Personal history books preserve memories of travels, family -- Gazette.Net



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Charles Minkowitz has traveled just about everywhere. The Caribbean, Mexico, Atlanta, Florida, and up and down the Mississippi River on a paddle wheel boat were just a few of the places he explored during his time off from working for the U.S. Treasury.

A boating accident left him in a wheelchair and curtailed his globe-trotting, but Minkowitz relives his travels through a personal history book from Stories Inherited.

“This book is beautifully illustrated, and it tells all about my life and my past and my history — just a lot of great memories,” he said. “... It’s a good way of preserving my memoirs.”

Minkowitz was one of three residents at St. Mary’s Court, a senior living facility in Washington, D.C., to receive a donated story project from Stories Inherited earlier this year. The company interviews clients and turns their life stories into hardcover books with pictures, family recipes, marriage licenses and other research to document personal milestones and memories.

Lauryn Sargent, president of the company, started creating personal histories several years back, when one of her relatives was in an assisted living facility.

“She was mentally sharp, but physically disabled,” Sargent said.

To keep her engaged, Sargent worked with her to tell the story of her life. In time, Sargent realized that other families also wanted to document their loved ones’ histories.

Stories Inherited officially launched last January, and Rockville resident Scott Thompson joined as vice president in September.

With Sargent working from her home in Washington, D.C., and Thompson working from his in Rockville, the two collect family histories and turn them into complete story projects.

“We’re tiny,” Thompson said. “We don’t have an office yet.”

For each personal history project, an interviewer spends five to 10 hours interviewing the client, or storyteller. The interviewer then transcribes the stories and adds family documents and historical information to make a complete story in a hardcover book or interactive digital format viewable on an iPad. The total cost for a full-service project starts at $3,000.

“We try to develop the products in their own words, supplemented by our additional research,” Sargent said. “... One of our clients’ fathers fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal, so we did some research on that.”

The goal is for each story project to be complete enough that if someone picked it up 200 years from now, they would be able to understand it, Sargent said.

Finally, the client reviews the manuscript before it goes to printing.

“Part of what we do is help [clients] control and create their legacy,” Sargent said.

For the holiday season this year, Stories Inherited is offering a “buy-one, give-one” promotion. For each paid project the company contracts to do through the end of December, Stories Inherited will donate a project to a terminally ill patient or someone who does not have the resources to purchase it for themselves.

“We’re giving our commercial customers a chance to give back,” Sargent said.

The company generally finds people who would benefit from a free story project through organizations they have worked with in the past, such as hospitals.

“Of course, we’re always open to ... referrals to anyone who would make a great story,” Thompson added.

The company’s main focus is personal histories written for clients in assisted living facilities, but Stories Inherited also does projects for special occasions, such as 50th birthdays. For families who have already done some interviews and research, the company can also collect their work in a professional book.

In October, the company also started offering corporate histories, which tell the story of an organization’s founding, funding, philanthropists and how it evolved. Sargent said organizations can use that service as a marketing or recruiting tool. But the bulk of their work is still collecting and preserving family stories.

“Our bread-and-butter product, what we’re in the business for, is a full-service personal history,” Thompson said.

For Minkowitz, the best part of his personal history book is the photos and memories of his life — at work in Washington, visiting his parents in Florida or on vacation to Disney World.

“There’s a picture in the book of me right in front of the castle with Mickey Mouse,” he said, laughing at the image of himself in plastic mouse ears.

“I’ve just been to some beautiful places, and [Lauryn has] illustrated the book most beautifully.”

For more about Stories Inherited or the buy-one, give-one promotion, visit www.storiesinherited.com.

ewaibel@gazette.net