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Your Personal History

A personal history will provide your descendants with information about your life that will enrich their future genealogical pursuits.

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Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by: Gena Philibert-Ortega
Word Count: 698 (approx.)
Labels: Journal  Biography 
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Wouldn't it be great if your ancestors left behind a journal? Maybe it would provide you with some important dates or just give you a look into the personality of your ancestor. I think many of us wish we could have that glimpse into the past. Your grandchildren and other descendants might one day wish that you had left some sort of writing about your life. Although you may believe your life is fairly boring, your descendants may have questions about the details of your day-to-day life, just as we have questions about the lives of our ancestors. How we live our everyday lives, go to work, housework, food, school will all look different to our descendants in 100 years. Just like how those activities are very different now than they were in the 1800s or even the early 1900s.

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.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2008.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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