: June 5, 2022 Posted by: Maureen Comments: 0

By Maureen Santini © Copyright. All Rights Reserved.

Chapter 10 in Write Your Life Story for Posterity is to write about your family history. For those following the decade-by-decade method to write their memoirs, this is the next to last chapter. The last chapter is summing up.

Congratulations on your progress. You’re nearing the finish line.

This is an extremely important chapter. Without a concerted effort to preserve it, family history slips away slowly, without awareness. Suddenly, there’s no one left who remembers.

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. You may have met your great-grandparents but their lives may seem fuzzy, details sketchy.

Knowledge fades away, generation by generation, until it’s gone forever. That’s why Alex Haley likened each death to the burning of a library. The purpose of this chapter is to preserve your family’s library of knowledge and information.

Many Lack Information

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 from which family members had emigrated.
  • 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.

Pass Down Your Memories  

It is difficult to overstate the importance of writing down the information you acquired during your lifetime about your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and great-grandparents. Family history provides connections.

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

That is why a chapter of your life story should be devoted to preserving information about your forebears. 

Step 1 – Start Writing

One way to approach this chapter is to just start writing. Start with your parents. Use the decade-by-decade posts as a guide. Try to answer all the questions on behalf of your parents. You’ll soon discover how much you know and how much you do not know. Go through this exercise for your grandparents and great-grandparents, as far back as your memory takes you.

Personal Memories

If you personally knew your grandparents and great-grandparents, jot down everything you recall, including facts, anecdotes, and activities you enjoyed together. Even if you did not know them personally, write stories you’ve heard about them.

Step 2: Interview Family Members

As a result of step 1, you’ve identified gaps in your knowledge. 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.

Encourage each of them to write their own life stories.

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 sources of information, including photo albums and bibles.

Decade-by-decade posts on this website for each decade of life can guide your interviews with family members. These posts provide an organized way to capture information. 

The ideal is for each person in your family tree to write his or her own life story. If that is impossible, reconstruct as many details as possible about each person. This includes facts pertaining to jobs, residences, health, and relationships. But also, personality, lifestyle, and interests.

Basic Information

Record in writing as much as possible of the following:

  • Dates and places of the person’s birth, marriage, and death.
  • Education and military experience.
  • Names and dates of births of children.
  • Addresses of residences.
  • Occupations and military service, including names and address of employers.
  • Nationality including country of origin and date and method of emigration.
  • Hobbies, skills, and interests.
  • Family rituals, values, and activities.
  • Names of people and places frequently visited.
  • Views pertaining to social issues, politics, and anything else they were passionate about.
  • Status of health and welfare throughout the decades.
  • Personality profile, showing what each person was like as an individual.

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 

If you stumbled across this post, several previous posts explain why you should write your life story for posterity. 

An incalculable loss of knowledge occurs when people die without passing down their autobiographies. The mission of this website is to preserve irreplaceable information by urging everyone to write their life stories for posterity.

Next up is writing a summary, the 11th and final chapter. You are on the cusp of a major accomplishment. Well done!

Join us in the quest to convince everyone to immortalize the facts of their lives. Share these posts to encourage others to write their stories.

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Note: This post has been updated from the original.