Your Life Story

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I recently taught a class on writing your personal history.   This article by Elaine Cannon is the most practical and the most simple way to get started.

1.  All you need is a spiral notebook and a pen.  (Or, as Elaine suggests below,  use a journal with high quality paper so it will last.  You can find loose leaf, lined, 3-hole punched journal paper for this project.  This would allow you to put the paper in a 3-hole binder and add to your subjects if you find you have more to write than you can fit on one page. This would also allow you to add photos and documents for that topic.)

2.  To start, just write the name of each topic at the top of the page.   You’ll see topic suggestions below.  Feel free to add others as you go along.

3.  Next, go back and write one sentence about each topic.

4.  Next, add to each page as the memories start to flow.

You’ll be surprised how many things come to mind once you start writing.  This is a project that may never be complete, but because you have your notebook divided by subject, you can always add to it.

Joyce Moseley Pierce

Putting life in your life story

And if there were no word about this living, no wonder at the beginning and no understanding at the end, what’s it all about?  Yet if there is a record…The woman was seventy-two when she died.  At her funeral someone read the details of her birth recorded in joy by her mother.  At the end of her life here was proof and perspective about the beginning, about the reaching and helping and brightening of her seasons.  At this dying a kind of resurrection, for the whole family loved their sister and each other anew.  A written line or two became their lifeline – the dry farm, the small store mother kept, the loved ones at Christmas or at daily prayer, the father’s Sunday ritual, the hard times, the faithful times, the laughing times and the struggle to add a new room as yet another baby came.  It was a wonderful, rooted remembering, that funeral.  There was no shriveling sadness, but only a hearty gathering of reasons for our being and then moving on.  It seems a testimony in itself for keeping a record of the proceedings of our days.

Elaine Cannon

Why am I doing this?

  • Others will value our records
  • Personal records are sacred
  • Our records are helpful to other record keepers
  • It may help to set the record straight
  • We are commanded to keep a record
  • Even imperfect records are worthwhile

How do I start?

  • Do it in your own handwriting
  • Use good quality paper
  • Use black ink

Writing My Personal History Format

  • Statement
  • Description
  • Reminiscence


Statement on “Parents” –  Tell your parents’ names, and when and where they were born.

Description – Tell about each of your parents’ physical characteristics and personalities.


  • How were your parents alike and how were they different?
  • What were their talents, hobbies, interests or skills?
  • How did they adjust to each other’s peculiarities?
  • Was their marriage a happy one?
  • Tell about their involvement in religion, civic, social or trade activities.
  • What personality problems, disabilities, or health problems did they have while you were growing up?
  • Was there a constant family unit of the same two parents?  If not, what effect did loss of a parent have on the family?  On you?
  • If divorced, how was it handled?
  • What change did remarriage bring?
  • What was each parent’s role regarding discipline?  Religious training?
  • What was each parent’s role managing money?  Decision making?
  • What special memories do you have of your relationship with each of them?
  • What did your father do to earn a living?  How did that affect you?
  • Who was the real boss in the family?


Suggested Chapter Headings


Heritage Spiritual experiences
Parents Mischief
Relatives Toys
Homes Conversion
Neighborhoods Hobbies
Birth Careers
Childhood Military
Youth Beliefs as a Teen
Marriage Teen activities
Education Boy/girl relationships
Health Dating
Finances Courtship
Talents Child rearing
Employment Divorce
Children Death

Finishing Touches

  • Pictures
  • Maps
  • Letters
  • Timeline
  • Title page
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Appendix material

Genealogy sheets





All They’ll Need To Know

All They'll Need To Know