How to write a memoir

Posted by Katie on April 18, 2010
101 in 1001, Memories

I recently read an autobiography written by Dave’s paternal grandfather.  The book, which I understand to be the first of three books which encompass his life, focused on his early married life.   His family self-published the book through the online publishing site, Lulu.com.

I was not fortunate enough to meet Dave’s grandfather in this life.  And while I never met him in person, reading his words helped me to better understand not only the history of the man that I never met, but also his personality, his family and my husband.  It was fascinating for me to see glimpses of Dave in the words of his grandfather.

The tradition continues on Dave’s side of the family with his Nana, his maternal grandmother, who I have met on several occasions and hope to spend more time with in the future.  She also wrote her memoirs which I read last year.  Nana’s story focused on her childhood in Rudyard, Michigan.

Both of these stories gave me glimpses into a lifestyle which seems entirely foreign to me in modern times, although in light of human history it wasn’t all that long ago, and a great wealth of family history.

On my side of the family, I don’t know of anyone who as attempted such an autobiography.  I do know that my Mom’s two sisters have done quite a bit of research into the genealogy of the family, but that includes mostly names and dates.  And my Dad has boxes and boxes of old family pictures, but unfortunately a lot of them are of unidentified family and friends.

This all fits into my goals #58 (Start a project to scan, save and file all of the old pictures from both families) and #59 (Start a project to research and write down the stories and biographies from both families).  How do you properly document and store all of the family information (names, dates, pictures and stories) so that present and future family members have easy access to it?  And how do you encourage people to record family stories, both their own and the things they remember about past generations, so that your family history has more than just names and dates?

This seems such a big project, that I can’t quite wrap my mind around it.  I think it’s a project well worth the time and effort, I’m just not quite sure how to approach it.

Any ideas?  Do people in your family write their memoirs?  Have you used any type of online shared resource that allows various family members to contribute like Ancestry.com?  Or is the internet really the way to go when we’re talking about family sensitive information and creating records that will hopefully last for future generations?

I would love to hear how your family records information.

3 Comments to How to write a memoir

  • Wow, that is a big project. It’s an important one, though. Good for you for attempting it.

    As far as recording family stories, the best time is at some big family gathering (like Christmas), preferably with lots of great aunts and uncles. Serve copious amounts of alcohol, and then when everyone is feeling merry, ask one of the greats who was the most mischievous in the family, or another loaded question, and start recording surreptitiously. 🙂 That should get the conversation rolling! Mom says Nana’s brothers and sisters would always start telling stories about each other whenever they got together — that’s how we know things like that fact that Nana was always up in trees reading instead of doing the dishes like she was supposed to. 😉

  • Right, Mrs. Pickles. It was only when we got my uncle Fritz in his cups that we would get good stories about how Rapid River’s resident drunken logger, St. Pierre, tried to drown Fritz & his brother in the horse trough, and then got distracted by a back-firing model T and took his axe and smashed it to pieces…

  • Great stories!!

    Although, encouraging drinking in my family can be dangerous. It never results in old story telling, usually punching. Maybe that’s just a tactic to remember for Dave’s…clearly the much more civilized…side of the family.

    Dad B., you should write a book!

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