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

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November, 2007

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November 29, 2007

Creating memory or tribute books about a wedding is an interesting and worthwhile idea.  But that finished book usually comes out after the wedding is over.  Ellen Braunstein of Redlands, California - - has come up with a product that celebrates the couple and produces a stylish booklet in time for the wedding.  She puts together the love story of the newlyweds, professionally written, designed and published for the wedding guests.

Braunstein came up with the idea for her Courtship Stories Wedding Books after her own nuptials in 2000.  She and her husband met in a bold, new way in the mid 1990's - on the Internet! She wanted a way to tell others about that "mouse-to-spouse" experience that was more meaningful than "we met online".

She has written for magazines and newspapers for about 20 years and she loves connecting intimately with couples at the happy time of their engagement/wedding. It's the story of love. And these short (usually 12-16 pages printed on 80-pound card stock) full-color booklets are not sappy or cliche.  Ellen's writing is vivid and engaging and the sample stories I read on her website were all interesting.  

November 26, 2007

Now that the Thanksgiving holiday is over it is time to head back to work for many of us.  As we move into the final month of the year time may seem to speed by.  We all get quite busy with our plans for the holidays and so forth.

Many people enjoy cooking this time of year, especially breaking out the special family recipes. is just one of the sites dedicated to preserving those family recipes together with a bit of family history.  Check them out online here.  You can get some more information about this subject at in their genealogy section - Creating a Family Cookbook.

November 22, 2007

It's Thanksgiving Day in the United States.  I've been up for a couple of hours now and I've made the stuffing, prepared the turkey and put it all in the oven. A big meal with family is just hours away.

Now I am in a quiet house (the other family members are still sleeping) and thinking about the many wonderful blessings of life.  Even those experiences that have been painful often help me stretch and grow.  Gratitude is an awesome spiritual principle.

In the monthly newsletter I send out (latest edition online here) I wrote about the country music hit song "Don't Blink" performed by Kenny Chesney.  As you spend time this holiday with family and friends be present for it all, savor it and treasure it.  Life does indeed go faster than you think.

November 19, 2007

As the trend towards saving family history and life stories grows it inevitably becomes more commericialized.  This is part of the process of moving this work into the mainstreem.  Because not everyone can afford the costs of working with a professional personal historian and doing a lengthy, but completely satisfying, memoir opportunities arise for big companies to offer more affordable options.

The more affordable way is not always the best, but at least it's a start. I 'm all for people getting started!

A new option on the marketplace is The Legacy Keeper from Hallmark.  Marcia Cross, an actress from the popular show Desperate Housewives is the endorser.  Some of the features of The Legacy Keeper are an easy-to-use MP3 recorder/player, booklet of interview questions, a small photo album that holds twelve 4" x 6" photos, and multiple compartments that fit things like invitations, brochures or programs, a CD or DVD of photos, videos or music—and keepsakes such as coins, jewelry or house keys. More information here.

Certainly products like this backed by big corporations such as Hallmark will raise the profile of family history preservation.  And that will only lead to more interest in getting help and direction from those working in the personal history field - a very good thing.

November 15, 2007

The Association of Personal Historians annual conference is over.  It was held this year in Franklin, Tennessee.  I wasn't able to go, but since I am part of the email listserve and group forum I get to see the rave reviews.

The theme of this year's conference was "Listen".  When we really listen to another we give them a great gift. We give them our time, attention, recognition, appreciation and compassion.  Heartfelt listening is done with the eyes as well as the ears.  Personal historians have a challenging, but rewarding job.  The task of recording, writing and preserving another's life experiences is an honor.  We must not judge, but we may often need to nudge.  Maybe it is a bit like a midwife - we help "birth" those reminiscences.

Stefani Twyford, a video and digital personal history specialist (Legacy Multimedia LLC) provides here insight on the conference, her first, at her blog.

November 14, 2007

Here's a couple of post-Veteran's day considerations.  The Blue Star Mothers was founded to provide care packages to military members serving overseas and also provides assistance to families who encounter hardships as a result of their loved ones serving during times of war.  The chapter in my area is quite active and I've teamed with them at my radio job for a number of events to help them collect donations to put together those care packages.

I found out from the monthly AARP Bulletin about the Freedom Team Salute program and how they provide recognition for Army vets and current service members, and the Any Soldier program which matches donors with unit volunteers and their requests, sending letters and packages to our service members deployed overseas.

It is especially helpful during the holidays to send letters to our service members. It helps them feel connected and shows our appreciation.  This is especially poignant for me with a good friend currently into two months of his term at the military hospital in Balad, just 60 miles north of Baghdad, Iraq.

November 11, 2007

The Veterans History Project is not an official military record archive and is intended only to supplement, not substitute for, the historical record.  This is a statement posted on the VHP site from the Library of Congress (see it here). That's an important distinction.

The statement points out, "The Veterans History Project (PL 106-380) is a congressionally mandated, public-participation oral history project to gather and preserve the personal wartime recollections of veterans. Its objective is to build a body of personal histories, housed in the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, which illuminate the human element and further enrich our own understanding of Americans who have served in 20th- and 21st-century conflicts."

More importantly, the stories preserved through interviews with our veterans give us a personal insight into their service, their wartime experiences, and this can also be a way to show our respect and appreciation for what our many veterans went through. If you want to participate in this worthy project the information on how to participate is included online, along with the down-loadable Veterans History Project Field Kit (required forms).

I want to take a moment to thank our veterans for their service on this Veteran's Day holiday.  I especially thank my father, who waited most of his Air Force career before participating in combat in Southeast Asia.  He doesn't talk much about that (most vets are private when it comes to those difficult experiences, something that should be respected and care taken when conducting interviews), but I know there were some turning points in his life as a result of flying missions in Vietnam.

Here in New Mexico there is an impressive Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire, formely owned and operated by the David Westphall Veterans Foundation and now operated by the New Mexico State Parks.

November 8, 2007

Right now the Association of Personal Historians (APH) is holding their annual conference in Franklin, Tennessee.  I very much wanted to attend, but could not.  However, I know the gathering will be beneficial for all those attending. The field of personal historians is growing rapidly and the annual conferences are an opportunity for learning and sharing.  See more about the APH conference here.

November 5, 2007

It was on this day in 1872 that famed suffragette Susan B. Anthony defied US law and voted in the presidential election.  She was arrested and fined, but it drew great attention to the women's rights movement. How many today take for granted their right to vote? At that time it was illegal for women to vote.

It always takes courage and action to change things that are wrong in society. And that change is usually opposed. As Albert Einstein once said, "
Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds..."

November 1, 2007

More press for personal historians, specifically Jack Nelson (APH member), who interviews people and writes their memoirs and biographies. One of the things Jack does is add good dialogue and some "color" to his clients' stories so that it reads like a good novel.  That's an important aspect of bringing to life our stories.

According to the story in the Charlotte Observer, "Those are the things people don't think of when they're telling their stories," he says.

Nelson's first project was the personal history of his father, at his dad's request. It's not uncommon for professional biographers to start out writing hte memoirs of family members.  It has the added benefit of getting to know those family members like never before.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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