Why are you interested in personal history? What’s its real value to you?
Many of us come to this appreciation from different perspectives. Perhaps you’ve experienced first-hand the loss of a loved one, depriving you of a valuable piece of your personal legacy. Maybe you just want to share your life experiences with those grandchildren thousands of miles away that you rarely see.
Bryan Andrachuk has a different perspective. While acknowledging that a small circle of friends and relatives may be interested in your stories, he claims that the nature of personal history is “inherently selfish” and commercially “worthless.”
Bryan notes that many current personal historians came of age at a time when there was a movement shunning “big stories” of famous people in favor of “small stories” of more ordinary folk.
In earlier eras, rich people were fond of commissioning artists to create larger-than-life portraits of themselves to hang on their walls. Bryan claims that today’s personal historians also create flattering portraits of their subjects, in other media, so that others will realize their greatness.
Such efforts are fine for your small circle, Bryan notes, but don’t expect him to read them. They may fulfill the larger purpose of creating archives suitable for study by future generations, however.
Just for fun. Want a preview of what your tombstone might look like? Just punch in those pithy last words you’ve been mulling and sneak a peek.
Larry Lehmer is a personal historian who helps people preserve their family histories. To learn more, visit his web site or e-mail him.
Flickr photo of small circle of friends courtesy of ThePixelSmith.