: June 6, 2022 Posted by: Maureen Comments: 0

By Maureen Santini © Copyright. All Rights Reserved.

Imagine preparing to read a new book with great anticipation. You settle into a comfortable chair, pour a drink, and open the first page. Surprise! Except for a few names and dates, the page is blank. You turn the page. Same thing. Page after page after page – nothing but names and dates.

Where’s the story? The sad fact: the author took it with her to her grave.

That’s the rude awakening for relatives and descendants of a deceased one. They might be able to gather dates of birth, marriage, and death. Perhaps they will stumble across information about education, residences, and occupations.

If they are lucky, they’ll find an obituary that mentions hobbies or community activities.

However, it is impossible to learn the full scope of a deceased person’s life after they’re gone. A friend or family member may know a chapter or so. But you – the departed – are the only one who possesses the entire manuscript.

Irreplaceable Loss of Knowledge

“Every death is like the burning of a library,” the famous Roots researcher and author Alex Haley once said.

More than 108 million Americans – one in three – are at least 50 years old, according to US Census data. Envision the incalculable loss of knowledge and history if only a few of them write their life stories for posterity.

Preserve Your Story

The purpose of this website is to encourage you to pass down your life story and to provide a simple way to do so. Your life story is your legacy.

Preserve your story for your family and future generations regardless of fame, wealth, or notoriety. Everyone’s life is valuable to posterity. Millions of sleuthing genealogists research the lives of average, normal people every day.

When you die, your life story dies with you. No matter how much time and effort researchers spend, they will never be able to fully reconstruct all the chapters of your life. Your complete story will be lost to history forever.

Many people try to construct their family trees. But most genealogy research is limited to the dry public record, such as census reports, marriage and death records, and military registration forms.

One gold mine – city directories that listed everyone’s home address, occupation, and employer – long ago ceased to exist.

No Substitute for First-Hand Accounts

I’ve spent thousands of hours researching my family, accumulating hundreds of pages of information. Because I began my research before my parents died, I was able to ask questions. The information they provided is invaluable. But there is no substitute for a first-person account. Now that they are gone, along with most of their siblings, I still have unanswered questions and nowhere to turn for answers.

What I discovered – despite painstaking, diligent research – is that there is no substitute for a first-hand account of someone’s life.

Pass Down Your Story

Call it a memoir, a life story, an autobiography, or a book of memories. All that matters is that you write down the details of your life and your way of life. Otherwise, the tragedy of death is magnified by the abrupt information void it creates.

Survivors will remember for a time. But most of us are destined to fade into oblivion after a few decades unless we document our lives. 

Julia Shaw, a memory scientist, wrote that remembrances of departed loved ones are often unreliable. “There is no memory safe house that keeps our most cherished memories from corruption.”

I was fortunate to have had many years with my parents. After all that time, I still lacked information in certain areas on certain topics. Imagine the challenging task of descendants who may never even have met the people they are researching. Piecing together a family history becomes progressively more difficult with each successive generation.

However, the purpose of writing your life story isn’t to help genealogists even if that is a bonus. The purpose is to prevent the incalculable loss of irreplaceable knowledge that occurs with each death.

You Have Unique Knowledge

You have unique knowledge and perspective about your life and times. You alone know the whole story. 

Even if you shared family stories with your children, they will not necessarily recall the details after you are gone.

Or, your children may be knowledgeable about their family background. But your grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren may not be. Research shows Americans want to know more about their heritage.

There is simply no substitute for a personal memoir.

Your Story is A Valuable Gift

All of us have limited time. A third of us are already older than 50. Our stories, memories, way of life, and insights are worth preserving for ourselves, our families, our communities, and for posterity.

The decade-by-decade method advocated by this website is a simple, easy way to write your memoir. You simply write about a decade of your life each week, or each day.

Give the method a try. You do not have anything to lose.

Read the post on the first decade. Write down your answers to the questions. The ease of telling your life story chronologically quickly becomes apparent. You will amass information almost effortlessly.

The best family histories are those in which several family members each write their own stories. Share these posts on social media and with friends and family members. Encourage them to write their stories also.

Join our circle of people who just want to preserve the details of their lives. Feel free to comment on this website about your experience with the decade-by-decade process.

Do not force future generations to settle for a book with blank pages. Your life story is the most valuable gift you can bestow.

Sign up for email updates. Start writing today. Good luck.

Note: This post has been updated from the original.