What is a personal historian?

8 Sep
Extended middle-class Midwestern U.S. family o...

Image via Wikipedia

You may have wondered what a personal historian is or does.  I can explain some of the things we do here.  We help people gather photos and documents that help tell their family history.  Sometimes a little research is in order also.  People may know the family tree info and have a few things already, but the holes just need to be filled in.

At the center of it all is the interview.  The person that is having their story told will need to be interviewed.  This can take a few hours, or sometimes more than a few.  It all depends on how much detail they want included in their story and how much time they want to spend on it.  All of this, of course, affects the price.  The interview process could include interviewing loved ones as well.

I have to tell you that this is the most exciting part of the process of helping someone write a legacy.  You truly do hear that everyone has a story to tell.  There are amazing tales waiting to be told.  Just think about the stories your great grandmother could have told you.  If her stories were written down you wouldn’t have to imagine.  Now, think about your great grandson years from now.  Will they know you?  They will if you leave a written legacy.

Someone can truly get to know you on a very personal level by connecting through your stories.  They can get to know your personality and what you really believed in.  You could keep traditions alive and the reasons they were important to you and your family.  You can also teach life lessons for the younger generations to learn from.

Personal biographies can be serious, funny, or dramatic.  Keeping them interesting isn’t hard to do, either.  Think about your biography.  What would be the main theme and supporting ones.  Autobiographies can include anything or everything.  You get to decide what stays and what goes.  That’s another great thing about this process, you are in charge of how you want to be remembered.

The rememberance process is also healthy for the brain.  It stimulates your thinking and emotions at the same time.  You can create amazing connections with memories.  Think about the holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving.  People usually get nostalgic and tell stories.  This is a great tradition to carry on.

Why only do this during holidays?  Well, for lots of families in this day and time, that’s the only time you see each other.  Why not use that time this year to start a tradition of legacy writing for your family.  You could be your family historian.  There are lots of resources available to help you.

Just start asking questions and looking at photographs.  This gets people thinking and talking and having a great time, too.  You could take more pictures to add to the collection and do a scrapbook.  You could start an archive of family stories, recipes, games and whatever else you can think of.

Maybe you could record some of the interaction.  Audio or video, both add another dimension to your work.  You could conduct it like an interview or just be casual and get candid moments.  They will all be treasured when some of the participants are no longer around to listen to.  So do what you can to capture the laughter now.

Family Portrait - Montreal 1963
Image by Mikey G Ottawa via Flickr

Personal historians are everyday people, and you can be one, too.  Start documenting the stories your family holds dear before they are gone and forgotten.  You want to make sure that the values that made your family strong and prosperous will continue to be told when you are gone.  Reflection is only the beginning.  Leave a legacy of values along with your valuables.

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2 Responses to “What is a personal historian?”

  1. Tokeloshe September 9, 2011 at 11:56 AM #

    Excellent post!

    • Legacy strategist September 10, 2011 at 1:55 PM #

      Thanks so much for the comment. I love telling and hearing stories and I love to help others do it, too. Have a great weekend, and ask questions!

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