Many people think personal historians are simply genealogists. Some are.
Whenever I’m asked this question I often joke that if the professions of genealogy and archiving mated their offspring it would likely be a personal historian.
We’re storytellers. A personal historian is someone who steps into other people’s lives and businesses for brief, but intensive periods of time, asking questions about your ancestors, events, experiences and the lessons that helped shape your lives. Those stories sometimes are filled with family or world history, challenges, transition, humor, accomplishments, love, laughter, regret, medical information, wishes, and advice you’d like to share.
Personal historians work in a wide variety of formats from personal history books, to audio or video recordings, genealogy projects, websites, blogs, speeches, personal finance programs, art projects and other multimedia presentations.
Not everyone calls themselves a personal historian. There are genealogists, memoir writers, life story writers, oral historians, archivists, librarians, public relations and communications professionals, videographers, biographers, community historians, legacy writers and ghost writers, to name a few.
When thinking about recording life stories or organizing a business history, quite often, people aren’t sure where to begin. Dozens of questions quickly build up like a wall that prevents them from moving forward.
- Do we organize first or just start recording stories?
- Should we write a book or make a website?
- What does the finished product look like?
- What options do we have?
- What’s it going to cost?
- What do we need to do to get started?
- How much time do we need to get the whole project completed?
- What can we do ourselves?
- Can we do this all ourselves?
- Would this be of value to anyone else?
- Would they read, watch or use what we produce?
- How many do we absolutely need to produce?
- Who will care?
All these are viable questions to an answered one at a time. The answers are different for everyone. Even if you think you’d like to tackle your project yourself, consulting with a personal historian for ideas on organizing your project can be a great investment that saves you time, and money down the road and helps put your ideas into focus. Expect to pay a fee for that consultation, as most personal historians may spend anywhere from several hours to weeks helping you organize your project ideas. Some work as consultants for those who tackle projects themselves.
For businesses and organizations, a personal historian service can help you organize your corporate history, so it routinely becomes a more active part of your communication and marketing strategy. Engage your audience with a deeper understanding about the whole history of your company, its mission, and involvement in the greater community than what is currently on the website. It is much easier to get organized for business approvals, celebrations, milestones and disaster preparedness when you create a program than is routinely updated.
At Documented Legacy, we specialize in oral history interviews, written memoirs and life stories, and the organization and digitization of private archives, such as your old photos, records and heirlooms. There is much more we do, as our goal is to help you preserve your legacy and share bits of family history. Most of our interviews are audio recorded, which allows us to capture your voice telling stories and make efficient use of our time together.
When your storytelling is transformed into a full manuscript, for example, we combine it with the right amount of digitized photos, records and memorabilia to enhance your story.