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How to Remember Things From the Past

Capture those Memories

Have you been wracking your brain trying to remember something from your past? Some people go in search of past memories when they decide to write their memoirs or autobiography. Others just want to catch hold of those fleeting memories before they are gone for good. Whether you are writing memoirs or just trying to jog your reluctant memory, searching for remembrances of the past is a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Pour through photo albums to trigger your memory. Photo albums are full of hidden memories. Don't just look at the people in the photos, look in the background for hints of things from the past. Perhaps there is an old tree in a family photo that you never noticed before. Looking at the tree may trigger the memory of the time your cousin fell out of the tree and broke his arm. Check every corner of the photograph. Look at the backs of the photos for any writing.

Talk to relatives. Older members of your family may remember things you were too young to remember. Also, family and friends often will recall things from the past in a different way than you remember. Talk to several people to be sure to get the facts straight.

Visit places from your past. Often a visit to a former home, school or community will trigger memories. This is also useful when you need to fill in the details of a vague memory. Many people are 100 percent positive that they have remembered something in every detail, and then they get to the place and find out that their memory was incomplete or wrong. Visit haunts from your past, and you may be surprised at how many things you remember.

Check out the library and used bookstore. Looking over books and old newspapers related to your former homes and workplaces are good memory triggers. Most libraries and used bookstores have materials that specifically pertains to their locale. Don't be afraid to ask the librarians for help.

Dig through memorabilia. Most of us have an old trunk or drawer stuffed with items from our past. Pull out those items and let yourself glide down memory lane. Ask family members and old friends if you can look through their memorabilia also. Most people love to pull out their old awards and newspaper clippings to show off. Taking a trip down someone else's memory lane may very well trigger memories from your own past.

Make a memory timeline. Draw a line across a sheet of paper or poster board. Make six columns by drawing five vertical lines. Starting with the year you were born, write each year of your life at the top of each column. Begin filling in each column with everything you remember about that particular year. Alternatively, you can head each column with your age instead of the year.

Things You'll Need:

  • Notebook
  • Pen or pencil
  • Tape recorder
  • Camera


Take along a camera on your visits to old places. Take a tape recorder when you interview people.


  • Don't ever record someone without their permission.
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