How to turn A Life Untold into a living personal history

What I know about my grandparents today are hit and miss memories of people who were already really old by the time I entered into their lives (although around 25 years younger than I am right now). What I truly wish is that I could have somehow captured their life stories while they were still amongst us. Very late in the piece I was able to video my parents and get them to tell at least some of their own stories before a camera. It wasn’t systematic and it wasn’t comprehensive, but at least for them and for posterity we have that.

And while some may think this is shameless advertising, I will bring this to your attention because my son has put together a business idea so remarkable that it would be a major error of omission not to let you know this business of his exists as we head into the Christmas-present season. And what we have here is something that will be as much a potential treasure for those who receive the gift as it is for those who give the gift to others.

My son has begun a business in which anyone at all can be guided through a process at the end of which they have written their own entire life story which has then been published as a book with as many photos and artefacts from the past included as those who are actually doing the writing have the presence of mind to include. Everyone, it is said, has one great story in them. Most people do not know how to get that story down onto paper. This is how it can be done. And if those to whom you give this gift are not happy to do the writing themselves, this will provide you with the opportunity to sit with them, you at the keyboard, and hear them tell their own life story while you record it for yourself, and for every descendant who will be forever grateful for having these details for them to know.

So much of the problem is that we live in a present that we think will be largely unchanged only a few years from now. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, is less true than that. Everything will change and what is commonplace now will become a precious recollection of memories of time past. This is a present you will never regret giving, and which everyone who receives this gift will see the opportunity this has presented to them.

The business is A Life Untold, with their web address here. I have read the many letters my son has received from people all across the world who have completed their own autobiographies and are happy beyond imagination that they have been given this opportunity to tell their story to their children and their wider family.

For many it may be the best present they ever give and for as many others it may be the best present they ever receive.

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11 Responses to How to turn A Life Untold into a living personal history

  1. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    Your son’s is a great idea Steve for people who want to leave some memories for the next generations but who don’t know where to start. I’ll let my nephew know as he is doing something of a recent family compendium, although he may feel he is well underway with it now.

  2. Old School Conservative

    What a great way to help overcome procrastination.

  3. Dr Fred Lenin

    I like to think my widely distributed paintings will leave my small mark when I am gone ,small stories will be attatched to each one in the different families who own them . Just a little comforting hope . Having seen many famous painters works I am always reminded of their lives . A small mark on posterity like your sons books ,a great idea .

  4. It’d be interesting to see the demographics of who have done this. I suspect that the current generation keeps their life story on their mobile phone. But then all you’d have to do is ask Google/Facebook to compile a life story and they’d have more information on them than anyone could imagine.

    On a different aspect, I’ve been motivated to write and photograph aspects of life (personal and otherwise) as it broadly happens in Gippsland, as I found so little as far as records go when it comes to so many things I encounter on a regular basis. Who really knows the value of doing this, but it’s recorded in the National Library of Australia archives, so some future historian might find it interesting.

  5. Chris M

    What a great way to help overcome procrastination.

    Really? I must check out the link later.

  6. None

    Years ago I bought my parents each a journal and a nice easy writing fountain pen and gave it to them with a list of questions that I wanted them to answer so they could write their life story. See I should have just turned into a business idea.

  7. calli

    Like Fred my art, ephemeral as it is, tells my tale.

    It’s a great idea Steve. Thanks for posting.

  8. mareeS

    Oh, boy, Steve, sometimes a life is better left untold, like the paternal lines of my husband and me.

    George the forger from Durham on the First Fleet gave rise to a family of artists and forgers in NSW on my husband’s side, including my spouse; my great-grandfather on my father’s side established the printing floors of five major city newspapers in NSW and Vic in 1850s-70s and sold his youngest daughter of 13 children to my grandfather, as a housekeeper when she was 15. Randy old bugger.

    That grandfather himself registered his own birth in 1914, having been sometime born in 1889, in order to marry my grandmother in a shotgun wedding, but he was apparently the result of an incestuous birth that was never registered in the first place, his mother was regarded as his sister, all family relationships on that side are open to questions by my cousins and me.

    People should be careful about opening Pandora’s can of worms in family history. You jus never know what fascinating stuff you will find.

  9. Dr Fred Lenin

    Ever watch “who do you think you are ,UK”? Some of the participants find les than desireable ancestors ,I laughed when that essential cambridge intellectual found some of his ancestors spent most of their lives in the Poorhouse .a sort of home for the dysfunctional if they werent too old to work ,sort of Victorian dole bludgers bet he doesnt dine at high table on that story “we dont talk about that in our family ,bit like Graham in the attic “.

  10. EvilElvis

    Great idea. I often run into old guys nowadays who make me wish someone had taken down their stories. Unfortunately it’s 10 to 20 years to late by the time I chat with them.

  11. Adelagado

    “And while some may think this is shameless advertising….. “

    It may well be, but I know how much time and money it can take to maintain and contribute to even the simplest website/blog so I think you’ve well and truly earned it.

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