Invest in Your Family's Story: A Sliding Scale of Options

The Wall Street Journal recently published a piece about a new benefit financial services firms are offering their “ultrahigh-net worth clients:” family history chronicling. Companies such as Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo are employing in-house teams or outsourcing services to professional genealogists and personal historians to meet the needs of clients who want to know “the good, the bad, and the ugly of where they came from.” The result is a book or video that tells “the whole story.”

I loved everything about the article except one thing. And it’s a big thing:

Preserving one’s family history need not be—and is not—reserved for the ultra-rich.

Yes, it’s true, personal historians need to make a living too, and when you engage one for a full-length video or multi-hundred page memoir, you should expect to spend a chunk of money. But there are so many options and, cliché as it may sound, options that meet every budget.

  • Write it yourself—Many of my clients write their own books. I serve as their on-call guide to help with brainstorming, organization, editing, and production. Books and online resources are also available to guide you through the process.
  • Take a class—Inexpensive (and even free) memoir writing workshops are offered by many personal historians and community centers across the country. Go online or check with your local library to see what’s available in your area.
  • Tell it in pictures—Go through that enormous box of photos or overflowing photo album and select pictures of the key people, places, and milestones from your life. Write your memories—the who, what, when, and where—of each picture. Place the photos and memories in a sturdy album or ask a personal historian to help you create a bound book.
  • Tell it in stages—The process of writing your family’s history may take years, and definitely will take months. Determine a monthly or even yearly budget that feels reasonable and find a personal historian who will bill you incrementally (most will).

And for those who want a full-length book or video, check around. The cost may be far more reasonable than you suspect. I’ve yet to work with an “ultrahigh-net worth client” and I’ve helped many write their memoirs.

Every family has a story. Don’t let money to keep you from investing in yours.