16 October 2015

Writing My Life Story

I am working on writing my life story. In some ways that is what genealogy is all about; writing the story of the life of my family: where they came from, who they were, what happened to them in their journey. But what about my life, my journey? Wouldn't I be the best one to tell that story rather than some as yet unborn descendant?

My mom was also very interested in learning the history of her family, yet when she found out she was dying of cancer and I wanted to get HER story she wasn't interested in working on that. She felt it was no longer important. I would love to have her story in her words, not only for myself but for my children who loved her, and her great grandchildren who never had the opportunity to meet her. Only I didn't have the words to explain to her that it was important to me!

There are others in my family tree that I wish so much I had a written copy of their story. Sadly, I don't.

A couple of things happened this year that gave me the push to finally start putting pen to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard) and start writing the story of MY life. The first was Thomas McEntee's Genealogy Do-Over Project. I decided if I really was going to start over at the beginning, which means starting with me, I needed to write my story before it was too late. The other push was joining Camp NaNoWriMo in July. I ended up writing 50,000 words in one month. It showed me I could do it, IF I just sat down for an hour a day and typed.

Granted some of those 50,000 words are just a rough chronological outline with very few details. But it is 50,000 more words than when I started. Have I kept it up? Sadly, no. But I am trying to get back into routines now that the days are turning cooler, or at least the nights are. We have had some really beautiful days recently, more like Indian Summer than fall.

I have a lot more words to put down before I am ready to go back and start editing it. But I will get there, as long as God allows me enough days to get it done. But since none of us are promised tomorrow, I am trying not to put off those things that are important to me.

I thought I would share the introduction of my "story" with you, in hopes that it might encourage you to also write your story.

Who Am I?

By Linda D Newman

I have been putting off writing my story for our family history, after all who would be interested in me and my story? I am just a regular person. I don’t think I am anything special. I haven’t done anything extraordinary. Although, when sharing this introduction with my friend Rochelle, she scolded me for thinking I wasn’t anything special or extraordinary. She said, “You are special, you are extraordinary. The things you do and have done are extraordinary.” I do know that I am special in the sense that I am a unique individual created in God’s image, but beyond that I don’t stand out from the other more than seven billion people on earth (except to those who know me personally). I guess I will leave it you to you the reader to make your own judgments about whether or not I am extraordinary.

Then I think about what I would give to be able to read about one of my ancestors. Especially something they had written themselves so that I could get to know them as a person and not just know the names, dates, and places of their life. I would love to have them tell me about what they believed, the things they experienced, what a typical day was like, the important things that happened in their lifetime and their reactions to them.

So based on my desire to get to know my ancestors better, I figure at some point one of my descendants might say, “Who is this Linda person who is my great grandmother? What was she like? What was life like for her?” I hope that this piece will, at least in part, answer some of the questions my grandchildren and their children may one day have about me and my life. That I can flesh out my life for them, instead of just leaving the dry skeleton of names, dates and places.

This book will have several parts to it.

Part One will be a chronological telling of my life story.

Part Two will be my responses to the question “Who Am I?” which was a writing prompt I found on a website designed to help you write the story of your life. They said to ask yourself the question “who am I?” twenty times and write down your responses. That concept really stuck with me, and I thought it would be a good way to maybe explore parts of me and my life that might not get covered in a chronological style telling of my story.

Finally, Appendix A has an ancestor report, listing the basic facts of my ancestors. The names, dates and places of the major events of their life. To learn more about their stories you can read more about them in the different books about their branch of our family tree.

Yes, what I am doing is a major undertaking, but then I am a writer at heart. The way you decide to write your story is up to you, and even that decision tells people about who you are. If you are crafty maybe you will decide to tell your story with pictures in a carefully crafted scrapbook. If you prefer to tell you story using spoken words rather than writing, get a digital vocal recorder and start talking. When you are done you can always ask someone to transcribe it into written form, but the extra special part of leaving a digital recording is that your descendants will be able to actually HEAR your story in your own voice.

But whatever form you decide to use to share your life story I encourage you to start today so that one day your descendant aren't saying, "I wish I knew more about my grandparents and what their life was like."


  1. This is a project I've been meaning to start for a long time. Thank you so much for the inspiration and the roadmap. Your blog was wonderful and I look forward to following you