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                     ...and whatever else catches the fancy of personal historian Tom Gilbert

May 2015

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You are Important and So Is Your Family History

End of May but Personal History Awareness Continues

May 31, 2015

Here we are at the end of May, the final day of the month. It is has been a good month to consider your life story and preserving your personal history. Every May is Personal History Awareness Month. But there is no need to stop now. In fact, this can be the start of a beautiful relationship. One between you and your life story.

There are many ways to proceed, from something as simple as a memory list to a short letter or written piece that lists your values and wishes for loved ones (Legacy Letters and Ethical Wills) to something more ambitious like a memoir or autobiography.

The important thing is that you do something. There is a lot you can do to further your family legacy. Don't let your story go untold!

Genealogy and Story Telling Go Hand in Hand

May 27, 2015

As a writer and personal historian I don't spend too much of my time digging through ancestoral details of family trees like genealogists do. However, genealogy and story telling (personal histories) go hand in hand. The details of birth certificates, marriage licenses, military records, census records and the like help to fuel interest in the stories behind these life facts.

Another APH blog post expanding on the 20 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Family History explores the genealogy connection with life story preservation. Carolyn Parrott, in reason #12, noted that genealogy research helps raise questions, such as how people might have handled moving to new places or dealing with losses such as family members dying or economic upheaval. (Note: The Association of Personal Historians disbanded in May of 2017, so the content is no longer available.)

It is interesting how the fields of genealogy and personal history compliment each other and also seem to be moving closer together. You can do research easily online at places like Rootsweb or And you can preserve your own families records, details and stories using online sites such as America's Footprints.

The Association of Personal Historians has been actively engaging with Genealogical organizations and attending conferences like RootsTech. Just today I learned that the APH Twitter account @APHistorians is one of the 40 Genealogy Twitter accounts to follow by Crestleaf (another online destination for preserving family history).

Dan Curtis on Blogging, Personal History Books and Eating Elephants

May 25, 2015

Dan Curtis is a kindred spirit. He likes and supports the idea of preserving your life stories. For years he had a terrific blog about personal history and it ended up really helping those who work in the field. Other personal historians, myself included, would often read Dan's various posts and found much inspiration and motivation.

Although Dan retired his successful blog he culled the best material from it and created two new books. Skills for Personal Historians and Business Tips for Personal Historians have a lot of practical and informative advice, for personal historians - or anyone who is working on a personal history project. That quite possibly includes you, the person reading this blog.

In the true altruistic approach to his work, Dan is not pocketing the proceeds from these books. Instead, he's donating the money to the APH development programs and conference scholarship fund. That will further the work of personal history by helping others learn the ropes. Stories preserved from the efforts of personal historians helped by this is like an endless wave. It is a way of giving that continues for many generations because more life stories will be shared and not lost.

May 20th is Me@20 Day

Me at 20May 20, 2015

Today members of the Association of Personal Historians are posting about themselves at age 20. It is a way to celebrate Personal History Awareness Month and the 20th anniversary of the association. Members worldwide are helping people just like you in preserving their life stories and personal history.

As I reminisced about my life at 20 it helped me to remember what it is like to recall past events and my feelings towards them. For instance, where I lived, the music I listened to, and some of the major headlines of that time. You can read my Me@20 post here.

That Could Be Your Sister or Brother Sitting Across From You at a Writer's Workshop

May 19, 2015

Two women who'd never met enrolled in the same writer's class and discovered they were sisters! An odd and endearing personal history story by Correy Kilgannon of the New York Times - here.

Be Aware! May is Personal History Awareness Month

May 18, 2015

Yes, I know, we've already passed the halfway point in the month of May, but there is still plenty to celebrate about personal history in this month we like to refer to as Personal History Awareness Month. Every year I comment on it and I've written on the topic (see this article, as well as Memories for the Merry Month of May). 

This month an excellent post by Sarah White, current President of the Association of Personal Historians, focuses not just on the importance of personal history and life story preservation, but also on the importance of Personal History AWARENESS!

Every year I see the growing interest in life story work, memoir, family history, genealogy, story telling and all the things that make up personal history. Have you considered your how you will preserve your life story?

In a couple of days there will be a special event promoted by APH. This year the association celebrates 20 years as an organization and we members are reminiscing about our lives at age twenty. Me@20 posts will erupt online in blog posts and social media - watch this spot for more.

Throwback Thursday - My Son Walks the Graduation Line

May 14, 2015

Three years ago to the day my son Eric graduated from High School. I wrote about it on this blog and found myself ruminating about the significance of High School graduation. It is special on many levels. By extension, you can consider any graduation an important milestone and ending-leads-to-new-beginning.

Also three years ago I was finishing up my first year teaching. It is a second career that I've started after over 30 years doing radio broadcasting, along with a few others things (personal historian included). It is not easy to teach, but it is very rewarding. My current crop of 5th graders will soon be out for the summer and after that break they will start middle school, a significant new beginning.

Here's to all of us who continue on the path of learning in life.

William Zinsser Wrote and Lived Well

May 13, 2015
Inventing the Truth: the Art and Craft of Memoir by WIlliam Zinsser
William Zinsser, a terrific writing instructor and gifted writer, died Tuesday at the age of 92. His book Writing Well has sold over 1.5 million copies and has bee revised a few times (just as any good writing should). I've always enjoyed reading his advice and "hearing" his voice through the written word. Supposedly it took him until his 50's to truly find his voice.

Zinsser was good about commenting on memoir writing, such as in his Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir and his own story in a teaching memoir, Writing About Your Life.  Find out much more about William Zinsser with this New York Times article.

Mom's Best Cooking Isn't Always A Meal

May 10, 2015

Mother's Day 2015 and I've enjoyed celebrating this weekend. My wife and I just returned from a family gathering at her parent's house. We go there most Sundays. Today the grownup kids (her siblings), along with some grandchildren and a great-grandchild, were there as we fixed a meal and thanked Mom for all she does for us. And, of course, we also thanked all the other mothers.

My wife's mom (everybody calls her Nana) is a second mother to me, especially since my own mother passed away in 2006. She is a caring person - and a good cook! One of the highlights of the Sunday gatherings is the meal. She makes some great ones, including ribs, meatloaf, and green chile enchiladas!

Mom's typically are the family chefs, although many men also enjoy preparing meals. A New York Times article from May 5, A Mother's Cookbook Shares More Than Recipes has the author, Kim Severson, reminiscing about her mom's recipes and old cookbooks. They were food-stained and dog-eared, showing how often they were used. Apparently this is not unusual. The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History has a collection of Julia Child's cookbooks and they are just as worn and stained.

Thank you to all the moms who work hard each day to feed their families, and for the special and most important ingredient stirred in, love.

Your Legacy Smile - New (Free) Book
...and happy Personal History Awareness Month

May 4, 2015

May is here, traditionally Personal History Awareness Month, and so it is always good to spend time during the month to promote the importance of telling your story. Your personal history matters - to you and others! 

Legacies Aren't Just for Dead People by Robb LucyIt was a few years ago when Robb Lucy (Your Legacy Smile) and I first crossed cyber-paths.  Robb is another passionate advocate for people sharing their lives and stories. More than that, he wants everyone to have a legacy and to enjoy it now, before you die! His new book, Legacies Aren't Just for Dead People! is out and today and tomorrow he's offering free Kindle versions and 50% off paperback versions. I just downloaded my Kindle copy and I look forward to digging into it and learning more from a kindred spirit.

Your story has lessons for others. Share it. I appreciate what Robb is doing and also his incredibly generous offer. Today was a good day for a freebie. Maybe somebody already said to you, "May the 4th Be With You!"

Everybody has a story to tell!
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