Earlier this week, I came across an interview on the Yes and Yes website with personal historian, Rachael Rifkin. What is a personal historian, you might ask? She talks about it as being “part ghost writer, part historian”, hence the term ‘ghostorian’. She interviews people about their lives and puts together a chronicle in book format, complete with photos, to help preserve family stories. It’s almost like writing a biography, but about a regular person. And as it turns out, there is a marketplace for this type of work.
People love family stories, but often the stories tend to disappear when our relatives pass away. And while it might seem simple enough to jot down the details, it can be more complex to make the story into something comprehensible and available to other family members. Personal historians will interview people, whether it’s a grandparent, a celebration of a new baby, or another important event, and then put everything together into a book format. They’ll take the time to organize photos and really pull out the important bits of information to make the history sound like a great piece of non-fiction. It might take months for a small project, or years for something larger, but wouldn’t it be worthwhile to protect something that could be passed down for generations?
If you do genealogy, this could be a really interesting way to branch off and focus on one of your immediate family members. Or if you had letters from a great-grandmother, it might be a nice way to show her story from beginning to end.
There are plenty of places online where you can find a personal historian, including the Association of Personal Historians . You can even check out Rachael’s own website to see what she offers. She even has samples of some of the books she’s put together.
Are there people in your family you’d love to do this with? Don’t wait until it’s too late!