By Byron D. Varner
Everyone has remembrance of memorable milestones in their lives. Some are about family and home, school days of yore, first loves, marriage, careers, birth of children, their growing, maturing, marrying, presenting you with grandkids, vacations, travels, life accomplishments, ad infinitum.
As the saying goes, “I could write a book about it.“ Some have, many could, but most people never will. I have written one autobiography, and have just completed a 20 year supplement to update it. These two books are not for sale to the public, but strictly for the benefit of my heirs and a few close friends.
Whether you are a “writer” is not important. It doesn’t have to be a polished, professional effort. Even mere notes about those times of your life, written in whatever form, edited or not, but compiled in a loose leaf notebook or open file format, is a wonderful thing to do for your family… and for yourself. One of your heirs may put it into book form someday, if you don’t.
You say, “Yes, I agree, but I wouldn’t know how to start.”
Memory is a tricky thing, but the more you think about the past, the more you begin to remember. For that reason, I found that the best way to start was to first compile an ongoing “chronology file” that started as of my date of birth and work forward by each year. These were a series of brief notes (memory joggers) I added to the list in proper sequence as various memories of things to write about came to mind. Some were only a brief sentence or two; others a bit longer. Each would be expanded in the actual research and writing process.
You will be surprised how much you will remember after you create this blank outline, then begin filling it with simple statements about the who, what, when, where, why, and how, of your life. After several weeks, the file was thicker than I imagined it would be, but I wasn’t ready to start the writing process.
Most people do not become interested in genealogy and/or family history until their mid-life years, when the facts of mortality begin creeping into thought and you finally realize you‘re not going to live forever.
Regrettably, I didn’t start this project until after both my mother and father were deceased, so I didn’t have the benefit of their input regarding their own lives. I had to rely on my memory of various times I experienced with them or remembered from other family members talking about it. My father’s only brother had written some memories of their early days and I found that very useful. Those planning to keep notes on their family history should start the process while parents are still alive, if possible.
My brother and three sisters (who were from 2 to 10 years older) were still living at the time, so I mailed a copy of the chronology file to each of them, requesting their review, editing of facts, and addition of anything they remembered that I hadn’t included. When these were returned to me, I was ready to start writing.
Even as I wrote, new remembrances came. Soon it was no longer a matter of what to include, but what to omit! In retrospect, I should have included more
The chronology was also its subject presentation form, i.e., genealogy background, family sequence in story line: ancestors, grandfather, father, mother, sisters and brothers, my growing up, taking a wife, her family, our lives together, our children, their children, etc.
When writing for posterity, one should consider quality - non-acidic paper, stitched binding and hard cover for posterity. If each 20 years is considered a family generation, this book could last well into the 22nd century, or beyond - provided that maniacs with super weapons of mass destruction haven’t obliterated life as we know it on planet Earth.