What is a personal history?
A personal history goes beyond the names and dates on a genealogy chart, beyond a listing in the alumni news or on a boardroom plaque. A personal history captures the stories behind the facts and infuses the past with vitality.
By telling your story,
you help others discover the experiences that shaped you. You capture the stories that make history come alive. You enrich others’ understanding of your life and times. Documenting a life – whether your own or that of an elder in your family or community – is what personal history is all about.
Your personal history can be
A memoir focused on a particular time. An autobiography capturing the full spectrum of your life. The stories that bring your family tree to life. Even the history of a community or group, told from the point of view of the people involved.
Saving life stories can have a profound impact on your life and the lives of your loved ones.
Right now. Procrastination can lead to stories being lost forever.
Some people choose milestone events such as weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and retirement to launch or complete a personal history project. Just remember that the sooner you begin, the better. To get started, contact your personal historian to arrange a meeting.
Preserving your story allows you to participate in an age-old tradition: the passing of wisdom from one generation to the next.
There are many reasons to create a personal history:
• To preserve important family stories and memories.
• To reflect on the choices of forces that have shaped your life.
• To share the lessons you’ve learned.
• To put a human face on historic events.
• To pass on the story of a community and its people.
Of course. But a personal historian can help you get started, stay motivated, and complete your legacy project. Personal historians are compassionate listeners and skilled at shaping narratives. A personal historian can
• Guide you in defining the scope of your project,
• Consult with you as you complete your project, or
• Manage the whole project, bringing professionalism to every stage.
The possibilities for preserving a personal history are as diverse as the individuals involved. Common forms include
Oral Histories – a recording in audio or video format.
Printed Works – your written words or your story crafted from interviews, presented in softbound or hardbound books, illustrated with photos and other mementos.
Videos – filmed interviews about a life or about the stories behind treasured heirlooms, historic documents, or photos. Videos often incorporate music and narration.
Ethical Wills – a record in any media that shares your philosophies, values and advice.
Tributes or Memorials – recognition in any format, often commemorating special occasions or loved ones.
Artwork – photos, stories, and memorabilia, presented in visual media such as a scrapbook, a calendar, or even a custom-made quilt.
The scope of the project determines the necessary investment. Just as a mansion is more expensive than a cottage, a multimedia documentary will require more investment than a short tribute. While personal history services are often labor-intensive, a treasured legacy can be created to fit any budget, even a relatively modest one. Sometimes several people choose to share the costs. An individual may wish to offer a life story as a gift.
Most people find that the satisfaction of completing a personal history project far outweighs the cost in dollars and time.