Chapter 10 - Your Extended Family History/Chapter 10 - Your Extended Family History

Your Family History

Clear hourglass slowing seeping grains of sand.

Don’t let time run out. Preserve your family history in writing before it’s too late.

By Maureen Santini © Copyright 2019. All Rights Reserved.

The vast majority of Americans feel it is important to know their family history but many lack basic information, according to a recent poll by Ancestry.com.

The poll found:

  • A third did not know where their parents had grown up.
  • A quarter did not know the country family members had emigrated from.
  • A fifth could not name the cities any of their grandparents were born in.
  • A fifth could not name a single grandparent’s parent.

More Information about Grandparents

Yet 84 percent felt it was important to know their family history. They wanted more information, particularly about their grandparents.

  • Nearly three quarters wanted stories about grandparents’ younger days.
  • More than 60 percent wanted to know where their families came from.
  • Half wanted life advice from their grandparents.

Don’t Let Family History Slip Away

It is difficult to overstate the importance of writing down the information you acquired during your lifetime about your forebears.

Family history can slip away slowly, almost without awareness. Your children may have known their grandparents – but not as well as you do. Likewise, you may have known your grandparents – but not as well as your parents did.

Knowledge fades away, generation by generation. Not convinced? Ask your children basic questions about their grandparents and great-grandparents. Stories and facts you thought were well known may be much fuzzier to younger generations.

Pass Down Your Memories  

Knowledge about individuals vanishes quickly without a concerted effort to preserve it. Once information is lost, it is lost permanently, as many families tragically discover.

That’s why a chapter of your life story should be devoted to preserving information about parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. 

Interview Family Members

If your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents are still living, interview them. Ask questions about their lives but also find out what they know about their grandparents and great-grandparents. Go back in time as far as you can.

If the relatives are no longer living, contact their siblings, children, aunts, and uncles. The oldest child in a family, for instance, may remember more about grandparents and great-grandparents than younger siblings. Tap those memories. Consult all possible sources of information, including photo albums and bibles.

Use Decade-by-Decade Posts as a Guide

Posts on this website pertaining to each decade of life can guide your interviews with family members. These posts provide an organized way to capture information. Try to paint a full picture of each person’s personality, lifestyle, and interests.

The first-decade post, for instance, shows the type of information to obtain. 

Write down as much of the following as possible:

  • Dates and places of the person’s birth, marriage, and death.
  • Education and military experience.
  • Names and dates of births of children.
  • Addresses of all residences.
  • List of occupations including employers and addresses.
  • Nationality including country of origin and date and method of emigration.
  • Hobbies and interests.
  • Family rituals and activities.
  • Names of people and places frequently visited.
  • Views pertaining to religion, social issues, and politics.
  • Status of health and welfare throughout the decades.

Include Personal Memories

If you personally knew your grandparents and great-grandparents, write down everything you recall, including factual information, anecdotes, and activities you enjoyed together.

Do not assume family members already have the information. Some may, some may not, but your purpose is to create a permanent record for current and future generations. Your descendants will be happy you did.

Conclusion 

For those of you following the simple decade-by-decade method of writing your life story as advocated by this website, this is the next to last chapter in your life story. The last chapter is summing up.

If you simply stumbled across this post, several previous posts explain why you should consider writing your story for posterity. If you’re already convinced, start writing. 

 

Chapter 9 - Your Ninth Decade and Beyond

Your Ninth Decade & Beyond – Ages 80+

Older man and woman sitting outdoors each holding a young child. At this point you're ready to write about the ninth and tenth decades of your life.

The number of older people is growing rapidly. Write about how you spent your eighties and nineties.

By Maureen Santini © Copyright 2018-2019. All Rights Reserved.

At this point you’re ready to write about the ninth and tenth decades of your life.

Your ninth decade, ages 80 through 89, begins with the year of your eightieth birthday. If you were born in 1930, for example, your ninth decade began in 2010.

Your tenth decade, ages 90 through 99, begins with the year of your ninetieth birthday. If you were born in 1920 your tenth decade began in 2010.

For the sake of convenience, all ages after 80 are addressed in this post. You can choose whether to write about these decades separately or together. At this point, there is no need to wait until the end of a decade to write your thoughts and experiences.   

As in previous decades, record basic factual information in the categories below. Then write about anything else that was important to you during this time – people, places, events, ideas, politics, lessons learned, and changes in your life, your community, and in the world.

If you’ve been writing your life story in conjunction with these decade-by-decade posts, you already know that the basic categories of information are similar each decade. What changes from decade to decade – often drastically – is your lifestyle, your experiences, your beliefs, your activities, your health, your outlook, and your relationships. An easy way to jog your memory is to mentally reconstruct the highlights of each year in each category.

Basics

  • List the addresses of the places you lived during these years.
  • Add the names of others in your household and their relationship to you.
  • Note the people and places you visited frequently, such as relatives, churches, and restaurants.  

Relationships

Describe the main relationships in your life during these years. Identify friends and family members you spent the most time with and the activities you engaged in most often.

Lifestyle

Describe your lifestyle, including your daily routine. Write down your main hobbies and interests such as television programs, movies, books, eating out, walking, sports, crafts, and card games. Did you take up any new activities or drop any old activities?

Write about the high points, low points and turning points of the decade.

Health and Welfare

Physical, mental and emotional challenges occur to many of us. Detail the ways in which you personally met such challenges or helped close friends and family members deal with such challenges.

  • Write down the names of your medical professionals.
  • Specify dates and places of major medical events, such as operations.
  • Describe the overall state of your health. 
  • Assess total health – mind, body, and spirit – during each decade.

Current Events

Describe the political and social environment of the decade and your positions on issues.

Explain the ways in which your opinions and beliefs evolved or stayed the same throughout the decade.

Identify the causes and organizations that most represented your beliefs and passions.  

Final Thoughts

Add information about any person, place, event or idea that was meaningful to you during this time.

Write down your thoughts about major changes that occurred in your life and/or during your lifetime.

Conclusion

Congratulations on getting this far. You have two additional topics to write about: summing up your life story and writing about your family history

We hope you are enjoying this process. Comments on the website are appreciated. Please share these posts to encourage others to write their stories.

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Chapter 8 - Your Eighth Decade/Chapter 8 - Your Eighth Decade

Your Eighth Decade – Ages 70-79

Senior woman with white hair looking into the distance with a bit of a smile

People in their seventies often have varied priorities such as working, pursuing their bucket lists, and reconnecting with friends.

By Maureen Santini © Copyright 2018-2019. All Rights Reserved.

Your eighth decade, ages 70 through 79, begins with the year of your seventieth birthday. If you were born in 1940, for example, your eighth decade began in 2010.

For many, the eighth decade represents a turning point in terms of lifestyle, activities, outlook – and even happiness.

AARP says many people in their seventies are happier than ever, often still healthy, and enjoying retirement activities and friendship.  

Research shows that some people, as they age, turn their attention to matters such as health, longevity, and life review. Others are immersed in multi-generational family caretaking, earning a living whether full-time or part-time, traveling, or pursuing items on their “bucket list.”

Writing about this decade is an opportunity to share details about your daily routine as well as your perspective on the process of aging. 

Basics

As in previous decades, write down the basics, such as the addresses of all of your residences and the names of others in your household. Record the names of places that you frequented, such as churches and restaurants.

Family and Friends

Describe your social life, such as activities with friends and family members. Name the people you spent the most time with. Talk about the activities and interests you pursued.

Health and Welfare

Describe the state of your physical, mental and emotional health during this decade. Compare it with the previous decade. Write down your health history including medical events.

Perspective

Describe the social and/or political environment, if relevant, as well as issues and causes that you followed with interest. Write about your perspective on your life and the world. Pass along your wisdom in the form of advice to your younger self or to others.   

Conclusion

Feel free to improvise as you see fit. Add information about an issue, person or event that was meaningful to you during this time.

Next up: your ninth and tenth decades. If you haven’t reached these milestones yet, skip ahead to summing up

We hope you are enjoying this process. Comments on the website are appreciated. Please share these posts to encourage others to write their stories.

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Chapter 11 - Your Life Story Review and Summary

Summary of Your Life Story

Wood bridge with rails under a beautiful blue sky.

Consider your life story a bridge to your children, grandchildren, and future generations.

By Maureen Santini © Copyright 2018-2019. All Rights Reserved.

If you wrote your life story by following the decade-by-decade method advocated by this website, you have amassed a great deal of valuable information. Now is the time to review, add news details that span many decades, and to sum up.

Take the opportunity to blend in serious as well as lighthearted aspects of your life and personality that may not have fit neatly into any particular decade. Several ideas to consider are shown below but feel free to add any information or insight that seems relevant.

Witness to History

We’ve all lived through historic events that we’ll never forget and that may have changed us, our family members, our communities, our nation, and our world.

  • Write about major local, national and world events that occurred during your lifetime. State where you were when these events occurred and the impact they had on you and your lifestyle.
  • Identify issues that you were passionate about or that changed your life in important ways.
  • Explain the conditions, if any, you were forced to endure.
  • Write about major inventions that changed your life.

The Lighter Side

On the lighter side, list a few of your favorite things such as favorite sayings, places, possessions, pets, hobbies, foods, books, colors, movies, cars, clothing, residences, hangouts, and so forth.

Write down stories you’ve heard from your parents, grandparents and other family members as well as stories you’ve told over and over about yourself or others.

Review Each Decade

For those so inclined, review each decade, looking for major changes, such as when one decade differed greatly from the previous decade or decades. For instance:

  • Your living situation changed.
  • You retired or lost loved ones.
  • Your longtime residence or routine changed.
  • Your health or the health of a close family member changed.
  • Your way of life or occupation changed.
  • Your outlook changed, such as attitudes toward politics, world events or social issues.

These changes are likely to encapsulate the high points, low points and turning points of your life. Label them as such or let the facts speak for themselves.

Highlight your greatest achievements and proudest moments, your happiest and worst times, your regrets if any, and things you are grateful for.

Final Details

Once you have a working draft of your life story, consider sharing it with close friends and family. Their comments may jog your memory and/or clarify details of main events. Encourage them to write their stories.

Finally, write down “need to know” information for family members such as the location of your will, your financial accounts, your insurance policies, and your wishes for your funeral. You can keep this document in a separate place but be sure your family members know the location.

Your family and descendants will be grateful you took the time to pass down your life story for posterity. Please encourage others to write their stories by sharing these posts. Feel free to post your impressions of the decade-by-decade method in the “comments” section on this website.

Well done!