Personal Histories - Different KindsEdit This Page
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See also Ancestors Season 2: Writing a Family History in the FamilySearch Learning Center.
Written Personal Histories
A full-length autobiography; moving from birth to the present. It might be hundred pages or more. Most folks write their life stories in this manner.
A Non-Chronological Personal History
You don't have to start at birth. Start anywhere you like. You might start with the middle of your life and write in either direction.
Just write what comes to mind whenever you pick up your pen or computer. You could, for example, write about people you have met that have had a major influenced on you and why. Here you might have a mixture of personal experiences and opinions about life in general or events in particular.
We all have had incidents in life that made us laugh or brought sadness. Gather them up for your reader; they don’t necessarily have to be in any order. Here is a sample of chapters from one such autobiography: “My First Kiss,” “The Roasted Cat,” “Truant From Prayer,” “Little Alvah Goes to Jail,” “Hot Squash,” “Rotten Eggs in Sunday School,” “Father Gets Some Teeth,” “Firecrackers in Church." I think you get the idea.
People You Have Known
This could be a book about the people you’ve know over the years and how they influenced your life. There have been many people who have sacrificed for you. Your parents have paid a tremendous price in resources and time to get you where you are today. You have had friends who may have stuck with you in very difficult times. You’ve also probably had people who have encouraged you to be your best self. Here you can talk about your life in relation to how others effected it.
Effects of Family
For example, are your religious feelings the result of an ancestor? In addition, see if you can figure out what attributes or attitudes they had that you now have. And what attributes or attitudes you don’t have that they had. And even more thought provoking, what effects did your second great grandfather have on you? What did he do a hundred and fifty years ago that is affecting you today? I think this is really worth pondering.
One Aspect Only
Maybe you’ll want to write about only one aspect of your life, such as your war experiences, religious conversion, talents, hobbies, athletic achievements, or awards you may have earned.
Talk about the major turning points in your life, such as, marriage, death of loved ones, birth of children, education, occupations, retirement, accidents, answered prayers, or divorce. Again, you may write in any order you want.
Events in the World
You can tell us how events in the world, your country, your state, and your community affected you. For example, you could write about events, such as wars, government decisions, natural disasters in your area and in other parts of the world. Specifically, you can tell us how you were effect by events of September 11, 2001. You may have to do some research on the events you want to write about to get exact details if you have forgotten them.
You can talk about the effects of money, race, hereditary, migration, relatives, etc on your family. Give examples of each to illustrate your point.
Are you cautious, adventurous, thrifty, spendthrift, frail, or in good health? Identify personal qualities and give examples.
Here you can talk about the surprises in life. We are all subject to chance. Tell about accidents, running into old friends, winning a prize, etc.
Write topic-related essays on subjects like politics, religion, the environment, favorite author, scriptures, music, etc. Use experiences in your life to illustrate your conclusions about them. If you are thinking of creating a full-length personal history, you might consider including these personal essays. If, for example, you are writing about the death of a loved one, you could include an essay explaining your views about death. Click here for a list of possible topics to write about.
Tell of your struggles against adversities such as poverty, a physical handicap, lack of education, abuse, and etc. You don’t want to present yourself as not having any problems in your life to your decendents. If it appears that your life was without struggles, they may wonder what is wrong with you or themselves.
A Couple Personal History
Write a personal history from the standpoint of two people experiencing it together. Tell us how the couple was affected collectively not individually. When writing about your married life, for example, you might tell how your reactions affected the reactions of your spouse. You might tell how you both work together to create a business or worked together in some community improvement project. You could also focus on the natural interactions that come with raising children.
Personal History of a Family
Create a history about how a family developed over the years. You can describe how your family worked together to overcome poverty, loss of a parent, economic setbacks, immigration to a new country, war, etc. This can be about your own family or that of your parents, grand parents, etc. Here you're writing the history of the interactions of an entire family.
Questions and Answers
Instead of writing a regular autobiography, pick the questions from Creating a Personal History in this wiki. Write down the ones you want to address; putting your answer under them.
Subjects For a Topical Personal History
The following are topics that you might want to comment on. These items will probably reveal more about you to your descendants that any other effort you'll make. Takes notes before you write. Put together an outline of what you'll cover on each of the items you want to touch on. Then write. Enjoy the ride for you'll feel like a spectator as the words come from the end of your pen.
- What makes me happy?
- What makes me sad?
- Relationships - husband and wife
- Sadness and Sorrow
- What afflictions have taught you
- Do I think of myself as having good looks?
- What I have you learn from others?
- What are my personal fears?
- What are my greatest strengths?
- Education of children
- Education of adults
- What are my passions?
- What is a waste of time?
- How to overcome challenges
- Who is in control of your destiny?
- How we should speak to each other?
- Growing old
- Eating habits/culinary preference
- Physical appearance
- Favorite authors
- Favorite scriptures
- Economic status
- Armed Forces
- The Environment
- Listening to our conscience
- Seasons of the year
- Great people in your life
- Do ends justify the means?
- Raising children
- Family dynamics
- Relationships with grown children
- Collaborating efforts with others
- Self control
- Experiences related to employment
- Experiences related to retirement
- Natural disasters
- Skills and talents
- Your disabilities and challenges.
- Your financial struggles and achievement.
- Situation in which you may have felt defeated or failed.
Non-Written Personal Histories
Write or Record Your History?
Consider writing your personal history rather than recording it. Not that recording is any less valuable, but the act of writing has many benefits. Consider these items before deciding on whether to write or record your personal history.
Oral or Video Histories
Record your personal history either on a voice recorder or camcorder. Click here for instruction on how to create oral histories.
Other People’s Recollections
Interview family members and friends to get their recollections and memories of you. It should be interesting to learn what people think of you. You might need to develop some thick skin.
Make a list of the main events in your life. You can use the questions on Creating A Personal History to suggest events to put on your time line. Put the events with the date on the left side of the page and with a short explanation on the right side. It may not be literature, but it is a history.
Collection of Photographs
Place your photographs on one side of the page and an explanation on the opposite side. Learn about preserving at Preserving Photographs and Documents If you don’t have many photographs and you want to show what your home town looked like, for example, you may have to get photos from your local historical society or home town library. In addition, consider saving them to a DVD with narration to go along with them.
Create scrapbooks that display photographs and various memorabilia. Here you can show your artistic abilities and other items that tell something about you. And as mentioned, consider saving these images on a DVD also.
Compile personal drawings, lists, charts, diagrams, collections, art, crafts and evidence of hobbies. You can put some of these things on a DVD too.
Letters and Journals
Gather together all letters and journals, saving them as you would photographs. Put these items on a DVD as well.
Don't Disappoint Your Descendants
Again, writing your life story is a very personal matter. Don’t feel guilty if you do not want to write a full-fledged autobiography. These personal histories can be difficult to write and take a long time. In fact, this may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. But keep in mind who you are doing this for. Here is the reason why Montaigne, the really first person to write a personal history, wrote his essays:
“ . . .to the end, that losing me (which they are likely to do ere long), they may therein find some lineaments of my conditions and humours, and by that meanes reserve more whole, and more lively foster the knowledge and acquaintance they have had of me.”
Don’t disappoint your descendents.
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