On July 19th of this year I wrote a blog post describing one way to get other people excited about gathering photos and stories. In that post I suggested that more people found treasured photographs and actively took part in writing memories of their life when the job was broken down into small, easy to do pieces. By asking one simple question a week, the task of creating a descriptive story of one’s life could be accomplished in a single year.
The response to this blog post was remarkable. I had no less than 68 people contact me, asking for copies of these questions. Some wanted to use these questions and have everyone in their family do this for next year’s Christmas project. Others wanted to use them to record an oral history of their parents and grandparents. Still others admitted that they finally understood the value of creating a legacy of their life and felt like now the task was doable.
These 52 questions were chosen because they evoke specific pieces of information. By the time someone has answered all of these questions, they should have all the genealogical information they need to uniquely and positively identify themself, their parents and their siblings. Even more importantly, the information gleaned from these questions will give the reader a peek into the thoughts and feelings of the person who answered them. These questions will shed a light on their hopes and their dreams.
Below is the complete list of questions that I use when I do the 52 week project. Each week for 1 year, take one question and write as much or as little as you want. You can write 1 paragraph or you can write several pages for each question. Page count is not important; it’s the information that matters. Questions do not need to be answered in any special order.
If a person answers just 1 question a week for a year, they will have created a remarkable legacy of remembrance for their posterity. Unlike so many people who die and are forgotten within only a few generations, those who make the effort to answer this simple list of questions will be remembered by their posterity for countless generations to come. Why? Because they will have taken the time to write something about their life and passed it on to their posterity. It’s that simple. What a simple, yet wonderful legacy to leave for future generations.
The 52 questions are listed below. At the end of the list are a few extra questions in case there are some you don’t want to use. Good luck and enjoy your writing adventure.
- What is your full name? Why did your parents give you that name?
- When and where were you born? Describe your home, your neighborhood and the town you grew up in.
- Tell me about your father (his name, birth date, birthplace, parents, etc.) Can you share some memories you have of your father?
- Tell me about your mother (hers name, birth date, birthplace, parents, etc.) Can you share some memories you have of your mother?
- What kind of work did your parents do (farm, salesman, manager, seamstress, nurse, stay at home mom, professional/laborer, etc.)
- Have any of your family members died yet? If so, what do remember of their death and what were the circumstances of their death?
- What kind of hardships or tragedies did your family experience while you were growing up?
- What are the names of your brothers and sisters? Describe one or more things that stand out in your mind about each of your siblings.
- What were some of the family traditions that you remember?
- Did your family have special ways of celebrating specific holidays?
- Share a few memories of your grandparents.
- Did your grandparents live close by? If so, how much were they involved in your life? If they lived far away did you ever travel to visit them? What was that like?
- Do you have any aunts, uncles, or cousins who really stand out in your mind? Write something about them (names, personalities, events that you remember doing with them, etc.)
- Where did you go to school? What was school like for you?
- What were your favorite subjects in school? Why?
- What subjects did you like the least? Why?
- If you went on to get a college or vocational education, what school did you go to? What did you study? What memories do you have of those years?
- What do you see as your personal strengths?
- What were some of the challenges you faced growing up?
- What medical issues have you had to deal with throughout your life?
- Was religion an important part of your family life? If so, what religion did your family practice and what did it mean to you? Is it still an important part of your life today? If religion was/is not a part of your life, why isn’t it?
- Who were some of your friends in school? What were they like? What ever happened to them?
- What foods do you like? Dislike?
- Where there two or three dishes your mother or father made that makes you smile every time you think of them?
- How did you meet your spouse?
- How would you describe your spouse?
- What was your courtship like?
- Share some stories about your spouse?
- How many children do you have? What are their names? Share a few memories about each of your children.
- What were some of the major community, national and world events you lived through?
- How did some of these events change your life?
- What are some of your life philosophies or life views that you would share with others.
- What are some of the personal values that are very important to you? What have you done (are you doing now) to teach these values to your children?
- Thinking of people throughout the world and throughout time. List at least 5 people who you would categorize as truly great men or woman. What did they do to be great in your mind?
- List 20 or more things that make you happy.
- List 20 things or more that you think the world would be so much better off without.
- List 20 interesting things you’ve experienced in your lifetime.
- If you could spend a day with any famous person in the world, who would it be and what would you do during your day with him/her?
- What scares you?
- Share a few of the deeply moving (spiritual) experiences you’ve had in your life?
- What advice would you pass on about raising children that you learned from raising your own children?
- What are some of your talents? How did you discover them? What have you done to cultivate and improve them?
- What were some of the truly life changing experiences you went through. How did you handle them? In what ways did they change you?
- What did you do for a career? Why did you choose to go into this career?
- What were some of the jobs you had throughout your life? Were there memorable experiences you had with any of those jobs?
- What would you consider as two or three truly significant challenges in your life so far?
- What are some of the life lessons that you would like to pass on to your posterity?
- How many places have you lived. Provide a brief description of each place you’ve lived and why you lived there.
- If you could go back in time and do things over again, what would you change?
- When all is said and done, what do you want to be remembered for? What are you doing now to make that happen?
- What kind of health issues have you experienced?
- What were some of your more memorable vacations?
- If a newspaper wanted to do a story about you, what would the story be about?
- If someone gave you $100 and told you that you had to give it away, but you could NOT give it to your immediate family, what would you do with it?
- Have you traveled to any place outside of your home country? What was the reason for making such trips and what memorable things happen with some of those trips.
- What were some of the popular fads during your younger years?
- How did you spend your summers?