Personal History

Of True Value front coverCathemeral Press specializes in creating illustrated, heirloom-quality personal history books. A personal history can take many forms, from a short story that focuses on a single, important life event, to a comprehensive memoir with a family history and genealogy. This page includes general information about personal histories and the process I use to create them.


Project Types

Memoir & Life Story Books
Memoirs and life story books may tell a comprehensive story of your life, or they may focus on a particular period or experience.

Family Histories & Genealogies
You can include family history and genealogy in your memoir or life story book, or they can be projects in their own right. If this will be a significant part of your project, we may work with a genealogist to research your family’s past.

Tributes & Memorials
A tribute or memorial book is compiled by one or more people to celebrate the life of a loved one (as opposed to a memoir, which is narrated by the subject of the book). You can create a tribute as a thoughtful, heartfelt gift; a memorial book commemorates a loved one who has passed away. This type of project can be a beautiful way to honor a loved one’s memory and preserve his or her legacy for future generations.

Special Occasions
A personal history can be created to celebrate or commemorate a wedding, anniversary, birth, adoption, or any number of other special occasions.

Business, Organization, & Community Histories
In addition to creating personal histories for individuals, Cathemeral Press can help your business, organization, or community create an illustrated history to celebrate its successes and legacy.


Frequently Asked Questions

How much will it cost?
Developing and producing a personal history book can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars or more. It depends on a number of factors, including what services I provide, the length of the text, the number of images included, the complexity of the design, and the way the book is printed and bound. One of the first questions I will ask potential clients is about budget, so that we can work together to create a personal history that’s affordable for them.

There are several low-cost ways to create a personal history, especially if a client is willing and able to organize and develop the content with limited guidance. Another way to make a personal history more affordable is to share the cost with other family members. For example, if you are interested in creating a personal history about your parent, you may be able to get your siblings to share costs with you.

How long will it take?
Depending on the scope of your project, the process can take anywhere from a few months to over a year to complete. However, if you’ve already written most of the content and have your photos and mementos well-organized in advance, it may only take a matter of weeks. If you have a project in mind that needs to be completed for a special occasion, I recommend starting as early as possible.

What about audio or video personal histories?
If you’re interested in creating a personal history with a multimedia component, I would be happy to refer you to someone who specializes in those formats.



This is a general outline of the process for creating a personal history book. Depending on what services you need, we may include all or only some of these phases in your project. Some of the phases may also overlap or occur simultaneously.

Planning & Organizing
We will meet in person if possible, or discuss your project on the phone. Once we’ve established the scope of your project, we may spend some time organizing materials you already have for your book, including photographs, documents, letters, and any writing you’ve already done or hired another writer to do. You may have a good idea of the story they want to tell at the outset. If not, you’ll probably find that organizing and planning helps to clarify the purpose and direction of your project. This is also the time when we will begin to discuss what your book will look like, how it will be printed and bound, and how many copies we’ll produce.

Interviews, Writing, & Editing
You may be a person who has written or who plans to write your own personal histories with limited or no guidance. But if this is too daunting of a task, don’t worry! It’s common for a personal historian to interview a client about the material to be included in his or her book, and then to transcribe the interviews so that they can be turned into a narrative in the client’s own words. I’m happy to help you with as much or as little of the writing and editing process as you need. If I’m involved in the writing, you’ll receive several drafts so that you have the opportunity to give feedback and make changes to your story.

Photos, Documents, and Other Illustrations
We may decide to start with the writing, and then find photos and documents to illustrate your story. Or we may start by organizing your photos and documents, and allow the visual content to shape the written narrative. We may also include maps of places important to your story, and create family tree diagrams or other illustrations. Whether we start with words or pictures, there will probably be some overlap in developing the written and visual content of your book.

Book Design
If we are developing the content for your book together, I will create conceptual designs, cover mock-ups, and sample layouts during that phase of the process. Once we have the manuscript and images prepared, I will create a layout for the book and we will finalize the direction for the cover.

Your book should be proofread at least twice: when the manuscript is complete, and when the layout is complete. Even though I offer proofreading as a service, it’s crucial to get another set of eyes on your book to pick up errors and inconsistencies that may get overlooked because we’ve seen the content so many times.

Printing & Binding
We will determine the printing and binding specifications as well as an approximate number of copies of your book before getting too deep into the design. These considerations can affect everything from page size to what appears on your cover. Once you’ve approved the final, proofread layout, I will oversee the printing, binding, and delivery of your finished book to you.