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

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May, 2007

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May 30, 2007

The "point and click" of a mouse with computer is something we all were amazed at when it was new. Just wait until multi-touch interface becoms standard with computers. You will be able to use your hands and fingers to "sculpt" designs or photo-edit and much, much more.

Check out this mind-blowing demonstration by Jeff Han - here.

May 26, 2007

It is the Memorial Day weekend.  This is the traditional start of summer with many people heading out to lakes, mountains, camping, fishing and other vacation getaways. Or gathering together for backyard cookouts (which is what my family and I are doing today). And that is all fine and good.

It is also a weekend to remember our veterans, particularly those who died in service to our country (United States).  Over this weekend you might want to visit this link to find out more about Maxine Hong Kingston and her latest book, Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace.  She was interviewed by Bill Moyers for his PBS program Bill Moyers Journal.  This book by Kingston is the culmination of her work the past 15 years with veterans of World War II, Vietnam and even Iraq.  She has coaxed out of them written stories and poems that she believes will help them cope and survive.  This is good work - life story reminiscing with the power to heal and to move us to a place of greater appreciation for what soldiers go through in war.

May 22, 2007

If we are honest we discover that the story of our lives is colored by how we personally see it.  We all have "our version" of our life story.  That's not bad, but it may not be the complete story, or the one that others see.  Of course, everyone has an opinion, so the version of our life that others see isn't always the complete picture either.

An article in the New York Times explores what researchers are discovering about people who have composed narratives of their life.  What psychologists are apparently finding from their research is that the human brain has a natural affinity for narrative structure. It also appears your personality and how you view your experiences makes a big difference in the nature of your life stories. An example given, "Those with mood problems have many good memories, but these scenes are usually tainted by some dark detail. A note of disappointment seems to close each narrative phrase. By contrast, so-called generative adults — those who score highly on tests measuring civic-mindedness, and who are likely to be energetic and involved — tend to see many of the events in their life as linked by themes of redemption."

No real surprise there, but I found some good insight from reading this article. You can find the article, This Is Your Life (And How You Tell It), here.

May 19, 2007

I just saw more press about the growth of memoir writing with the help of professional personal historians.  It's an article in the Business Edge from Ontario, Canada.  The article quotes Association of Personal Historians (APH) President Jeanne Archer about the growing trend of personal history preservation.  

Two other personal historians, Jennifer Campbell and Samantha Reynolds, are also mentioned.  Each of them got into the field initially motivated by the desire to preserve family member's history.  It is so important to not wait, because things can happen, health issues can affect memories and, of course, we all have a finite number of days for our lives and we usually don't know what that number is.

Reynolds business, Echo Memoirs, has really taken off and about half of her work is for corporate histories.  Businesses who truly care about their heritage and want to pay tribute to their hard workers (past and present) can find great benefit in a corporate history.  Her fees are not inexpensive, but she reinforces the same points I make to prospects, that the number of hours of intensive interviewing, transcribing, writing and editing are necessary to create a lasting legacy.

Here's the link to this article.

May 16, 2007

May is a month when the warmer weather kicks in, new things grow and we have holidays like Mother's Day and Memorial Day.

For personal historians we also consider May to be Personal History Month. What can that mean for you? Why not seriously consider starting a family or life story project?  There are many ways to preserve your story (and this website gives you many ideas).  There are also many ways to get started.

A very valuable, and practical, first step is to start a "memory list".  Start by creating a list of all the various memories from your life (or the person whose story you are preserving) that you consider significant.  Use phrases that give enough information so that when you refer back to the list you remember what you meant.  Playing baseball as a kid is not as good as my first little league game.

You might want to read an article I wrote three years ago - Memories for the Merry Month of May.

May 13, 2007

There is something special about a Mother's love for her children.  I think we all know that.  Not everyone had a good childhood and some people have unfortunately not had the benefit of a good relationship with their mom, or even know who she was.  However, the special call of motherhood is prevalent among many women and I'm grateful that many women pass that special love on to others including those who perhaps have been missing a mother's love.

I am sure I gave my mom a few gray hairs as a teenager and young man, but after I "settled down" we enjoyed a rich and rewarding relationship, even if we were separated my the many miles between Kansas City and the various place I have lived.  Today is the first Mother's Day since she passed away last June and I certainly feel bittersweet.  I miss her.  But I am grateful for her lessons, care, patience and unconditional love.

I'm thinking today, too, about other women I know that are answering the call of motherhood.  My sister, my relatives, my sister-in-law, mother-in-law and various friends - we men don't show our appreciation as much as we should, but we have gratitude for all your do.

If you are curious about the origin of Mother's Day check visit Wikipedia and read about Julia Ward Howe and her 1870 Mother's Day Proclamation.

May 11, 2007

Are you still scrambling for a Mother's Day gift?  Why not give your Mum a "Memory Jar"?  This is an idea I saw from APH member Annie Payne (of Perth, Australia -

This lasting Mother's Day gift idea is relatively simple and easy to assemble. Select a jar with a lid – a coffee jar will do. Purchase some ribbon and a loose-leaved note book. Write out your list of questions for Mum to answer on to a sheet of paper and cut them into strips. Fold the strips and place them into the Memory Jar. Seal the Memory Jar and tie a ribbon bow on it. On the cover of the note book, write ‘Mum’s Memory Jar 2007’.

On Mother’s Day, give the Memory Jar and notebook to your mom and ask her if she would spend 10 minutes a day/week/month selecting a question from the jar, sticking the question onto a page in the notebook and writing her response to the question.

Some suggested questions are:
Where/when did you first meet Dad and what was your first impression?
Describe your childhood home, inside and out?
How would you describe your mother to someone who had never met her?
What is your favorite work? What is your least favorite work?
What is the hardest part of being a parent?
What was the best time of your life? Why?

Once your mother has completed the questions, tear the pages out of the book, and, in consultation with her, put them into a sequence before writing the answers into a memoir type of format, which can be accompanied by relevant photos or memorabilia. That's a gift that will keep both you and your mother engaged for a whole year and preserve some valuable family history.

Thanks to Annie Payne for the idea!

May 8, 2007

It is always a pleasure to discover other passionate life-story providers, especially fellow APH (Association of Personal Historians) members.  Areille Nobile of Family Legacy Productions is passionate about life-story work and her company creates very professional video documentaries.  You can find out more about the services she provides, as well as her interesting background (do check at the about the artist section!) at the Family Legacy Productions website.

May 4, 2007

I love to get heartfelt letters and emails from friends and family.  But there is also the wonderful times when I get to hear their voices.  Sometimes it is on the phone that we can share our lives.  It's better in person, but when the miles separate you then the phone is a good option.

Whatever way you like to preserve memories and share your story is fine with me.  There is no one right way.  So, you might want to explore what Voice Quilt offers.  I haven't tried it yet, but it is an interesting idea.  Through their website they offer a service where you and your group of friends can purchase phone time and record your greetings, best wishes and memories.  The finished product is packaged in an heirloom-quality keepsake (they have different options, like a very nice music box) or your can download the audio.  This could work well for special occasions (such as birthdays and anniversaries) or as a way to collect memories for an oral history.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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