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    Paying Tribute in Memoirs and Family History

    The reflections of memoirists and family historians often focus on people who have exerted a powerful positive influence on the author’s life. The author wants to pay tribute to that mentor. Their efforts may take different forms including a section or chapter in a memoir or family history book dealing with the person or a tribute book devoted fully to that person.

    In writing a tribute to an important person in your life your intent is to capture the subject’s admirable qualities and accomplishments. The most effective tributes make use of memorable anecdotes, touching or humorous events that reveal the kind of person the subject is. Select stories that demonstrate what the subject has done to make you appreciate, admire or love them. You can also discuss your relationship with the person and ways he or she influenced you.

    Here are some ways to generate ideas for your tribute:

    • Create a list of lessons you learned from the person. How did you learn them? Try to think of an incident or an anecdote that illustrates how you learned each lesson.

    • Interview other people who know your subject. Ask them to tell their positive stories. Emphasize the importance of recalling story details. Record them for accuracy.

    • Research any media or other written records you subject appeared in. if you are highlighting the person’s accomplishments, this will enrich your account. Most local libraries have microfilm of old newspapers and increasingly records are available on line.

    • If possible, interview the person about whom you are writing. Ask them about the stories you want to include. You’ll gain insights you may not have considered. You can also get the person’s opinion about their most important accomplishments and values.

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