Person sits on grass with pen and notebook, writing.
Preserving your life history is simple with the decade-by-decade method.

Welcome to Write Your Life Story for Posterity.

This website has a dual purpose: to encourage people to write their life stories and to provide a simple way for them to do so.

Preserving your life history matters. Why? Because an irreparable gap occurs in the family narrative and historical record when people die without passing down the details of their lives. Once the information is gone, it is gone forever. I learned this the hard way.

Genealogy Research Alone Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story

Several years ago I set out to learn about my extended family. I spent thousands of hours on research and amassed enormous quantities of information. It soon became apparent that there was no practical way to make sense of such voluminous raw data. The collection of birth, death, baptism, military, census, and marriage records spanning several generations was almost meaningless without a narrative.

Little House vs. List of Names and Dates

Despite the limitations, I tried to write a family history. Constructing a story from the dry public record proved nearly impossible. Lengthy as it was, the draft wasn’t very interesting or readable due to the lack of personal stories chronicling the lifestyles, personalities, hardships, triumphs, and beliefs of the people in my extended family tree. 

My goal had been to write the equivalent of a Little House on the Prairie but I ended up with a long list of individuals and their birth, marriage, and death dates. The final product was so bare bones that I briefly considered using it as the basis for a novel. 

Like many others, I reached middle age with minimal knowledge of my family history. Genealogy research filled in many factual gaps but the true story –- who were these people really –– remained and remains elusive. Since the main figures are long dead, the problem has no solution. I set the project aside.

The loss to history of the personalities, beliefs, experiences, and way of life of my ancestors is incalculable.

End the Burning of Libraries

“Every death is like the burning of a library,” said Alex Haley, the famous author of Roots, describing the void left by individual stories that were never told.

My goal in creating this website is to end the burning of all those libraries. My mission is to convince people to write about their lives for themselves and for future generations.

Preserve Your Story and Your Way of Life

Some people consider their lives too ordinary to preserve for posterity. That’s nonsenseEveryone has a unique story. Document your life to the best of your ability simply because your life matters and should be preserved. Your life story is your legacy.

Another reason to write it all down is to memorialize your way of life and the issues of your time. We take our day-to-day routines for granted but the truth is that drastic changes in lifestyle often occur from generation to generation.

For instance, inventions that have become commonplace in my lifetime include televisions, computers, and cell phones, to name a few. During the same time frame, the world has just about forsaken outdoor movie theaters, landline telephones, wringer washers, VCRs, privacy, and turntables. Many once-pervasive industries such as lumber mills and railroads are long past their heyday. Your current lifestyle may well be a source of novelty and fascination to your descendants one day.    

A Simple but Rewarding Method

I believe the decade-by-decade method advocated by my website is the simplest and most complete way to write your autobiography. But it is not the only way. Many organizations offer classes in memoir and autobiography writing. Ghostwriters will do the job for you for a fee. Choose any method that works for you. But commit yourself to writing your autobiography.

The ultimate goal is to pass down the story of your life to your family and descendants. However, you may find that the writing process provides unexpected benefits. The breadth and depth of your journey may surprise you and your loved ones.

The Time Required is Short — The Value is Priceless

If you’ve lived six decades and you write about one decade a week, you will have a draft at the end of six weeks. The time commitment is minor compared with the value of the result. It is difficult to imagine any other activity that could produce such a worthwhile return on your time.

The very best family histories are those in which multiple family members write about their lives. If you agree, encourage your family members and friends to write their stories, too. Consider sharing posts on this website.

Let’s get started. The First Decade post will guide you. 

Thanks for visiting. 

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Maureen Santini is a writer, researcher, and former journalist.