Personal history writer shares ideas on capturing life's good, bad and ugly
As one’s family tree branches out, inevitably, its roots tend to get buried.
Stories you may have heard while bouncing on your great-granddaddy’s knee can get lost into the haze of time, leaving future generations missing those personal links to their past.
That’s where Amy Hopkins comes in. The Shiloh woman started her own personal history business, A Time To Remember, in March.
“We all have a story to tell, and we owe it to ourselves and our children to preserve the stories of our lives that have shaped up to who we are today,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins got her start by recording her own grandfather’s stories to preserve them for her children, who are between the ages of 12-17.
“I didn’t even realize, initially, that I could do this as a business, because I’ve done it for so long just as a labor of love for people,” said Hopkins, who, over the years, has worked in hospice care, in education, business and accounting.
When Hopkins embarks on composing another person’s history, it begins with a conversation. She starts with a visit if they are nearby, or a phone call if it is someone who is out of state. The visit is casual to discuss goals the client hopes to achieve, as well as to begin listening to his or her stories.
“One of the things we do, when we see our life, we see it in pictures,” she said. “So if they don’t know exactly where to begin or what they want me to record, per say, I interview them by asking questions like, ‘What was the very first house you lived in that you remember?’ and I prompt them to describe, and so on and so on.”
Every person is different, she said. Recollections for some take longer than others, and some are difficult to divulge and emotionally harness.
“They don’t fit into a neat little box. Every story has its own set of challenges and circumstances, but I make it work, because this is their life, their story, and they own it, not me. I’m just helping them tell it,” Hopkins said.
In addition to her interviews, Hopkins uses a research genealogist to add information to a person’s story. In the end, Hopkins provides them with a book, their own biography.
“It’s simple, really. You allow them to build their story, beginning with a simple memory or photo or idea, and it’s a lot of fun, too. But they have to feel comfortable to do it. I wanna stay true to their purpose,” she said.
According to Hopkins, it takes about eight or so hours of interviewing by phone or visits total to garner a “good sized” book that could be around 60-100 pages, little more or little less, depending.
“I have a passion for these stories. Our lives are shaped by who we love and how we choose to live, and that matters, even if we don’t realize it now. Do we really want to take the chance in letting time pass before it’s too late to share? I know I didn’t,” she said.
Hopkins also shares her knowledge and experience by teaching others how to quarterback their own personal history by holding workshops at local libraries. She will hold three Family Legacy Workshops on Tuesday, June 27 at Scott Air Force Base Library.
Family Legacy Workshops
Learn how to create a personal history from start to finish with Amy Hopkins, personal historian and business owner of A Time To Remember.
When: 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 27
Where: SAFB Library, 510 Ward Drive, on Scott AFB