History starts with you.
That’s especially true of family history, which can get so caught up in the lives of people who lived hundreds of years ago that we often forget the people who are making history today. FamilySearch is hoping to change that with their current #52Stories project, a series of categorized questions designed to encourage people to start writing their own personal histories.
If you’ve never thought about writing your own personal history before, or haven’t been sure where to start, the questions are an excellent place to begin. They’re also useful if you’ve been afraid to write it down, secretly certain that your life is unimportant or that it’s egotistical to talk about yourself so much. With the FamilySearch list, you don’t have to be afraid that you’re rambling on about yourself for no reason – you’re answering questions someone else is asking you, which we’ve all been trained is a polite thing to do.
The questions, available at familysearch.org/blog/en/52stories, are meant to be done at least once a week throughout a year (hence the title of the project). There are actually a total of 144 questions, however, 12 each in 12 different categories, so you can either do more than one a week or skip some questions you feel don’t apply to you or aren’t interested in answering.
The categories cover a wide variety of general topics, including obvious ones like “Goals and Achievements” and “Events and Milestones” and more generalized ones like “Home and Hearth.” There’s also a list each for “Mothers and Motherhood” and “Fathers and Fatherhood,” though most of the questions in each focus on your own mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers rather than asking about you as a parent. While some of the questions are about things that happened to you or facts of your life, others focus on your thoughts and feelings on a particular topic.
There’s no suggested word minimum or maximum for your answers to any of these questions, which means you can answer each question as fully or simply as you’d like. Still, it’s probably best to at least do a paragraph on any question you choose to answer, which according to the writer rulebook means at least three complete sentences.
As for the question of where to start writing, choose whatever format you’re most comfortable with. Some people will put it on the computer – though if you do, back it up to a separate hard drive or the cloud so you don’t lose all your hard work if your computer crashes. Others feel more comfortable with pen and paper, though since personal histories are meant to be read by others it’s probably best not to put it directly into your journal.
After that, the only thing you have to do is pick a question and start. If you’re nervous, read through all of the questions on all of the lists until you find one that you think you’ll have an easy time answering.
It’ll be easier to answer some of the other questions later, once you’ve done it for a couple of weeks and had some practice. However you choose to save your results, it might help to write the question on top of your answer so you remember why you chose that particular memory to share. It also gives your history a sense of organization without you needing to re-order everything chronologically.