Discovered film reels that provide a glimpse into her mother as a teenager.
A married couple from different states who later learned they were distantly related.
In 25 years as a genealogist, Crystal Megaridis has learned a lot about the past – both her own family’s history and other peoples’.
But now, she is approaching genealogy from “the other end,” helping people create personal histories to provide a trail for future generations to follow when they try to figure out what life was like in the 2010s.
“Each little nugget puts together a little picture,” Megaridis said. “Anything you can leave behind helps future generations answer, ‘What were these people (in the 2010s) thinking about? What was important to them?’”
On Jan. 31, Megaridis spoke about the importance of recording personal histories at the Addison Public Library during its monthly Genealogy Club meeting.
Technology has turned us all into personal historians of a sort, the ephemera of our day to day lives now permanently – and publicly – stowed in Facebook and Twitter. But according to Megaridis, our cataloging must be more “active.” And that means chronicling the stories of the older generations as soon as possible while we still can.
“We need to document the oldest people first,” she said. “We need to do that now so we can keep those stories alive.”
According to Megaridis, there are a lot of ways to do this.
The first step is usually to interview the person. After that, there are a lot of different forms the history can take.
Some make audio or video recordings, while others record the stories in writing, packaging the histories in book form or even in “online vaults.”
There are a lot of different ways to document a life, too. Histories can be of a specific event or topic, not unlike mass-market memoirs or biographies. Others, Megaridis said, are even more comprehensive.
There are some personal historians, according to Megaridis, who start interviewing people when they are in their childhood or teens, checking in at various intervals.
“They are actually documenting a whole life."
Doing so, she said, will provide a map for future generations.
“It’s fascinating to know where you came from,” she said.
But more than that, personal history serves a function not all that different than kind of history you studied in school – an educational snapshot of a bygone time, helping us to figure out who we are by reminding us of who we were.
“Some people don’t really like talking about themselves,” Megaridis said. “They might feel like they’re not that exciting. But every single person has really interesting aspects of their life.”