Family History Research

Memoir In Chunks

The title could be misleading to some of you who are not writers of memoir, but it does describe the system I am using to write my personal memoir.  This system is one that has evolved over some 30 years and allows me to expose and write memoir in chunks of memory episodes as they come to mind.  Why am I writing this blog for cyberspace?  Primarily for those who are interested in leaving behind their own personal life story, that they may use this system to write in an irregular manner over time.  The system involves personal memories, opinions, letters of importance, and even short stories.  The key to the system is a simple organizational scheme that allows the writer to categorize and collect the narrations in a manner that make sense to maintain over the activities of writing memoir.  Another reason for a simple announcement of this system is that I am also crafting a 6 to 8 hour workshop to be presented in 2 hour sessions to facilitate hands on experience for the recipients of the workshop.

I am big on personal memoir as a way taking your place in history.  I recently was interviewed on a radio program called “Story Teller’s Campfire” regarding some of the chunks I had written up to that date and the tag line was “Not Everyone is a Writer But, Every One Has a Story to Tell.”  Wide acclaim for the memoir reviewed during the interview won the “Marble Award” for the “Best Broadcast Show of 2010 for a Literary Work”.  To hear the interview yourself, you can go to my website to listen to it.  The link is and click on “Journaling Memoirs.”  The accompanying link to “Research Methodology” reflects on use of a journal in genealogical activities. Feel free to click on it and listen to the evolutionary progress my journaling has taken.

Couple my inclination towards personal stories left behind, with what is on the bench in labs going through concept proving phases, it is more than an almost definite possibility that our descendants will be able to view us as individuals in hologram form while listening to memories we have recorded for them.  That is a whole different topic; full of notions that seem to be way out there so to speak, but as an engineer, with a BSEE degree and a design engineering background, whose career was centered on bringing weird ideas from the bench to product, I see this to be a very plausible concept.  Can you imagine being face to face with your great grandfather, listening to his voice, seeing his dress, and hearing his story as only he could tell it.  What insight that would be to who you came from and perhaps who you are.  For those who doubt my claims here, you can refer to “The Future of the Mind” by Dr. Michio Kaku, an American futurist, a theoretical physicist, who many of you may have seen and listened to on some of the PBS series of television broadcasts as well as YouTube TED broadcasts.

What does all of this have to do with writing in chunks you may ask?  In simple form, your life history is central to your story being left behind in a flavor only you can provide.  Without your efforts to write for posterity, your descendants will be left in the same boat as we are today, that of being challenged to somehow write our ancestor’s narratives with a lot of research and objectively attempting to put the story together without projection of ourselves into the narrative.  A big task that for me is, fun in the research and enjoyable in the writing, but I am still lacking the answer to questions I have about my ancestor that only he or she could answer.  I believe there are many others in a similar situation out there as has been in the past and will be in the future, unless we take a moment of reflection to determine the worth and motivation to leave our personal story behind.  In leaving our story behind, it would be one that goes beyond the normal  vital records and social documentation currently on record, those that may track us through life and will be available to our future generations, but your memoir notifies the future generations of who you were as a person.

Having said all of that,  with Writing in Chunks, a journalistic style of writing memoir, you as an author of memoir can take advantage of the opportunities that exist when your reflection on memories are triggered.  Regardless of your talent for writing, if you you leave your descendants with nothing but guess work, albeit researched, to portray your existence, God only knows what will be the portrayal of you in the future.

Happy Writing



The Necessity of Accurate Reporting, for the Hobbyist

I have used research as a tool for the majority of my 55 year career. While some research can end directly with the desired result, such as a home project or item of purchase as examples, most in depth research requires some sort of documented report for posterity.  Without this documented report the research goes for naught and the effort applied researching is a fruitless.  While doing engineering work, statusing of projects and tests was commonplace for me and when I entered into management, most personnel problems and their productivities were researched and reported to lay in a paper trail or as I usually referred to it, a track record.  This was helpful at evaluation time as well for taking corrective action to keep and maintain acceptable work flow.  It was from these two end results of researching that I learned, sometimes the hard way, that a writing report is necessary.  The other aspect of written reports is who will be the reader(s) or end users of the written report.  Example: Essays and Thesis requirements in school are a natural outcome of the research needed to complete and submit in written form for the teacher (reader.)

Specifically, the purpose of this blog is to address the needs for written reports for research of genealogists and family historians.  Most of us involved in this field of endeavor are well aware of the standard form type of reports we use during our research, primarily the two most important ones that I use are the pedigree chart and the family group sheet.  My need for a research journal is different from that of standard form as I found the form type too constrictive to fluid research.  What I use in lieu of a standard form is twofold, one being a single or two sheet reports to file that reflecting the research done on specific family members, which I fill in by keeping notes of what sources accessed and the conclusions I came to.  The other journal type report I do is an annual report of the major research I did throughout the year.  I find these two captures not only the specifics of my research, but also associated stories of the individual or location, and highlights the major research activities I was involved in.  All of this allows me to build my family tree with a confidence level that assures me I have the right information and lineage.  I do not adhere to most standards put forth by BCG as they are restrictive and tend to stifle free thinking in research, however they do have their place and are certainly required to garner credibility by users of their services and products.

I need to write a little on why we research our family history.  The reasons are many I am sure, from gaining the knowledge of where we come from to fully fledged genealogy research for paternal, inheritance, and health reasons.  These latter used to be the hallmark of genealogists, but in contemporary times, less so due to the access of data on the internet, allowing even the least interested economical means to develop a family lineage.  If the hobbyist family historian follows the precepts and spirit of research, standardized by BCG he or she will automatically delve into their family history, in an orderly, perverse manner that will yield a family tree of integrity, one that is easily reconstructed from source information.  The ease of building and documenting the family lineage is now readily done on the internet with little or no constraints on what I call source proofing, a slippery slope that often times yields faulty information and at times completely bastardizes credible work done for the benefit of family members.  I would caution everyone using the family pedigrees provided on the internet to do extensive studying of the work being copied and utilized by checking the with the author of the lineage report in question.  This would yield your family tree in a credible manner, provide you family tree with integrity, and reduce the guesswork so evident in faulty reporting and documenting.  In short, go to school and learn from those who have gone before you.

Happy Researching & Writing


Memoir impacts listeners

It has been more than a month since my last blog, but that is what busy gets without specific scheduling.  Not to worry as my blogs are to share not to drum up business, for promotion belongs to other means.  The reason for this blog is that I was honored this week with the presentation of the Marble Award for an article that was reviewed on air in 2010.  Evidently it resonated with many in the international community as they voted following the nominations that occurred this past November.    The radio program airing this snippet of personal history is Story Tellers Campfire, a program with purpose to promote literacy in a wide variety of artistic and historical categories, and the specific category my memoir was reviewed in was “Not Everyone is a Writer, but Everyone has a Story to Tell.

The memoir reviewed on the air was a simple dump of my memory, through journaling, of our family vacations at Seal Rock State Park, on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, during the early years of my life, which to give perspective and context was during WWII.  The specific portion of the my writing that was reviewed on air was the story of my “first fish”, actually my second, but that one I needed reminding from a letter my dad wrote regarding an earlier incident.  Any way my “First Fish” is the memory of that I recalled, unaided and most likely was my second fish.  The initial feedback from the listening audience was very positive and that particular show maintained its position as appealing to the biggest audience for a couple of years before being dethroned by another.  Evidently by the vote leading to the award, it still holds a spot in the literary listener’s heart, so I have included two links, the first being a link to the overall (6 page) memoir entry and the second link is to an extract of the recording of the actual radio broadcast.

Happy and Enjoyable writing to y’all.