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Guide 2 Genealogy   >   Personal History

 

Writing A Personal History


No matter how you first encounter into genealogy, eventually you get bitten by the bug and want to start tracing your own family tree. Genealogists work backward in time, starting withh themselves and carefully align each older generation on top of the younger. Consequently a good place to start is with your own personal history.

A personal history is one of the greatest legacies that you can leave for the generations yet to come. The information can be of great value not only to your own children and grandchildren, but also to your siblings' descendants. This is particularly true if you record the stories of your life growing up with your parents, siblings, and other relatives whom you remember.

While a personal history is autobiographical in nature, it need not be as long as a book. You should start small with the basics, and as time permits, fill-in more details and add stories. The major events in your life will form the basic outline as you answer the who, what, when, where, why and how questions:
  1. What was the full name you were born with?

  2. Was your name different at any other time in your life? Do you have any nicknames, and how did you get them?

  3. When were you born? What was going on in your community and around the world on the day you were born?

  4. Where were you born? Why were you born there?

  5. What are your parents' names? Are there any naming traditions in your family?

  6. How old were your parents when you were born?

  7. Do you have any siblings? Are they younger or older? What are their names and when and where were they born? What were your siblings like? You could describe some of the character traits that you best remember in each of your siblings.
Your personal history will contain information about each stage in your life: birth and childhood, family life and school years, courtship and marriage, your child-rearing years, your vocation and travels, middle age, and eventually your retirement. You can also write about family pets, your travels, and your family traditions. If you have photographs of family events or life, choose a photo and write about what was happening when that particular photo was taken.

You can also make a list of questions that you would like to answer. If you have any trouble coming up with questions to write about, you can get ideas from lists compiled by oral historians and genealogists. Additionally, lists of personal history (and oral interview) questions are available from many Internet sources, in adult-education classes, and also in books at your local library.

The question and answer method is also a good method to get started with what may otherwise seem a huge and daunting task. Here's how you do it:-
  1. Select a question that you would like to answer about your family.

  2. Think about the question for anywhere from a day to a week. Carry something to jot down your thoughts about that question (a 3" x 5" card, pad of paper, day planner, or whatever you normally use to jot down a list of things to do).

  3. Record your thoughts, memories, and feelings about the question.

  4. Set aside at least an hour each week to write down what you have remembered.

  5. Repeat steps 1 to 4 until you have something written about each stage of your life. You do not need to work in any particular order, just be sure to eventually cover all the stages in your life.

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