Family Histories: The skeleton, the flesh and the soul

I recently completed a course with Stephanie Kadel Taras from TimePieces Personal Biographies and she gave me a lot of really excellent insights into the craft of life stories. I want to share her metaphor of the skeleton, the flesh and the soul.

In terms of family histories the first port of call is often a search on You can search all of the births, deaths and marriage registries, and electoral rolls to build your family tree. You might have some common ancestors with people who have already posted their family tree. It’s just the outline, the names and places of your ancestors, you could say a skeleton of your  family history. It’s hard to make too much of the basic details, but it’s the backbone of the history.

If you have them, then the photos of your ancestors and their lives really gives a much stronger understanding of the who, when, how, where, and what of their stories. We can see the kinds of lifestyles that our ancestors have lived, and you could say, these really flesh out our understanding of who they were. If we look through a photo album we see what those major life events looked like, and the faces and feelings of those people.

The stories then complete the why, the values, the identity – you could say the soul of your family history. The only way for us to connect with the soul of our ancestors is to collect their stories either orally and then write them down, or for them to be essentially autobiographical write ups. Often the latter aren’t possible due to old age.

As a personal historian, it is a joy to weave the skeleton, flesh and soul together to create and preserve a unique legacy for future generations.


Welcome to Your Biography

Everyone has a story to tell and a well-told life story can be one of the most valuable gifts a person can pass on to their family and loved ones.

Your Biography is committed to helping individuals, families and organisations preserve their life stories and values for the benefit of current and future generations.  Our goal is to help people record and review the extraordinary and ordinary aspects of their lives, their triumphs and their struggles, and the lessons learned along the way.

Having a biography prepared can be a most joyful and rewarding experience for everyone. By honouring and sharing the life of an older person, all those involved can celebrate their unique contribution and ensure that their precious legacy will not be lost.

Once you decide to tell your story or have the story of a family member told, its time to act!If we wait too long, the stories, the sayings, the family jokes that we think we will always remember, can have a tragic knack of nicking off – our memories fail us!  Worse still, if  we wait too long for our dear Grandma, Father or Great-Aunt to be ready, they won’t remember their stories or their stories about us. Our heritage – the events, the experiences, the turn of phrase that defined them, and shaped who we are today, can be lost in a heartbeat.