“History As It Happens,” Ensign, Mar. 1999, 62–63
After I wrote my personal history, I decided to update it whenever something important happened. Two years later I married and wrote several pages to bring my history up to date. Then life became very hectic, and months slipped into years. Finally I realized I needed a better system to keep my personal history current. The following ideas have helped.
When shall I do it? The start of a new year lends itself nicely to review and reflection. Many people relate the year’s events in a Christmas newsletter that can easily be expanded and added to their personal histories.
Birthdays are also appropriate times to write about the past year. Parents can use birthdays to help children recap the year’s events, including notes about physical growth, interests, friends, and accomplishments.
Students may find the end of the school year to be a good time to look back and summarize the events of that grade’s experiences. Couples may choose a wedding anniversary, family reunion, or other annual event as an occasion to update their personal histories.
What shall I include? An update covers important or memorable events such as family challenges and achievements, job changes and accomplishments, vacations, and visitors to the home. Significant community events, topics and trends in the national or international news, and other interesting background details might be added.
Although a personal history is usually an overview of one’s life, it may also contain enriching details such as personal growth and insight related to one’s testimony and Church callings and activities. Wisdom acquired from life’s experiences, and other personal spiritual experiences that might strengthen future generations, should also be recorded.
How shall I organize my material? There are several ways to arrange material for a personal history update. By far the most common method is to list events chronologically.
However, if you have a large amount of material, a topical approach might work better. Some topics might include family (growth and development of children, births, deaths, and other major events), home and neighborhood, job, church, personal insights and observations, and development of talents.
Another way to approach the task is by order of importance. Rate the year’s events from most to least important and discuss each item in turn. Perhaps using a newspaper approach about personal events would work: “The Five Biggest News Stories of the Year” complete with headlines.
Where do I find information? There are a number of sources to check when deciding what to include in each update. The most obvious, of course, is your personal journal, which may contain rich details about major events.
Another resource is letters, both those sent and those received. Letters written and saved on the computer can easily be edited and added to a history.
Calendars and date books often contain a variety of interesting and humorous notes reflecting the family’s activities, celebrations, and milestones. Photographs taken during the year—dated and marked with names and places—are also useful. Keep each year’s photos together in a box or album.
Scrapbooks often contain concert programs, birthday cards, artwork, postcards, certificates, invitations, newspaper clippings, and many other small items that bring back memories year after year. Even if you prefer not to permanently keep such items, they may be useful to save until you have updated your history.—Ann Woodbury Moore, Scotia, New York