Your Life is Your Story Go To Your Life is Your Story Home Page

The "Your Life is Your Story" Blog

Read about quality family history and life story news, views, methods, products, links, services

                     ...and whatever else catches our fancy

Read past entries - see the blog archive index

The Magic of a Seventh Game

October 29, 2014

Tonight the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants will decide this year's baseball championship. It is the World Series and the ultimate treat for baseball fans - a seventh game!

The World Series is Major League Baseball's premiere event. The Fall Classic has a ton of history and the first team to win 4 games is the champ. Some best-of-seven series are over after four games. Known as a sweep, the winner takes out the other team in four straight games. The other possibilities depend on how many games are won by each team. When it comes down to this, both teams having won 3 games, it is the ultimate drama. A winner-takes-all event.

Although both Kansas City and San Francisco made the playoffs as their respective wild card game winners, the Royals are the surprise team this year. After all, the Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012 and are trying to keep that every other year pattern going with their third championship in five years. Both teams got hot at the right time, in October with playoff baseball.

The game this evening is in Kansas City and the fans are rabid for a win. The last time KC was in the World Series was 1985 and they won the championship that year. It's been a long dry spell since. I wrote a few days ago in my latest newsletter about connections with Kansas City, baseball and weddings. Just another peak inside my personal history. It's going to be interesting to watch the game and see how it all plays out. There is a certain magic in a seventh game and I'm looking forward to it!

Doorway Memory

October 20, 2014

Do you ever get up to go into another room intent on doing something...and once you are in that room you've completely forgotten why you went in there? Me, too! It happens more than I care to admit.

Well, before you get too upset at your fading short-term memory, you might want to read this blog post by APH member Jean Sheppard. She's had this problem and thought maybe it was just getting older and forgetting things when she discovered that science has been researching this and that there is actually a name for the memory lapses. It's called "the Doorway Effect" and it has something to do with how our brains process information when we go through doors into another room. I kid you not. Personally, I'm kind of glad I have something to blame it on, instead of just being forgetful.

Bill Cosby used to call it "butt memory", as in you have to go back to where you had the thought, sit down, and voila! Your idea returns to your brain's resident area memory (a little computer humor - RAM). Ori if you prefer, butt memory. 

Read Arch Support by Jean Sheppard. It's clever while passing on this useful information. Jean is another personal historian doing valuable work, and if her blog writing style is any indication she probably could help you add clever and interesting wording to your story. Her website is (and no, I'm not getting anything for mentioning her site except for perhaps satisfaction that more people will discover the benefits of life story preservation).

The Cockpit Camera Shots of World War I Pilots 

October 18, 2014

Some terrific photos of pilots-in-training for World War One, snapped in the cockpits of their biplanes, gives an interesting look back in time. A popular small camera from Kodak, the VPK (Vest Pocket Kodak) was used for many of the shots. I love the smiles and shining eyes of these young men clearly enjoying the flights. See more at mashable, courtesy of Retronaut.

Halfway Through Family History Month

October 15, 2014

Did you know that October is Family History Month? Yes, it is true - and if you are now just getting clued in to this you still have half of the month to do something about it.

Genealogists are more responsible for designating October Family History Month in the US than Personal Historians (who like to point to May as Personal History Awareness Month). But it is all basically the same thing. Find some way to research and preserve family history. There are many options, from a family tree to a photobook, write a memoir, record a video or interview an elder. Check out some of these tips and more at the FamilySearch Blog (more here).

Focus on Small Things and Build Your Story Around It

October 14, 2014

One of the challenges of many memoir writers is the "I" trap. Too much "me" in your narrative can make readers tune out. We don't want to sound too self-absorbed, even if the story is our story and mainly about us!

Sarah White, a Personal Historian and current President of the Association of Personal Historians (APH), gives a good tip to avoid this potential trap. She suggests you focus on certain objects and build around it. Find an heirloom or meaningful possession. Take the time to really examine it. Use your senses to describe it, the shape, texture, color, purpose and, most importantly, its significance to you and your story. It is a good writer's tip. Sarah shares her personal insight and experience with this technique in a post for the APH blog, Go a Big Way.

Griot - Traditional Storyteller Title Now Becoming a Personal History Term

October 9, 2014

"Jambo, children!" Thus starts a story in the textbook I use for my 5th graders. It is a West African greeting by a village storyteller who relates the tale of a trickster in West Africa who tries to fool villagers into giving him some of their wares when they come to the river and want to cross over the log bridge. His attempts to fool them into thinking the log is too shaky and they must put down their things by the riverside (where he intends to take them) ends up backfiring on him. But it is a wonderful story with a moral lesson told in the style of traditional African oral storytellers known as griots.

Thanks to a tip by APH member Dick Margulis (he specializes in book creation and printing) I discovered that the word griot is starting to be applied to those who are electronically recording and storing personal history stories on digital files, computers and "in the cloud". An interesting comeback of the word as noted today by When you link over today you will go to the definition - future times linking you will need to bring up the October 10, 2014 date).

I might begin referring to myself as teacher, writer, personal historian and griot.

Personal Historians Heading Back to St. Louis

October 8, 2014

Just like the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team trying to get back to the World Series, hundreds of Personal Historians are heading back to St. Louis, the Gateway City, for an annual conference.

In 2012 the Association of Personal Historians held their annual conference, Turning Points, in St. Louis. This year the conference returns to this Midwest city for a few days of great networking, sessions, presentations and to find ways to further the precious mission of preserving our life stories (October 22-26).

Although I would dearly like to attend, my teaching schedule won't allow it. However, I continue to follow the discussion on the APH Listserve. The conference will offer some great information, so if you are someone involved in the ever-expanding field of personal history, or thinking about doing this kind of work, I highly recommend this not-for-profit organization and the conference. More information is available here. If you decide to join please mention that you heard about the APH (The Life Story People) from me, Tom Gilbert.

Since I am not going to be able to attend the conference I have decided instead to put the spotlight on the APH and some of the members with their work and related news items. Watch this blog over the next couple of weeks.

Baseball Season and Jeter Era End

September 28, 2014

An illustrious twenty year baseball career came to an end today, the last day of the long 162 game Major League baseball season. Derek Jeter, playing in his final game against his team's arch-rival, hit a single to drive in a run and then came out of the game to a large ovation from the fans. In many ways it is ironic that Derek Jeter, number 2, of the New York Yankees, finished his career with a game in Boston. There are few sports rivalries more intense than the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Over the years they've always provided high drama. And Derek Jeter has a highlight reel full of dramatic moments against the Red Sox. His body of work is, of course, more impressive as you take in his great career.
Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees
Derek Jeter is a rare breed in baseball these days. Not only did he play his entire career with one team, the storied New York Yankees, he also played with incredible passion and integrity. He tops many Yankee all time records and is 6th on the all time hits list for baseball (a total of 3,465). He also has more hits than any shortstop in history. Just as impressive is his legendary character. He's managed to guard his private life, no easy feat in the glare of the New York media spotlight. Additionally, he's never been involved in a scandal. Heck, he wasn't even ever ejected by an umpire from a game. Usually if he disagreed with a called strike he would keep his head bowed down and ask his question about location politely. Supposedly he kept his head down so as not to embarass the umpire.

Derek Jeter is a sure bet for the Hall of Fame. He won lots of championships, played the game with excellence and his last home game at Yankee Stadium this past Thursday couldn't have been scripted better when he hit the game winning single in a walk-off fashion (meaning the game ended with the winning run in the bottom of the inninng). Derek Jeter, a class act through and through.

Now my all time favorite team is the Boston Red Sox. What a difference a year makes! Last year Boston won it all and yet this season the defending World Champions suffered through a losing season and finished last in their division. That's baseball, and that's life, lots of ups and downs.

The regular season ended today and the post-season is about to start and there are great stories for the teams that will continue in the playoffs. For one, the Kansas City Royals have made the playoffs for the first time in 29 years. The last time they played October baseball, in 1985, they went all the way and won the World Series. They join some other teams with great stories and if you are a baseball fan like me you know this is a fun time of year. There are even some interesting regional possibilities for the World Series. The Washington Nationals could end up playing the Baltimore Orioles. Or perhaps we could see the Los Angeles Dodger and Angels in the Falll Classic. Both the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's are wild card teams in their respective leagues; maybe there will be a Bay area Series. Lots of possibilities and lots of stories yet to unfold.

I love baseball and how in many ways it parallels life. Today was a fun day - the end of the baseball season and a fitting send off for Derek Jeter, one of the all time greats.

Personal Historian Libby Atwater Has Helped Others, Now Finally Tells Her Own Story

September 23, 2014

Yes, of course, people should tell their stories! This is the rallying cry from just about all personal historians. We encourage, motivate and inspire others to tell their life stories. We work hard to gather material, interview, organize and help put the finished product together for those willing to hire us. And yet, many of us fail to do the same thing for ourselves. Hmmm, practice what you preach, anyone?

Nice to see that Libby Atwater (, a Personal Historian and longtime member of the Association of Personal Historians, has finally finished and published her memoir, What Lies Within. And it turns out that after ten years getting it done she realized there is more to tell and she is hard at work on a sequel. She was recently interviewed on the Bill Frank radio show and you can listen to her fascinating tale of her memoir journey, along with some good tidbits about personal history work. She discovered the importance of perseverance in finally writing and publishing her story. Maybe it will help you get started or continue on your own story.

Incidentally, if you think working as a personal historian is something you want to do I encourage you to explore it. It is a passion for peoples' stories that drives me, along with desire to write and share values, stories and history with other people. I have found it to be rewarding and influential in my own development. The APH is currently conducting a membership drive and I highly recommend it as an organization to join if you are doing this kind of work. If you do join, please mention my name. I would love to make contact with you and share some of the wisdom that has been so generously been passed on to me.

 Everybody has a story to tell!
Copyright © 2003 - 2014 All rights reserved
Email Tom Gilbert



the Washington Post published an article listing some very good reasons for hiring a personal historian to preserve family history. In particular, they highlighted how the Lanning family used their intergenerational history of piloting planes across the wild blue yonder to preserve their stories.