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    Your Story is Part of Your Family History

    "Mom," my daughter commented, "You're spending so much time researching and writing about our ancestors. You need to write down your story for your grandchildren and me."

    This made me realize that I'm part of the generation of family, that someday my descendants will be excited to find my writings and remembrances. We so often think of our lives as being ordinary, as we live them, that we don't realize they will be and are of interest to other people today and in the years to come.

    This made me recall a reader of my "Country Kitchen" column telling me I should write a book about my life and my writing.

    "You'd like to hear about ME?" I asked in amazement and received an answer in the affirmative.


    Where Do You Start?

    These comments made me realize that my family and my readers truly might be interested in my life...not as an ego trip, but as a record of the times in which I live. My great, great grandchildren might even be interested in the mundane happenings in my life as I was when I discovered letters written by my great, great grandmother of the everyday events in her life as a pioneer homesteader in the United States in the 1800s.

    You also don't have to be an adult to start writing about your life. Youngsters often do this as a writing exercise in school. Save your children's writing. Have them start a journal...or keep the ones they write in school.

    Your start doesn't have to be with your birth and then written in chronological order. Sometimes people are put off simply because they don't like to write in sequence. Instead, remember exciting and memorable events in your life, whether they're sad, happy, or even ordinary. These could be:

    • First day at school
    • Escapade with a friend when a teenager
    • First job
    • An award or recognition you received
    • Your marriage
    • Birth of a child
    • Death of a family member or friend
    • A memorable vacation

    The list is endless. Once you start writing about these incidents in your life, they will act as springboards for more ideas.


    Recording Your Story on Tape

    If you don't like to write, don't let this deter you. Simply get out your tape recorder and record your memories.

    • Keep a small recorder with you to use whenever you recall incidents and events.
    • Record everyday happenings as you experience them, too. Today will be part of your family history tomorrow!
    • Chat with a family member and record their remembrances. It's interesting to see how two or three siblings recall the same event. Or what they recall that another may have forgotten.
    • Set a specific time each week when you might record some of your memories.


    Keeping a Journal

    A journal or diary is a great place to record information about your life, for yourself and as a treasure for future generations. What fun to go through my grandmother's and my mom's dairies.

    From my grandmother's diary I get an idea of her daily life, year after. She was a very regular diary writer, faithfully recording just a few sentences every evening.

    My mom's diaries were intermittent over the years. But the tidbits I glean there give me greater understanding of her. Of particular interest to me, as a teacher, are her years at her first school in the early 1900s.

    I have kept journals for years...for ideas as a writer, and to record my daily life, which I can refer to later. When I started, I had no idea I was jotting down a heritage for my family.


    Don't Throw Out Letters

    When I read those letters of my great, great grandmother's, I realized that the letters I have of my mom's and my grandmother's are part of family history, too, and shouldn't be thrown out. Then when I had to move my mom from her home as Alzheimer's disease made it impossible for her to live alone, I discovered that she had saved just about every letter I'd written her over the years. These are gathered together in a box, for me to catalog. They give me a record of my life from my days at college, my marriage and life as a military wife, the birth of my daughter, and then of grandchildren. Some of these are more detailed than a journal and give a glimpse of my husband's and my life over the years that may be of interest to my descendants if I can get them in some order that is easier to save.


    Ideas are Numerous

    The ideas are numerous for keeping a record of your own history. Items like report cards, birth and marriage certificates, diplomas, news clippings, and other items of recognition all add to the record you can keep for your family.

    If this becomes too much to keep, try scanning the important items into your computer; preserve them on video and on CDs. However, remember that these items will deteriorate just as paper can, so check out the best methods of preservation.

    Remember...the events in your life are of interest to someone in your life, now and in the future. Begin recording it. You'll often find this great fun, too.

    Copyright © 2001 Mary Emma Allen

    Mary Emma Allen researches and writes about her family history as well as the history of the state where she lives in the United State. She's a children's writer, print and online columnist, book author and teacher/speaker. Her many publications are listed on her Web site -- http://homepage.fcgnetworks.net/jetent/mea.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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