Journal writing can come in all forms. They may be small notations on your day-to-day life. They may be long narratives done less frequently. A journal may not be a book per se but, instead, be writing kept on your computer that summarizes important events that occurred during the year. However you do it, journals can be a great way to keep genealogical details of your own life, the lives of those around you, and the lives of those you are researching.
Personal histories may be part of your journal writing on yourself or a narrative you write about an ancestor. They contain important dates, stories, and information that one wants to impart on later generations. I have seen personal histories be as short as 1-2 pages of typed information to those that include letters sent to the family after the person's death or containing other documents such as newspaper clippings or old valentines. Your journal is an easy way to start compiling a personal history on yourself over time.
For those who do not like taking pen to paper, you may choose to keep a journal or start a personal history on your computer. This can be done by using you word processing program or by purchasing and using a special program meant for journal/personal history writing. Roots Magic sells a personal history software program called, Personal Historian. Personal Historian can be used to write your personal history as well as histories of ancestors. It works with your genealogical database to import names and dates, which can be helpful if you decide to use the program to write personal histories about your ancestors. It also helps you organize your ideas which can later lead to writing a longer narrative. You don't have to invest in Personal Historian to see if it would work for you. Roots Magic provides a free download at their web site so you can try the software before you buy it.
About.comhas some links to web sites that includes ideas for journaling and personal history writing. One of the links takes you to an article in the Ancestry library. The Family History Compass outlines 10 ideas for recording your personal history. One of the ideas is to interview yourself just as you would a family member. I think many of us assume everyone knows what we know, but if we set up our personal history writing as an interview it will provide more detailed information that our descendants will appreciate it.
Personal History Help is a web site acknowledging that too often we genealogists spend so much time looking for our ancestor's important documents that we neglect to have copies of the documents and memorabilia that details our own lives. This web site features a 10-step process to gathering and putting together a personal history. It also provides links on such topics as publishing help, digitizing, biographical and historical help, preservation help, and writing help.
The Association of Personal Historians has a section entitled "Getting Started" that contains various articles including those that focus on the importance of telling your story and how to interview relatives. If you feel writing your history is not your cup of tea, you can use its web site to find a personal historian who will come and assist you with the task. Its yearly conferences also might be of interest to many genealogists.