Think about your grandfather. What do you know of him? What were his joys? What did he value? What were his biggest challenges? What of his life experiences did he pass to you?
Even if you had a close relationship with your grandfather, probably a lot of questions that you never asked will come to mind. Probably a lot of his stories died with him. Now imagine you have a letter from him, to you, talking about his life. What would you want to read in that letter? What would the value of that letter be to you?
Writing a life story is your chance to leave that type of personal letter for your kids, grand kids and their kids. What do you know that may make a difference to your grandchildren’s lives in years to come? How have you answered life’s biggest questions and how did you arrive at those answers?
Writing a Life Story Book has Multiple Purposes…
- It helps younger generations learn from the past and understand their place in time.
- It helps us reflect on the present because although we live our lives forward, we understand them in reverse.
- It is a way for our lives to contribute to the future of our families and our society. This is your chance to put your spin on history!
The Importance of Family History
In the summer of 2001, researchers at Emory University interviewed four dozen families, asking the children questions about their family history and taping the families’ dinner conversations. They found that a child’s family history knowledge was the best single predictor of that child’s emotional well-being. After September 11, 2001, they went back and interviewed those children again and found that the kids with the highest scores on the family “Do You Know?” scale also demonstrated the greatest resilience. The magnitude of the effect surprised the researchers themselves.
Dr. Duke, one of the lead researchers, said that the link between knowledge of family history and emotional health is connected to the child’s sense of being part of something larger than him or herself. Family history makes sense of the world by building a narrative that explains what life is about. Although a rags-to-rich narrative may seem the most compelling to pass on, the researchers found that the most helpful narrative was actually a bumpy one; things don’t just go from bad to good and stay there (or vice versa). It is incredibly powerful when kids know that the family has had ups and downs but through it all persevered together.
It is So Easy to Forget
We don’t want to forget our family history—but we do. According to an Ancestry.com survey from 2007, only 40% of Americans know both their grandmothers’ maiden names. A third of Americans don’t know any of their great-grandparents names. Twenty-two percent of Americans don’t know what either of their grandfathers did for a living.
It is easy to forget. Let’s start changing that—one story at a time.