envisioning seven generations

Whenever the question of creating a personal history comes up, people frequently say: Oh, nobody’s interested in hearing about my life. My kids are busy with their jobs and their families and the grandkids are too young to care. Or: My kids have heard all my stories; they don’t need to read about them in a book.

That may all be true—now. But it won’t be true forever.

Haven’t you thought to yourself: I wish I knew more about my mother’s—or grandfather’s—or great aunt’s life. Or, I wish I had asked my parent/grandparent/other significant person about their life in Tennessee/Russia/the Civil Rights movement/the Ford Factory…whatever they were involved in that probably didn’t register in your consciousness when you were younger.

Now think back beyond these people who you actually know. Did you know your grandparents? Great-grandparents? Great-great grandparents? Wouldn’t you love to know more about what their lives were like?

Books will be here when your kids are done raising their children and begin to want to tell their grandchildren about you. They’ll be here when your grandchildren are beginning families of their own and wonder what it was like for you beginning your family. We tell our stories as much for the generations not yet born as for the ones we are with now.


In the table above I made some broad generalizations: that a generation was 25 years and every generation had children on exactly that schedule. But I wanted to work with easy to compute numbers – you can substitute your own information about your particular family and your own speculations about future generations. But anyway you compute it, seven generations covers something like 150 years.

Working backwards from today, that would put us in 1860. The Civil War has not yet happened. The Drake oil well had just been drilled in Pennsylvania, but oil was not yet a prominent fuel. It would be decades before electricity was commonplace. Don’t you think  stories of that generation’s everyday lives would be of interest today?