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What About Your Life Story?

writingGenealogists and family historians spend a great deal of time digging into the life stories of their ancestors. This is understandable, considering that genealogy is the study of family. Of course, you want to learn about your ancestor’s occupation and day-to-day life! What about your own life story? Future generations of your family will be interested in reading it (especially the future genealogists).

Your life story includes details like where you have lived, what you have studied, and the profession you selected. It can also include things like stories about your childhood, and details about how you met your significant other. An article at the Huffington Post written by Caroline Gregorie, points out that your life story may say more about you than you may have thought!

In that article, Caroline Gregorie notes the information given by Northwestern University psychology professor Dan McAdams. He said that our life stories change as time goes on. When people reach their 40’s, they have a tendency to simplify their life story. Their story also become softer and a bit gentler than it may have been twenty years ago. Dramatic or controversial incidents from the past can seem less significant as time goes on.

He also said that our current emotions can color our life story. People who go through a depressive episode end up creating a life story that is dark, dreary, and hopeless. When they recover, or go through a happier period in life, they may look back at that rough time and report it as being less awful than it seemed while they were living through it.

What does this information tell genealogists and family historians? It indicates that the age your relative was when he or she wrote their life story is significant. Take a moment to figure out what age your ancestor was when he wrote the journal you discovered. Younger ancestors may see things as very dramatic and emotional. Older ancestors, writing about moments from their life while looking back upon them, can see things quite differently.

It also means that the best time to start writing your life story might be after you are in your 40’s. It is an age when many people have sorted their life story into a simplified narrative. You can tell the tale now without delving into the amount of drama that one would find in a typical soap opera.

The overly emotional version of your life story might be the type of story that makes the best seller lists. However, the future genealogists and family historians in your family tree will be better served with a more straight-forward version of your life story.

Image by Eduardo on Flickr

Related Articles:

* Stories of Lives Well Lived

* StoryCorps Can Help You Record Your Precious Family Memories

* Videoing Family Stories

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