Updated: Jan 2, 2019
Earlier this year, I finally did it. I left my corporate job and started out on my own. While my wife and I lined up a few business opportunities beforehand, the switch was terrifying and thrilling all at the same time (still is, as a matter of fact!). What was it that called to me and drove me to leave my safe and secure job, uprooting my wife and five children and one dog? The chance to be a personal historian.
If that’s your first thought, you’re not alone. It’s a common response when I tell people what I do. Rather obviously, a personal historian helps individuals to chronicle their, you guessed it, personal history. And what is a personal history?
A personal history is the life story of an individual. In it, the individual shares their stories and the values and beliefs that matter most to them, allowing them to create a legacy that friends and family members will cherish long after the individual is gone.
The format of a personal history can range from video to audio to print to pretty much anything else you can think of. It often includes interviews, family documents, valued heirlooms, and photographs.
Why are personal histories so important? What would make me leave a great job to help others create their personal histories? Because I’ve learned that personal histories are powerful. They change lives and they strengthen families. When an individual shares their life stories, the benefits for themselves AND their families are numerous. For the individual, there is increased joy in their lives. For their children and grandchildren, studies have shown that those who know their families’ stories have greater resiliency, experience lower levels of anxiety, and connect better with others. It’s amazing to see up close. One client who just completed his history experienced profound appreciation for his wife. Another client had each grandchild call him and express amazement at the stories. These are some of the reasons I love this work.
I’m a personal historian with Timeless Legacies, a family business founded by my mother, AuraLee Loveland, who has been doing personal histories for over 15 years! We specialize in exactly this, helping folks share their stories in a process that is as easy and effortless for them as possible. But even if you choose not to hire a company such as ours, you can (and should!) record your own life stories and the stories of those around you.
Why YOU Should Care About Personal History
Mark Twain said it best,
“There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside the dullest exterior, there is a drama, a comedy and a tragedy.”
You may not know it yet, but your own family is filled with dramas, comedies and tragedies.
Beyond the major milestones, most people know surprisingly little about their parents and grandparents. Try this exercise.
Where were your parents born?
Why were they given the names they have?
What did they do for fun as a child?
What’s their favorite memory about growing up?
What did they like and dislike about high school?
Where did your parents meet?
How long did they date before they got married?
If you’re like most people, you don’t know the answers to many of these questions. There is a simple solution. Start asking! Until then, you and your children are missing out on something very powerful. Bruce Feiler, author of The Secrets of Happy Families, said,
“If you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.”
Our mission, and the mission of this blog, is to inspire and help as many people as possible to preserve and share their personal histories. In future blog posts, we will share tips and tricks on the best ways to do this, as well as more research on why it’s important. We’ll also share some of our favorite stories we’ve gathered from clients and friends (each humorous, inspiring, heartwarming, or all of the above).