Read an Excerpt
Welcome! We're glad that you decided to embark on this project, and we hope it turns out to be one of the most satisfying things you've ever done.
You will find in these pages many questions-- questions to lead you down the pathways of your own life. What you're going to be doing is putting together a personal history for your family. We're here to show you that it can be easy and full of pleasure for you--something intimate and special, the creating of a lasting and beautiful hand-me-down for your children, your children's children, and generations that will come along far in the future.
Your story will have much more resonance for your children and grandchildren than any biography or autobiography of a famous person. It's almost startling that making this kind of personal history hasn't always been an American custom. Older people are often able to leave property or money behind for their descendants, but this--a package of memories of a person's life--is what usually doesn't get passed along. The most precious commodities of all--people's own recollections of their worlds--seldom get preserved, at least in a proper and permanent way.
As you will see, the secret of all this is found in the particulars. The specifics of your own memories are what your family will treasure the most. The main thing for you to know is that you need not attempt to sum up your life in grand, sweeping historic strokes, but stick to the seemingly small basics.
Thus, a man in his seventies shouldn't try to tell his children what post-World War I America was like; he should answer for them the question "What did the neighborhood where you grew up look like?" Or "Who was your best friend when you were a boy, and what did the two of you do together?" Or "How did you get your first job, and what was it like on your first day?"
A woman in her eighties shouldn't try to reconstruct the political events that took place during her youth. She should reach into her memory to answer questions on richer topics "What was your schoolhouse like?" Or "What do you remember about going on automobile rides with your family?" Or "Describe what you would do on summer days when you were a girl."
The purpose of this book is to help you along the way. If you know what questions to ask yourself, the answers almost take care of themselves--you already know them, but you may not have thought about them in a while.
Maybe you have never considered that the stories from your life are important. But be assured that they will be cherished far beyond anything money could buy. Whether you write your history, or speak it into a tape recorder, your stories will be eagerly awaited by the most appreciative audience of all--your family. Far into the future, your family will read your words or listen to your voice and be grateful you took the time to put this gift together for them.