New software will guide you through writing that family history


Antonia Wilson hasn't seen her childhood home in Pennsylvania in ages, but on days when it rains, she can still picture its sprawling, great cellar.

"The floor was great big slabs of slate, all smooth," she recalls. "We roller-skated down there. And my grandfather had been an invalid, and there were old wheelchairs. We would push each other all through these rooms."

It's the kind of memory that lasts. But in any family -- and Ms. Wilson had a brother, two sisters, and a half sister -- no two people remember things the same way.

And sometimes, when older relatives die, all vestiges of their lifestyle pass with them.

Ms. Wilson, 65, who lives in Oxford, Pa., decided to do something about it before it was too late. She decided to write her childhood memories and a family history.

"Everybody in the family always says this happened and that happened, but everybody's memory is different. So I'm calling mine 'As I Remember It,' " she says. "I could probably write a whole chapter just on the cellar."

The art of memoir is as old as ink, but putting pen to paper scares a lot of people off.

So people like Ms. Wilson are finding programs that push obstacles out of their paths.

And now a Chester County, Pa., computer firm has developed software that provides an assist for the memoirist.

Joseph St. Georges, 67, had no trouble thinking of a title for his family history, not after a lifetime of having people misspell his name.

His title? "St. Georges with an S."

Mr. St. Georges of Glenmoore, Pa., is one of four principals in the firm that developed memoir software called Sharing Memories.

There is other software for genealogies -- IBM offers Family Tree and Family Ties -- but Mr. St.Georges' group felt that, as baby boomers age, there could be a growing market in the memoir business.

"One thing that all us old codgers have got are recollections, memories, experiences that will disappear unless we do something," he says.

"We decided if we could create a thing that was very simplistic, so that anybody with basic keyboard skills could sit down and put in the words and the system would do the rest, then we would have something that would be useful."

The program, which sells for $99 (plus fees for galleys and binding), is a step-by-step affair, walking even first-time writers through everything from the title to topics. Mr. St. Georges says it offers a list of 100 or so possible subjects that memoirists can use "to jiggle your mind."

For information, contact Sharing Memories Inc., Box 750, Glenmoore, Pa., 19343; or call (215) 458-0707.

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