personal history questions book

If you want to record your stories or help someone else, it’s extremely helpful to start with some questions to use as prompts. There are many practical guides to help you, but I really like Legacy: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Personal History by Linda Spence. I have not read this entire book, instead I flip through the sections that apply to me and go over the questions in those sections.

The main sections are:

  • Beginnings and Childhood,
  • Adolescence,
  • Early Adult Years,
  • Marriage,
  • Being a Parent,
  • Middle Adult Years,
  • Being a Grandparent, and
  • Later Adult Years.

I used some of the personal history questions in this book to help me interview my grandma so I can make a book about her. I also used some of the questions that apply to me for my own personal history scrapbook.

LIKES: I like that the questions are open-ended which makes for a more interesting answer. There are some photos in the book that are also meant to prompt your memories as you write, which I found interesting.

DISLIKES: There are some pages at the beginning that talk about the importance about recording your personal history, which I agree with so didn’t read. But if you are trying to convince someone to write their personal history, that could be helpful for you. This book is not spiral-bound, which I prefer for books that I am referring to repeatedly while I work.

If you like this book, try:

  • Once Upon a Lifetime… I found this book at Costco many years ago. It looks like it’s no longer in print, but there are some used copies available. I love that this book is spiral bound, which makes it easier to write in the book since there are places to write after each question. Like all personal history questions, some did not apply to me, for example “Did you have electricity?” But when writing a personal history, I think it’s good to have more prompt questions rather than just using one question book, so I’d recommend looking at your library for more books like these.


  • 4 Stars: If you’re actively writing your personal history or helping someone else, you should buy it. But if you’re just curious and interested in using the questions as journal prompts, then try to find it at your public library before you buy it.

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