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Personal History

Bringing Life to the Family Tree

We’ve all been asked questions about our lives in casual conversations with friends and family and trips down memory lane. But the resulting snippets don’t make up a complete picture. They’re usually carefully edited to reveal only the best of times, not the whole of ourselves.

We’ve all been asked questions about our lives in casual conversations with friends and family and trips down memory lane. But the resulting snippets don’t make up a complete picture. They’re usually carefully edited to reveal only the best of times, not the whole of ourselves.

Maybe now is the time to start. Think of it as a gift of love.

We’ve all been asked questions about our lives in casual conversations with friends and family and trips down memory lane. But the resulting snippets don’t make up a complete picture. They’re usually carefully edited to reveal only the best of times, not the whole of ourselves. We think: “Who’s really interested?”

Well, your children and grandchildren will be interested. They want to know who you are and who you were. The good times and important moments of your life before they knew you. The missing pieces. What you remember and how you remember it enriches the fabric of their lives. It’s your legacy.

Personal history isn’t genealogy—tracking family ancestors and origins—though mention of an ancient ancestor or two is a bonus. Creating a personal history needn’t be difficult, and once started tends to take on a life of its own. Memories of childhood, travel, friends, the crazy experiences of young adulthood and careers resurface, screaming to be told and heard by your nearest and dearest.

Verbal or Written?

Harken back to the ancient oral tradition, which has gotten lost along the way to texting, Twitter and Facebook. Conversation, the most personal and intimate form of sharing, is in survival mode. But a written narrative history will outlast forgotten fireside chats.

There are endless ways to create a memoir. Writing it yourself is the easiest and most personal. Decide where you want to begin and go from there. Focus on the parts of your life you want to cover. It’s not true confessions.

Blogging it for family and close friends to read on a regular basis is a growing trend that’s caught fire. It can be spontaneous, creative fun. They can follow along with you as you recall the times of your life with photos.

For those who don’t want to write their own narrative, the recorded and transcribed interview is a good option. A trusted friend or family member is the most logical choice, barring any hidden agendas or testy personal issues that could backfire.

A skilled interviewer or personal historian who knows how to ask the right questions is often a good choice for those who feel more at ease with someone they don’t know well or who doesn’t share a history. Think about conversations with total strangers at an airport or checkout line. The person chosen should come prepared with starter questions based on the parts of your life you want to cover.

These options only scratch the surface. Stories can be produced in endless creative ways. And according to the Association of Personal Historians, families around the world are creating their own interactive websites to enlarge their family trees.

No matter how a life history is created, it’s only important that it be told and shared. Discoveries will be made along the way that will enrich the lives of all involved. And often what takes up space are the precious, simple memories of lying on grass, melting popsicles, and holding hands in the rain.

When all is said and done, it really is a gift of love.