Thoughts on doing Personal History

Valuing your own story

When I talk to people about my personal history business they are always intrigued by the idea of it. They can imagine the fascinating stories I hear, and inevitably wish that a parent or a grandparent had told his or her story before it was too late. The old saying is true, we don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone.

But when I ask them if they have told or written their own story, most people modestly say no, that they don’t really have a story to tell. Or no-one would be interested. Or their kids don’t really care. Or that the real information about the family history was lost when their great-aunt, or their father, or someone else who was the “family historian” died without writing it down.

One time I was speaking with a woman in her nineties. She was mentally sharp and had lived an interesting life. She regretted that she hadn’t gotten more of her family history in writing, because now, she said, “all of the old people are gone.”

This woman did not value her own knowledge, and I find that is so often true. We take for granted what we know, forgetting that to our children’s and grandchildren’s generations, or even to others of our own generation, our knowledge, experience, and memories are unique. Even if you feel that a great deal of the family history has been lost, ask yourself if your kids know as much about it as you do. Then remember that you, too, are a part of the family history, and your experiences are valuable.

Your story doesn’t have to be grand or of epic proportions; even a little slice of your life creates a legacy you can share. Think about it.

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