Like those who inspire them, Personal History books vary widely, though each is based on conversations with you or a chosen loved one. Taped, transcribed, and edited, the conversations become narratives that tend to fall into the following broad categories:

Community Histories
Funded by grants, community histories can be published volumes such as We Never Knew Any Different: Stockton Springs Stories of the Past Century, created thanks to a grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, or edited transcripts for individuals and the community, archived in local libraries.

More than twenty hours of delightful conversation went into this 300-page volume.

Full Life Histories
A full life history might expand to several generations, beginning a generation or two before childhood and ending with a note to grandchildren. Such memoirs will be based on from five to up as many as twenty hours of conversation. Using the words and phrases of the speaker, the story is given shape and dimension according to their life’s themes and values. See Memories of Bessarabia, Recollections, and Special Star.


Focused Memoirs
Memory books focus on a special time of a life. They may be stories of childhood, the war years, your child’s youngest days, a romance. One family wanted to record their mother’s memories of her childhood in a cherished summer home.

Using an ancient Japanese binding style, covered with hand colored paper, these books were given to family members one Christmas.

Commemorative Volumes
Celebrate a person’s life with a volume of memories, told by others, given to honor a special event: birthday, anniversary, retirement, Mother’s or Father’s Day. These are often created as albums, with anecdotes, pictures and stories.

Or decide to create such a volume at a wedding, 50th anniversary, family reunion, special birthday, confirmation, Bar or Bat Mitzvah. I will attend your event, collecting stories and good wishes from your guests to create what you might think of as annotated photo album.

Created for the Camden Public Library, this series tells the story of a small Maine town before World War II.

Oral Histories

Oral histories are verbatim transcripts of interviews, created as archival documents, retaining the narrator’s exact words. Left in a question and answer style, these booklets accommodate the budgets of libraries and historical societies. They are also an economical way to preserve family stories.

Ethical or spiritual wills
As you think of leaving a legacy of possessions for your family, think also of leaving a statement from you about what has given your life meaning. Ethical wills, also known as spiritual legacies or wills, are an ancient tradition, a means of putting your values in writing, sharing with those dear to you your hopes, dreams, cherished moments, maybe even what you most regret.

Corporate, organizational, and family histories
To create these books, I speak with as many people as possible, developing a history a family or place filled with telling anecdotes.

Family cookbooks, journals, albums, and other special books
Some stories are best told through food, some through quilts or toys. I can create special books, wonderful as gifts, featuring, say, family recipes and the stories behind them. This works for a family’s other creations, too, because everything—like everyone—has a story!

Donna Gold