos, photos with ex-boyfriends, etc. for living people. On the other hand, if the subject of the photo says to go ahead and post the material, post it! I had a close relative ask for photos like this so he could share them with his children and grandchildren.

Copyright (again)

Posting copyrighted material that belongs to someone else without permission is always a bad idea. Even if that person shared the material or photo publicly, it’s always nice to ask that person for permission before you put it in your Facebook feed.

Legacy Contact

Facebook has created a method by which your Facebook posts and photos can be preserved and accessed after you die. This is part of your digital legacy and you should give it some thought. The idea behind the feature is that someone you designate can become your legacy contact, and your Facebook page will no longer be accessible. Posts can still be made to your wall. Your legacy contact can change your profile and cover photos, and they can manage future friend requests. A nice feature is “see relationship” – your friends have the opportunity to see the timeline filtered down to the personal interaction between you and just that person.  The content can also be downloaded, which gives family and friends the opportunity to gather the important family information you shared.

Post Ideas

What should you post? Well, the things you normally post and share, for starters. As mentioned above, your Facebook feed is part of your digital legacy and will give a viewer a lot of insight into who you are and what is important to you. But if you want to share family history stories, consider posts like these:

  • “this day in history” or family anniversaries, especially if the family members are gone
  • Holiday memories – when every one else is re-posting the same meme, you could upload a photo from the family past and comment on the content
  • Photo sharing
  • Interesting family history discoveries
  • Relevant blog posts
  • Heritage vacation photos and anecdotes
  • And of course, if you publish a digital story somewhere else, such as YouTube or a blog, be sure to share it to your Facebook feed

Related links

Facebook Legacy

Group post privacy


Write a memory not a story




DISCLAIMER: This information is for general purposes only, and is not intended to provide legal advice of any kind. Information may not be completely accurate or adequate for your individual situation. Information about this topic is always subject to change. The best advice is to do your own research before applying for a registered copyright, and also before using content that was created by someone else.

paper-1976101_640.png, by janjf93, via pixabay

Copyright owner: highlights

  • The content, not the idea, is the material that is copyrighted. (If you write an article, it is copyrighted. If you just think about writing the article, it is not copyrighted)
  • Copyright protections:
    • The (copyright) owner is the only one who can reproduce this original content
    • The owner is the only one who can revise the content
    • The owner is the only one who can distribute, display and/or publish the content
  • The protection lasts for the life of the owner, plus 70 years
  • If someone copies your work without your permission, it’s infringement (likewise, if you copy somebody else’s work, it is also infringement)
  • Content that can be copyrighted:
    • Music: songs, lyrics, scores. Recordings can also be copyrighted as distinct and separate from the song itself.
    • Written words: books, blog posts, poems
    • Performance works: plays, screenplays
    • Visual arts: photos, drawings, graphics, video clips, movies
  • How to get a copyright: Create original content and you already have a copyright. When you create something original, and then you record it, write it or otherwise get the idea out of your head and into the world, copyright is attached to the content immediately.
  • Why and how to add a copyright statement to your original work
    • If you add a copyright statement, it puts the world on notice that you are pointing out that your work is original, you own it, and you don’t want people to copy it.
    • If your work is really substantial, consider registering the copyright formally with the government copyright office (http://www.copyright.gov)

 thief-1825713_640.jpg by 3dman_eu, via pixabay

Copyright infringement notes

  • Among the works that cannot be copyrighted: facts, and items produced by the US Government.
    • If you publish your family tree, the family data facts (birth, marriage, death, dates and places, etc.) are NOT copyrightable. Your notes, comments, and presentation are yours, however. More information
    • US Government documents themselves are NOT copyrightable either. However, the service that scanned and created images for you to access and download may hold a copyright on those digital files.
  • Sometimes, limited reproduction permission may have been granted to you as a user – an example from the current Ancestry Terms and Conditions says:

“Ancestry does not claim an exclusive right to images already in the public domain that it has converted into a digital format. However, the Websites contain images or documents that are protected by copyrights or that, even if in the public domain, are subject to restrictions on reuse. By agreeing to these Terms and Conditions, you agree to not reuse these images or documents except that you may reuse public domain images so long as you only use small portions of the images or documents for personal use. If you republish public domain images, you agree to credit the relevant Ancestry Website as the source of the digital image, unless additional specific restrictions apply.”

  • Before using any music, images, videos, etc. that you did not create yourself, find out if somebody owns the copyright.
  • Just because it’s online does not mean you can just use whatever you find.
  • Fair use:
    • Generally, the content used under fair use is expected to be only a small excerpt
    • The content should be used for specific purposes, such as critique, parody, reporting, teaching and research
    • More information on Fair Use
  • If you’ve published something online, and have used content that isn’t yours, and you receive a takedown notice, take the content down immediately. Otherwise, it’s possible the owner of the content could pursue charges against you.
  • Getting permission
    • In writing is best
    • If you ask, you might find that the content owner would be delighted if you use some of his or her material, as long as you provide proper credit and possibly a link back to the original source. But just crediting the source is not enough if the owner decides he/she does not want  you to use the material.

Content that comes with “built in” permission: Public Domain and Creative Commons

copyright-free-39515_640 by Clker-Free-Vector-Images, via pixabay


  • Public Domain means the work has no copyright protection
  • US Public Domain – check the laws for other countries


  • Creative Commons has several license types
    • Some allow you to use the content almost unrestrictedly, as long as you credit the creator
    • Some are more restrictive, limiting re-use to non-commercial purposes, or they allow it only if you re-distribute the containing work under the same “share alike” type of license.
    • “No Derivatives” means you have to use the entire material – you can’t extract portions and use them or embed them within your own work
  • How to attribute creative commons content
    • Keep the copyright notice/license for the work intact
    • Credit the author/creator
    • Include the title of the work
    • Include the URL to the work (if applicable)
    • Creative Commons best practices

How to find reusable images via Google Image Search

  1. Go to Google Images, and type in your search term (example: “daisy“)
  2. On the results page, click the Tools button
  3. Click the down arrow next to Usage rights
  4. There are several usage rights filters available:
    1. Not filtered by license
    2. Labeled for reuse with modification
    3. Labeled for reuse
    4. Labeled for noncommercial reuse with modification
    5. Labeled for nocommercial reuse
      (Windows 8 daisies! Public domain, free for commercial use, no attribution required)

Sources for photos you can use

Read and be aware of any terms of use. Confirm  status (public domain or otherwise) before you use the content




More resources (from Wikipedia)

Sources for music you can use

Check the terms of use for each digital file you want to use (terms may vary from artist to artist)


FMA (Free Music Archive) – includes some public domain


PDinfo If you can play an instrument, here is a site which is collecting songs that have entered public domain. You might be able to make a recording of yourself playing one of them.


4 March 2017

Collecting the scenes

A storyboard is a collection of notes and drawings that represent the scenes you’ve planned for your video story. You draw, sketch, or describe the visual part of the scene on one part of the story board page or cell, and you write down the narration and production notes in another part of the page or cell.

A map for you

My storyboard notebooksThere are many good, free templates you can use. My preference, however, is to use simple composition notebooks, such as the kind used by children for handwriting practice. They have a blank top section for drawings and sketches, and a set of ruled lines in the bottom section.

In the top section, I sketch idea and make notes about what I want to happen visually at this point in the story.

  • If a relevant photo or video clip already exists, I just note the file name and path here.
  • If the media does not already exist, I sketch out my intention here

In the bottom section, I write out the narration itself, and I sometimes use this storyboard as a script to read while recording the narration. Other information I put here:

  • Any planned text overlay
  • Any planned transition effects, such as pan/zoom, etc.
  • Any planned photo edits
  • Other visual items needed to complete this particular scene in the story:
    • Photos I need to go take
    • Graphics files I need to make
    • Website screenshots
  • Planned music files for this pane in the storyboard if I have that already
  • A note indicating what content needs to be credited to another person. I write out the credits themselves on the last page of the storyboard.

Storyboard page

Don’t overthink it

Just lke many other steps in the digital video storytelling process, it’s easy to over-think this step. It’s just a simple guide to help you organize the production process.

Free storyboard templates

TES teaching resources

From TES teaching resources. Google login required, and you might get some marketing emails, but the resource is free.

Education World storyboard template

Education World also has templates to download. The one above is in .doc format.

SampleTemplates.com has many templates, including a 1×1 grid similar to the handwriting practice notepad I use.

IndieFilmHustle has templates and a tutorial




10 March 2017

My clockIf you can get 10 minutes uninterrupted time, (LOL) you might want to try freewriting. I rarely get 10 uninterrupted minutes, I confess. I have started my timer, typed for a while, got interrupted, paused the timer, dealt with the interruption, and then returned to the freewriting excercise to finish it up.

No strict rules, no judgement, I tell myself. The goal is to write something for 10 minutes – hopefully every day, just to help establish a writing habit. When I use topics from my notebook, I get a little added benefit in that sometimes the freewriting turns into the starting point for a real, finished story later on.

Basically, the process is:

  • Choose a writing environment (pen and paper, word processor, Evernote, etc.)
  • Choose a topic (optional – you could choose to just write whatever comes to mind)
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes
  • Type or write till the timer sounds

I type in notepad on my PC, and I have set myself up like this:

Right-click on the Windows desktop, left-click New, left-click Folder

Desktop New Folder


Type “Freewriting” in the editable name field and press Enter.

Folder rename

Double-click on this folder. Inside the folder, right-click, then left-click New, then left-click Text Document

New Text Document

Type the topic as the name and press Enter.

Double click on this .txt file to open it in Notepad, and start your timer. Type for 10 minutes. When the timer is up, finish your sentence and click the X to close (if you want!) You’ll be prompted to save – click Save.

If you’re looking for a timer, and you’re on Windows 10, type “Timer” in the “Ask me Anything” box. The returned “Best match” is “Alarms & Clock” trusted Windows store app. Right-click on that, and then left-click “Pin to Start.”

After pinning it, you can click the Start button, and Alarms & Clock will be in your programs list.

Open the Alarms and Clock app, and then click Timer at the top. Select the hours (0) minutes (10) and seconds (00) to set a ten-minute timer. Enter a timer name (I named mine “Freewriting”) and then click the Save icon at lower right.



Write a memory, write a story

27 February 2017

How to conquer a blank page

The idea notebook I keep for storytelling is merely a notebook full of lists. A blank sheet of paper, a New Document in a word processor, or even a new blog post form is certainly intimidating, no matter how cool your writing pens idea notebookhappen to be. So, what’s the next step after choosing a topic from the notebook?

Keep the audience in sight (literally)

I find it helps to do my writing in a place where I can see pictures of my intended audience (grandkids, nieces, nephews, etc.) I try to keep their expectations in the back of my mind as I write. I think their reactions might be along the lines of things like:

  • Is this interesting or boring?
  • Why is this important?
  • What does this have to do with me?

I try to find something in the story they can relate to. If I’m writing about a person, for example, I might try to find something they have in common with that person, such as artistic ability or a gentle disposition. A helpful technique for me is to write out a question at the very top of the page and try to answer that question somewhere within the story.

Pen to paper!

Just write

Write, write, write. This isn’t even the first draft yet, so nobody is going to see it.

fountain pen writing
public domain via pixabay

It’s time for brainstorming, for freewriting, and for recording everything that comes into your mind when you think about your topic. It’s not the time for self-editing, self-consciousness, or self-doubt. It’s also not the time for spelling, grammar, and punctuation proofreading. It’s basically a brain dump.

The first draft and beyond

At any point along the writing part of a digital story workflow your story can change. As you pass from first draft to edited story, the initial writing and first draft are practically abandoned. During the first draft, start polishing up the grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Idea > Freewriting > First draft > Proofread, polish, more editing > Storyboard


Story structure

Sometimes the story structure is easy to figure out, such as when you’re witing a chronological biography about somebody, or perhaps you are describing a process, or even sharing a family recipe. Those kinds of stories will have the structure “built in.”

Other examples:
  • Character study checklists: useful to ferret out details about people from your memory that you might have forgotten about.
  • “Top ten” lists, other lists, countdowns
  • “How-to” articles

Otherwise, you have to figure out how to structure your story and make decisions about the beginning, middle and end.


Make your story lively, but make it readable. If the goal is a digital video story, remember that what you’re writing is likely going to be the source of your audio narration, so you might want to edit the story with audio recording in mind. Read it aloud and see how the phrasing sounds.

The next writing step is storyboarding. You will likely find yourself working back and forth between the storyboard and the written document until both the written story and the storyboard feel finished to you.

If you’re ready to “call it done” you might want to print a paper copy, or save a digital copy. Also, if the story is about a person in your family tree, you might want to attach a copy to the person’s record in your genealogy program.

First things first – get a notebook

27 February 2017

Go shopping. Buy a notebook or two. Go try all the pens at the office supply store and buy some that you like.

You can’t do storytelling – digital or otherwise – unless you know what you want to tell stories about. A topic list makes storytelling easier, just like a grocery list makes shopping easier. The topic list gives you a temporary place to quickly put down what you’re thinking about.

I have two main notebooks:

Notebook and pencilMy daily journal is the notebook where I just write. Every day. After my husband died, this journal became the place where I could put all my “…but wait…” thoughts and the things I want to share with him every day. On most days, I write a letter to him in this journal.

I also use this journal for:

  • Writing practice
  • A safe place to write, doing my best to “silence the inner editor”
  • Scratch pad
  • A place to vent

My stories to tell notebook is the notebook where I go to save (and fetch) the ideas for the stories I want to tell sometime. It only contains lists (no actual writing). If something happens to me tomorrow, at least my family will have this book of lists. They can look over these pages of memory triggers and go ask Aunt Kris or Cousin Marlene what the heck grandma was talking about. It is a paper notebook, small, with hard covers and spiral binding. It fits in my purse or laptop bag. I keep a pen attached to it with a rubberband.

Why not use an e-notebook?

I don’t use this method for two reasons:

  1. It’s easier for me to access my paper notebook when I want to quickly jot down a memory before I forget it.
  2. In case I die, my family will have quick access to the information. There are no logins or passwords to share or try to crack, or the need to acquire a compatible PC, program, or mobile device.

I write my story reminders in a simple spiral journal. The journal has home-made topic tabs, and has a pen attached to it with a rubber band.

My storytelling notebook is just a simple spiral journal. I made tabs along the page edges, with several topics which act as list holders for memory triggers. Keeping it as simple and inexpensive as possible, I used regular notebook paper to cut small squares of paper. Each square has the topic written on it twice.

I wrote the tab topic on each side of a small, folded square of paper, and the end result is a two-sided tab you can read from either the front or the back of the notebook. I wrote toward the top of the tab, near the fold. I added tape to each side of the tab.

I taped the tabs to the pages of the notebook, and I made sure to leave plenty of extra pages between tabs to accommodate topics that might contain long lists of reminders. I staggered the tabs so I can read them.

I suppose I could have skipped the tabs all together, and made lists by writing whatever I remember as a memoir or journal. I decided on tabbed pages because I find that one memory trigger leads to another.

This is the list of topics in my notebook:

  • Food
    • (example: “freezer jam”)
    • (example: “Uncle Louie’s pickles”)
  • Crafts
    • (example: “Aunt Gertie’s ceramics”)
    • (example: “Grandma’s doll clothes”)
  • New generation (don’t forget to save a place in the notebook for current, recent stories)
  • Technology
  • Illness
  • Religion
  • Black sheep
  • Anecdotes
  • Second moms
  • Deaths, mourning, and funerals
  • Houseguests (non-relatives who have briefly lived with us)
  • Siblings
  • Vacations
  • Immigration, migration
  • Genealogical dead ends
  • Liquor
  • Easter
  • New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Halloween
  • Pets and other animals
  • Fashion
  • School
  • Family talents
  • Family friends
  • Pictures: Oldest, last, first, only
  • Christmas
  • Celebrations (weddings, reunions, graduations, birthdays, etc.)
  • Fathers
  • Mothers
  • Vehicles
  • Music memory triggers (favorite songs and bands, spanning generations)
  • Family by choice (in-laws)
  • Hometowns and states
  • Housing
  • Military
  • Sports, play, games
  • Work, careers, occupations
  • Writing and digital storytelling helpers