The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan makes one stop to think how quickly life can be snuffed out. The life and history of each person can be gone unless it's was written down for posterity.
How many people go through life thinking they have plenty of time and nothing is ever going to happen to them? My brother was always telling stories about himself and the lessons he had learned in life. He said he was going to write the stories down but time passed and nothing was written. One day after he had pruned his trees, gathered the limbs and put them in the back of his truck to take to the dump, his truck would not start. As he was trying to fix the problem, the truck lunged forward and crushed him between his truck and a neighbor's motor home.
Now that he is gone, his family wishes he was around to tell the stories again. Who can remember all the stories? And the stories that are remembered, will they be the same when told by different people?
With today's technology it is easier than ever to write about experiences and to record thoughts.
There are many ways to compile histories. One can organize them together in a three-ring binder, a PowerPoint, an audio recording or on video. Or they can be put into PDF format and taken to a printer or copy shop to be published. Or they can be published online with several websites such as www.lulu.com.
But the first step is to figure out what to put in the history. What kind of a history should it be? A history with pictures or a narrative story? Or should it be both?
The second step is to figure out where the materials needed for the history are located. This will depend on where and when the people in the history lived.
The third step is to put the materials together.
The final step is to publish and preserve the history.
Everyone should take the time to put together some form of personal or family history. Taking the time now will make it possible to retrieve the memories and stories of relatives and ancestors for posterity.
Lorinda L. Mann, professional genealogist and lecturer, has been researching family history for 30 years and has published seven family histories. She taught family history at two junior colleges and lectured on researching and publishing.