Writing your Family History Preface

On Writing Family Histories Select an individual

An individual that is inspired to write about their family, will select themselves to write about for their first history and that is a wise choice, as we know more about ourselves than anyone else. In writing your own history you will learn the important things that should be included in other histories. The information that was important and interesting in your history should be your outline for writing the histories of your parents, grandparents and other ancestors that you decide to write about later.

Your own history, however, is the only one that you can include the emotions and feelings you had about events and experiences, good or bad, in your life. With other histories you will only be able to provide whatever details you can find about the person and where they lived. You would be very fortunate to find letters and or stories that they had written that could be incorporated into your history of them. There are time lines professionally prepared that will give you historical facts and events that were taking place at the time your ancestors lived in a given community. These events from recorded history should be used selectively in describing their environment and the area events that probably affected their lives.

The size of your project will depend on how much you know or can find in your research about an individual and how interested you become in their story, as well as your writing skills. Some histories may be several hundred pages long and some will only be one or two pages long depending on the above circumstances.

Whether you are a prolific writer or not should not be the determining factor in whether you accept the responsibility to make sure an ancestor’s life is not totally lost to their descendants, including your own. They say, “When a man dies, they bury a book!” Let us exhume as many of those books as we can. Ancestral histories are the only link that we have to the past and to those who broke the trail and bridged the rivers of life that we cross over every day, usually, with little thought to their hard work and bravery. The importance of writing our own story and the histories of our kindred dead is what will keep our memory alive and the memory of our ancestor’s existence alive. Someone said that it puts clothes on their spirits so that we can see them in our minds eye and know who we should be grateful to for the preparations they made for our turn on earth. Knowledge of our predecessors tends to humble us, as humility is a byproduct of a grateful heart. Humility is a virtue that we should all aspire to, in order to find that special peace of mind in this life.

By Emil O. Hanson

Your Personal History

“Your personal history isn’t for the masses — it’s for your family. And your family doesn’t want volumes – they just want pages. They don’t need golden plates — plain paper will do. The key is to just get busy and do it. Write one experience at a time…

Your personal history is scripture for your posterity. It is a means by which you can teach them long after you are gone. It will help your family understand you, and will probably help you understand yourself. And as you write it, you will probably experience a spiritual awakening. You will come to realize how blessed you have been, and how much the Lord loves you.

A personal history is an essential part of what you should leave for your posterity. You should leave your genealogy so they know you were born. And you should leave your personal history so they know you lived — you really lived. ”

—George D. Durrant, Church News, January 16, 1982

Personal Histories

Following are two programs that may be of help to those writing their histories. The first is a software program designed to walk a person through their writing of their personal history, step by step. The second is the personal and family history, teaching manual that has been used by the Ogden Regional Family History Center staff to teach personal history.