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

The "Your Life is Your Story" Blog Archives

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

                     ...and whatever else catches our fancy

September, 2006

current blog entries
blog archive index

September 29, 2006

"The explosion of interest in tracing one's roots has given rise to another phenomenon. Ordinary people — particularly baby boomers and their elder parents — are hiring filmmakers and writers to immortalize their histories on pricey videos and books that can look good enough for the History Channel or bookstore shelves."

The above quote is from an article that was on the front page today of the Seattle Times (see article here).

The article goes on to mention that even though such personal history projects are not yet mainstream, they are growing in popularity (as I've been saying) and notes that the upcoming Association of Personal Historians (APH) conference in Portland is sold out.  (Sadly, I won't be able to attend this year, but it looks to be an amazing event!)

This article is another great example of the expanding interest in the stories of people, famous or not.  Reporter Marsha King does a good job of summarizing the reasons why this trend is rapidly growing.  And she notes that social history is enhanced by the oral histories, books, videos and other means of recording personal history.  I certainly agree!

September 23, 2006

There is a rich tradition of oral history as a way of passing family and community history on to others.  Although it might seem that this fell out of favor, it seems to be making a resurgence.  Something that certainly will aid this is The Center for Studies in Oral Tradition now becoming availalble free of charge through eOT.

Their goal is to make thousands of pages of research available free of charge online through a series of PDF files and with the use of key-word searching you will be able to utilize this vast information for your personal history projects. See more here.

September 21, 2006

The local newspaper in my town, the Albuquerque Journal, published an interesting article by Amy Miller the other day.  She wrote about Dick Heath, the headmaster at Sandia Preparatory.  He's been the headmaster for 21 years at New Mexico's longest-running independent school.  

What caught my eye from the article is that Mr. Heath writes the monthly newsletter for the school and he includes personal accounts about his life, raising children, world events and other topics.  His perspective on life strikes a chord with the parents and apparently the newsletter is quite popular.  So popular, in fact, that he has collected the letters into a new book titled Dear Parents.  It's available in Albuquerque at the school, but it is also soon to be offered at Page One Books (a New Mexico independent bookstore). You can check their web site at

September 17, 2006

Those of you who've dropped in on my thoughts here on a regular basis know how much I like to point out the growing interest in ethical wills.  I think leaving our values, thoughts, forgiveness and fond wishes for friends and family in print with a spiritual legacy is very important. I encourage people to consider a spiritual memoir as one way of writing about their lives and an ethical will can be part of that.

Libby Atwater, another long time member of APH, has an excellent article, Ethical wills impart values,leaving timeless legacies.  It summarizes the value and importance of ethical wills and has been published in The Tidings publication and online here.

September 16, 2006

How well do you know your parents?  That might be a loaded question.  All of us like to think we know our parents, but all humans can be surprising.  Doug Block is a
documentary filmmaker and he's created a new acclaimed personal documentary, 51 Birch Street.  He's been working hard on distribution and apparently now has a deal with truly*indie production and the film opens in select cities October 18.

As posted on the film's official website (
"Documentary filmmaker Doug Block had every reason to believe his parent’s 54-year marriage was a good one. So he isn’t prepared when, just a few months after his mother’s unexpected death, his 83-year old father phones to announce that he’s moving to Florida to live with “Kitty”, his secretary from 40 years before."  

This sounds like a worthwhile documentary to view for all of us interested in personal history and life story preservation.  More here.

September 14, 2006

I use a notebook computer, a desktop, a scanner and sometimes a digital camera.  I also do web work, building and maintaining sites for others as well as for this site.  I even have an iPod, albeit a shuffle that I use mainly when I do my running.

Even so, I am no gadget freek or technological expert.  But, the world is changing rapidly and the use of technology is allowing for more creative and interesting ways to preserve our life experiences.  I try to stay informed about these advances and to pass along what I discover.  So, I found an article on to be quite interesting.  It deals with what they term Life Caching.  The advances of technology are allowing people to record their experiences in many ways, with audio, video and more.  You can read the article here.

I have a suspicion that there are many more people like me who are interested in these technological advances, but aren't really that proficient at using them. I'll bet there's some great opportunities for those who do understand how to use these new technologies to "teach" us.  

One other thing - I also think there may be resistance to getting too "techy" and even a nostalgia for the "good ole' days" when people wrote letters by hand and hung out chatting on their porches.  I, for one, would like to see both flourish.  We need the new tools.  But we also need to stay intimate and willing to spend quality face-to-face time.  What do you think?  I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject.  You can send me an email.

September 11, 2006

I must admit I have mixed emotions about today.  We all realize this is the five year anniversary of a horrible terrorist attack in the United States.  9-11 is a day none of us will forget and to have the media replaying the images of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon being hit by airliners, the eventual collapse of the World Trade Centers, and the report of United Flight 93 going down in Pennsylvania brings back disturbing memories.  And I can't help but think that some of this is sensationalized reporting for ratings purposes.

That's my cynical side.

However, I am caught up in the tales of great courage, sorrow, compassion and heroism.  Whenever tragedy strikes the human spirit often rises to the occasion.  The stories of people - real flesh and blood and not faceless names. They deserve and need to be honored and remembered.  This is part of the "personal history" I write so much about.

There are many stories I've encountered, heard, or read that I could mention. No doubt you've come across several.  The one I will mention was the article that appeared in this week's Parade magazine that is inserted in many Sunday newspapers.  In At First I Wanted Revenge, a former New York City cop tells of his anger over his son's death in one of the World Trade Center towers, how he thirsted for revenge and thought attacking Iraq was the right thing to do, Later he come to terms with his anger, bitterness and sadness.  And he questions some things that must have required great courage. It's real, honest and a bit rough around the edges (and that's part of the appeal to me).

Read the story online here.

September 10, 2006

Today is another U.S. Holiday, National Grandparents Day.  Lest you think it's an invention of Hallmark you should know this holiday received official proclamation in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter and the holiday is observed annually on the first Sunday after Labor Day.

West Virginia housewife, Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade, initiated a campaign in 1970 to set aside a special day just for Grandparents. She and her husband, Joe, have 15 children and 40 grandchildren! More on Grandparents Day here.

I am not yet a grandparent, but by all accounts it is a special blessing to be one. You get to enjoy the children, spoil them, and pass on some stories and values (and normally get more respect than accorded the parents). And then you give the kids back till the next time!

September 6, 2006

Have you discovered the YouTube phenomenon?  The web site has taken the Internet by storm in the past year.  The site hosts thousands of videos, mostly submitted by everyday people (although now record companies and the movie industry are finding ways to use the site to market).  

A great deal of the videos are silly, a type of "America's Favorite Videos". However, some of the content is quite compelling. For the family and personal history genre there could be great possibilities.  Already a 79-year old man in England, known as geriatric1927 has gained a certain amount of notoriety for his video submissions, what he calls his "geriatric gripes and grumbles".  It's just him in front of a camera, but he's telling stories from his life experiences and apparently striking a chord in others.  BBC news has reported on his postings and he now gets massive amounts of email feedback.

Emerging technology such as this will impact future generations.  Never before has the opportunity to "tell your story" become so quick and accessible.

September 4, 2006

I hope those of you who had a three-day holiday for the Labor Day weekend found it to be a relaxing and beneficial time off.  Not everyone gets to take Labor Day off.  We should be grateful for those who do work to provide us the services we depend on.

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" is a saying you're probably familiar with.  It behooves all of us to make sure we have balance in our lives.  Work is important for most of us.  But so is family and our relationships.  If you can make a living doing what you love you are truly blessed.  

When we reflect on our jobs, work, careers and service to others we find out a lot about what we like...and don't like.  This is rich material to mine for your life story.  

If you are curious to know more about the history of Labor Day visit this link from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Everybody has a story to tell!
Copyright © 2003 - 2008 All rights reserved
Email Tom Gilbert