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

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February, 2009

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February 27, 2009

Your Video Story Here

Your Story Here is a video biographies service dedicated to preserving family history.  The husband and wife team of Peter and Jane Shafron are based in Southern California and they are both avid professional storytellers (and members of the Association of Personal Historians).  The stories they "tell" are from a wide cross section of people.  They produce high quality "A&E" style video biographies and video memorials utilizing interviews, photographs, historical footage and music.  Their work has received awards and media coverage and their website ( is full of useful and helpful information plus multiple samples of their work.

February 26, 2009

Listen to Yourself

Everyone has a story to tell.  Typically I encounter those who recognize that - and those who don't.  Of those who do, many want to get their story down on paper, but they aren't sure how.  They wonder if they have the ability to do it right.

Well, in one regard there is no "right" way to write your story.  It is more important to record what your life is all about.  And not just the facts and chronology.  What are the stories behind those facts?  What does it mean to you?

Alejandra Owen writes in the SHAARPsession (AARP blog) about this, echoing what Abigail Thomas has written for AARP magazine on memoir writing.  I agree that your memoir needs to tell us how you got to where and who you are.

February 24, 2009

Many people who consider doing a life story or a book as a tribute for a special occasion fail to plan properly.  The idea pops into their head, which is fine, but often without enough preparation or advance planning.

Putting a book together takes some time.  There are interviews, transcribing, writing, revising, editing, proof-reading, layout, scanning photographs and images - and more. The whole process can take months, or even years.

Fortunately, you can speed things up when you work with a personal historian.  You can help, too, by preparing the focus of the project and gathering materials (letters, journals, timing of interviews, pictures, etc).

It is really important not to procrastinate.  This is so you can have a finished product in time for the celebration, such as school graduation, a wedding or anniversary, or as a birthday or holiday gift.  

Another important reason to not wait is because the lives and stories you want to preserve are often from those loved ones who may not be around much longer. Peter Gudmundsson of Priceless Legacy Company posted to his blog an account from someone that makes that poignant point.

You can avoid the regret of lost personal history by planning now.  I am a personal historian and I can help you get started. One of the ways to proceed is with a LifeStory Capture (I am an authorized PLC Legacy Consultant) that is affordable and the turnaround can be in 5-6 weeks (info here). I encourage you to invest in the future of your past.

February 20, 2009

Twitter really does alert me at times to interesting tidbits.  Thanks to the posting by personal historian Cj Madigan I discovered the blog posting by personal historian Larry Lehmer regarding a "motherload" of personal effects, video, notes from a person's grandmother following her death in 2001.  See Must Read After My Death.

February 19, 2009

February is Black History Month.  It is important to note the many accomplishments of people from all races and creeds.  But sadly the contributions of African-Americans have often not been given their due.  Unfortunately this has been true in America for women, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians and other groups.  The point should not be to single out people because of their race or gender, but rather to appreciate the diversity of the human race and that all have something to contribute.  Some day people really will be judged by their contributions and not the colour of their skin.

Black History Month is an attempt to educate and acknowledge the great contributions of so many African-Americans.  It is more timely than ever with the election of the first African-American President, Barack Obama. has an extensive section on Black history including many interesting bio's, an interactive timeline, notable icons and facts, a terrific section on the Apollo Theater "legends" (the Apollo is celebrating its 75th anniversary) and much more. Visit here.

February 16, 2009

Perhaps a thought to entertain on this Presidents Day is that you are the President of your life.  Sure, you may not be the head of an organization, a big shot executive or an elected official.  But when it comes to taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions - you're the one.

Nobody likes self-absorbed people, but a life where you don't examine your self, especially your motives, values and things you believe in, misses out on an important part of living.  You are about life!

These days more and more people are using blogging, social networking and other means to promote their profile.  Towards this end, a well written short bio can be extremely valuable.  I've written them for a number of people.  I can do it for you. And I've just lowered the fee I charge.  You are hereby invited to find out how I can write your short professional biography.

February 13, 2009

The National Public Radio program, This I Believe, gives us insight into everyday, and sometimes famous, people.  We learn about their values, what they believe and why.  It's a glimpse into the human heart and the human spirit.

In Houston the public radio station KUHF offers a local version.  Paul Pendergraft speaks with Houstonians and today's feature is Stefani Twyford, a video biographer (and fellow member of APH).  It was good to find out how her father and his career as a photographer in New York City in the 1940's and 50's inspired her to enter the field of personal historian.

Hear her This I Believe online at

February 12, 2009

Today is the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth.  Most consider him our greatest US President, so a 200 year anniversary is worth noting (check out this Lincoln Bicentennial site).  

Lincoln has been the subject of many biographies and more keep coming.  His life story is certainly interesting (to say the least!).  What a model of perseverance.  We can learn much from his life for the challenging times we are living in.

February 11, 2009

Despite the times when I was a smart aleck or cynical, I really did value things I learned in school.  Maybe I'd be hardpressed to admit it at the time, but looking down the long lens of reminiscence I can see there were times when education became something special.  And some of it must have stuck with me because here I am years later writing life stories and encouraging others to do the same.

I don't remember having any classes on life story writing.  But apparently it's working its way into curriculum.  Over at the Two Writing Teachers site Stacey shares about teaching her class memoir writing and an emotional and truthful breakthrough experienced by one of her students.  More here.

February 9. 2009

My Words Are Gonna Linger Anthology

There are a number of helpful books about life story writing. An excellent new anthology has been released from the Association of Personal Historians. My Words Are Gonna Linger contains a number of life stories from various members of APH.

You can now order the book online.

February 6, 2009

Doing personal history work - life story capture, memoirs, etc - can
certainly be rewarding.  Family members find out more about the subject and the process of reminiscing can bring about self-reflection and life evaluation.  The recall of memories can be joyful or painful, and usually is a mix of both.

What about therapeutic benefits from telling your story?  My gut tells me absolutely. But there is also actual research to support this.  According to the The Journal Of Palliative Medicine, Volume. 11, Number 7, 2008 reports a study conducted by the University of Michigan and the University of Alabama that used legacy activities as interventions with patients approaching the end of life. It found that in part,  “…patients reported decreased breathing difficulty and increased religious meaning. Caregivers and patients reported greater social interaction on the part of the patient…Legacy interventions hold promise and are simple to implement.” Thanks to fellow personal historian Dan Curtis for this tidbit.  Dan does a lot of work with hospice patients, helping them preserve their stories before the end of life.

Two books might also be helpful in understanding the power of stories and therapeutic benefits. 

The Healing Power of Stories (Creating Yourself Through the Stories of Your Life), by Daniel Taylor.  1996.  Dr. Taylor is a professor of English Literature who discusses how you are shaped by the stories you live, hear and tell.

Coyote Wisdom (The Power of Story in Healing), by Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D.,
Ph.D. 2005.  Dr. Mehl-Madrona is certified in family practice, geriatrics,
and psychiatry.  His book explores the healing use of stories in Native
American culture, and describes how we can apply this wisdom to empower and
transform our own lives.

So consider capturing your life story now.  Not just for your family - it could make you feel good! 

February 5, 2009

The Super Bowl this past Sunday got me thinking about the athletic highlights many people have experienced.  While most will never know what it is like to be a professional athlete, let alone play in a championship game, a lot of people have played sports and some have great memories from high school or college.

When Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band launched into "Glory Days" during their halftime performance I connected the dots...why not preserve your personal glory days with a book?  It wouldn't have to be a big project.  And it is a focused approach to personal history.  Gather photos, maybe local newspaper coverage or alumni press.  Start a memory list for that dream season.  It could be a fun project and your finished book would be a great coversation piece and a way to boast without coming off as a braggart.

The Priceless Legacy LifeStory Capture is an ideal way to do this.  Two hours of interviews would be enough to capture your sports story and it would yield a high quality hardbound book complete with photos.  The accompanying DVD digital slide show of photos and the CD with the audio of you telling your story are a bonus.  The process can be completed in six weeks and you don't even have to do the writing! Your interview will be transcribed for you and written in a first person narrative, preserving "your voice" in the text. And the price is suprisingly affordable - just $1299 (I urge you to shop around to find a better deal for as good a product.  I don't think you can.)

Glory days...don't let them pass you by.  Contact me and I'll help you get started.

February 4, 2009

In an article for the Muskegon Opinion (town on the northeast coast of Lake Michigan, near Grand Rapids where I spent a few years), Susan K. Treutler shares why writing your story could be the most valuable thing you do.

She puts it to us forcefully, "I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Write. Grammar doesn't matter. Misspelling is just fine. Type it or tell it on tape or write it longhand on pieces of scrap paper. Just do it."

Why is she so adamant?  Because like many of us she regrets her parents and grandparents never passed down their stories.  She cherishes their love and encouragement but longs to know more about them.

I agree with her that school children should be given the assignment of interviewing their parents or guardians and getting their stories on paper.

We live in a fast-paced and high-tech world.  And we also had better means to preserve personal history than ever before.  The LifeStory Capture offered by the Priceless Legacy Company is a terrific option.  As a Legacy Consultant I can show you how.

February 2, 2009

In the movie Groundhog Day the main character (played by Bill Murray) is a self-absorbed and somewhat cynical TV weatherman sent to cover the annual groundhog day event in Pennsylvania. You probably know the February 2nd presumption — If the rodent sees his shadow, more winter, etc.

It is his fourth year of covering this event and he's tired of the "circus" atmosphere and thinks he's entitled to better assignments. But a mysterious event happens. He gets "stuck" living the same day, Groundhog Day, over and over and over again.

The lesson from the movie is that if we keep living for our own selfish reasons, and keep doing the same things over and over again expecting different results, we will be living an irrational (some would say insane) life with no higher purpose.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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