Why you should make a list of the events of your life

I've had an idea in my head for many years that I would love to have a big list of life events to refer to. It would be so helpful for scrapbooking and memory keeping in general at this stage in my life. It will also be an extremely valuable resource later on in my own life and for others after I am gone.

Yesterday was our 25th wedding anniversary and so I went searching through my photo archives to make a collage. I wanted a picture from each year of our marriage to represent our journey. As I browsed through my files, I relived so many memories and thought about all the things (both good and bad) that we have experienced over this block of time. I also realized how many events and experiences are not documented in any way, or are recorded somewhat haphazardly throughout my incomplete collection of scrapbooks. It rekindled my desire to have a master list or some sort of timeline to refer to.

I searched for timeline generators and looked at several apps, but came to the conclusion that the best approach for me would be to simply create a document (I use Microsoft Word) and make sure I update it occasionally and also file it in a smart place + make backup copies. I've posted about this before when I wrote about How to Organize the Past. I've been slowly working on this and I truly believe it's a worthwhile project. I also think it's important to have all the years easily accessible or to have a big master list somewhere of important events. It will help you sort your photos. It will help you with your journaling. It will help you if you ever lose your memory (hoping that never happens!) It will help future generations make sense of the photos and memorabilia you leave behind - especially if you never get around to organizing it.

There are plenty of details that I already know and can determine by looking through my past photos - especially those that are digital because they give me dates. I can also look up the birth and death dates of my grandparents using family tree information on familysearch.org and in many cases, a Google search comes in handy. If you can remember that one of your life events took place around a significant news item or movie release, you can search for that date to help pin down your own information.

So I'm in the process of putting together my own puzzle and creating a master list for my family. I decided to start with our married life since I'm trying to put together a history and some layouts in honor of our anniversary. This is a beginning of what I'm working on:

Life events from our married years:

  • March 22, 1991 – Wedding day. Married in the Salt Lake Temple. Wedding luncheon at Santa Fe restaurant. Reception at the University of Utah Alumni House. Honeymoon in Kauai, Hawaii.
  • March 1991 – June, 1992 – Jeff worked part time as a lab technician at blank blank and went to school full time at the University of Utah as a pre-med student. Katie worked full time at blank blank in the customer service department (so we could have health benefits) and went to school full time at the University of Utah.
  • June 12, 1992 – Katie graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Anthropology.
  • June 1992 – Katie took a full time sales position at blank blank. She sold food to schools and hospitals.
  • January 1993 – Expecting Alex! Due Date October 15, 1993.  Announced to family on Valentine’s Day. 
  • October 8, 1993 – Alex was born at blank blank hospital. He weighed 10 lbs. 5 oz. and was 21 inches long. He was born at 1:11 a.m.

I included those as an example so you can see what I'm thinking. It only took me a few minutes to write out those few things because those are dates that I can remember easily. The only thing I wasn't sure about was my own graduation date so I just searched Google for the date of University of Utah graduation for 1992 and I found this pdf.  So easy!

What do you do when the dates aren't so easy to recall?

Ask for help when possible! Sit down for a family night together and brainstorm about all the things that have happened and try to get everyone to help you nail down the general dates. Don't forget to use Google like I did with my graduation date. Also, looking through past photos will be great for jogging memories. Be sure to write down or record any information that you come up with!

Ask family and friends for information that they might have. As I've been working on this concept, I sent out emails to my brothers and parents asking them to help me with some dates on events I wasn't sure about. Here are some of the questions I asked them:

  • What year did each of you graduate from high school? From college?
  • What year did Dad start his business?
  • What jobs have you had?
  • When did each of you earn awards like your Eagle Scout, etc.?
  • What year and location were each of our moves when I was growing up?

The answers they gave me about themselves helped me create my own timeline since they are my family members and our lives have been intertwined in many ways. They also helped me know more about my own history and theirs as well. All good information to have!

Once you have a list of major life events, you will have a great roadmap for documenting the memories you want to preserve. And if you never get around to scrapbooking those moments, at least you will have recorded the important basics. My guess is that once you get started on this simple task, you will want to do more and put photos and stories with your timeline. It's such a meaningful and wonderful thing to do!