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Telling Your Story

Telling Your Story

(or Someone Else's)

Pat McNees

Bringing a light touch to heavy subjects


Writing your life story,
telling your family story,
sharing lessons learned

Storycatching, life telling, life writing (visually, orally, in print, audio, or video)
capturing a life story and leaving life lessons for future generations.
Doing it yourself or hiring a
personal historian, a writer, or a memoir editor to help!


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Preserving Your Family and National Treasures:

Archiving, conservation,  and preservation resources 
Books about preservation

Digitizing media
Adding metadata to photos
Suppliers of archival materials


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Timelines, Archives, Family History, Genealogical and Other Historical Resources

The big picture
Family trees (genograms)
Genealogy gateway sites
The joys and perils of genealogical research
Genealogy-related TV shows
Books about organizing and preserving family history materials
Genetic genealogy (testing DNA)
Searchable genealogy and family history databases, sites
Online newspaper archives (historic newspapers)
U.S. immigration, ports of entry
U.S. land and residential data
U.S. and Canadian census records and genealogy resources
Finding maiden names and female ancestors
African American genealogy and history resources
Irish and UK genealogy resources
European genealogy
Jewish genealogy resources
Resources on the Holocaust
Adoption issues and resources
More family history resources
Books about genealogy
Military records, history, and archives
Organizations focused on genealogy and family histories
Popular history (books)
Popular history (online)
History timelines
Genealogy and history, miscellaneous

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Doing Oral Histories or Video Interviews

Online guides to doing oral history
Transcribing oral history interviews
Books about doing oral history
Oral history as social history
Stories about oral history
Further reading about oral history
Oral history collections online
Oral history organizations

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Saving lives, one story at a time*

*"Saving lives, one story at a time," was a slogan sometimes used by the Association of Personal Historians, of which I was president (2010-2011). Sadly, the organization declared bankruptcy and folded in 2017.


Everyone has a story to tell but many of us need help telling it — or finding the time to record, collect, and edit the stories of other family members. Once we overcome shyness or modesty, however, we almost all enjoy reminiscing. As the years advance, a "life review" is particularly rewarding, but at any age it can be a great pleasure and an amazing source of insights. If you're one of the younger members of your family, take my word for it: You may not be eager to hear family stories now, but eventually you will.

Get those stories now — before memories fade, and while people are still alive. If nothing else, get those stories recorded — you can decide later whether you want to do something more formal and coherent. Having those voices on tape, having the stories behind those photographs preserved, is a far more meaningful legacy in the long term than most other physical legacies. And in the short term the material can enliven a special occasion, such as a major anniversary, birthday, or memorial service. Indeed, one way to improve the care an elderly patient receives in a hospital or nursing home is to write a brief history of their life and tape it to the door, making them a person with a story and not just another old patient.

An experienced interviewer with a good tape recorder can capture memories that your family will cherish for generations. (Most people find the prospect of writing about their life daunting — and fail to write in their real “voice.” Taping your stories can be a first step toward helping you “write” your own story.) If someone in your family has stories to tell, and can't tell them on their own, encourage them to work with an interviewer. If they don’t know where to begin, bring out a box of old family photos, and have them tell stories about the days those photos were taken. Start with a family photo history, with captions! Make a CD of it for everyone in the family. Do it NOW! Don't put it off to the distant future. So often I hear people express regret about the stories they didn't get and wish they had now. Keep it simple, but do it now!

As a professional journalist with great curiosity about the lives of others, I've helped research and write quite a few personal, family, and organizational histories. What can you expect when you hire someone to help you with all or part of yours? In general, we conduct interviews, have the interviews transcribed, organize and edit the material into a narrative (usually with plenty of sidebars, such as boxed photos with a mini-story), help you find your "voice" (if you're telling the story in your own voice), and generally help you capture the essence of your life story.

Everyone has a story to tell, but not everyone realizes how their life might interest others, especially in their own family — or field. I am often hired by someone to capture the life story of a loved one. And it needn't be one person telling the story. Sometimes when stars in the family story were raised in the "never toot your own horn" tradition, I get others in the family (or the company, or the field) to tell part of their story. Nothing is more boring than mere bragging: you want to know exactly WHY they were the greatest, and you also want to know about their foibles, which are often best (most amusingly) told by others. (It's just as interesting to hear that Grandpa, the successful businessman, habitually pocketed sugar packets from the restaurant as it is to hear that he spoke at banquets, and such details make his portrait more human.)

The process of the life review is almost invariably therapeutic, especially for the elderly, and getting that life story recorded (however humble or fancy the package) is a wonderful gift to the next generation, and to the generations after that. A life story needn't be an ambitious project and can proceed in stages. You can start with interviews: Get those memories on tape while the memories are still there to be captured. Get an elder to identify and tell stories about the people in those old photos. You can decide later if you want those interviews organized, edited, and transformed into a more polished manuscript and printed as a book.

Or start by writing, and if writing is a chore, take a memoir writing workshop or work with a writing coach or a personal historian--they can give you assignments and help you if you get stuck, or you can sit at a computer and write together, with them helping you remember and interpret what went on in your life. (I teach a workshop at the Writer's Center in Bethesda and occasionally in a public library called "My Life, One Story at a Time." There may be a similar workshop near you.)

TIP: Start with a timeline, a chronology. List all the important and not-so-important-but-memorable things that happened in the life of the person you are writing about. Use timelines like those I've provided links to, to help trigger memories. Looking through old photographs and memorabilia also helps trigger memories. See useful links below.

Ordinary people, extraordinary lives
As a professional writer, I have helped many ordinary people remember important life events, and find the shape of their life story, usually at the behest of someone else in the family. The first gentleman whose life story I helped tell was an Ohio businessman in his late 80s, Warren Webster. Webster had lost both legs to diabetes, had lost his wife after 70 years of marriage, and was understandably depressed. He had retired from what he considered to be a modest career in manufacturing and was puzzled why anyone would want his life story, but telling it transformed him — brought the sparkle back to his eyes, made him feel as important as the family knew he was. As I wrote a story based on his interviews, I read it aloud to him, as his vision was failing. Webster was a factory worker who rose to the executive suite. When I read aloud to him “Webster decided that a life with dirty fingernails was not for him,” he said, “You can quit right there. That’s the whole story.” But there was much more: The story of his career reflected changes in American culture and in the transportation industry in the twentieth century, the chapter about his wife Mary's decades-long struggle with bipolar disorder offered a glimpse of American attitudes toward mental illness in midcentury, and his story was ultimately published as a book, An American Biography, for sale on Amazon.com (or you can buy a copy from me). It became a wonderful memorial to his life -- and his grandson, Jim Dicke II, who had hired me, became one of my best clients ever. We went on to do two more books, including a history of the Young Presidents' Organization, of which he was president at the time.

Life stories needn’t be so ambitious. I am working on a photohistory of our family, which fled to California from Kansas in the dustbowl and Depression of the 1930s. Most life stories are created mostly for the family — for the generations to come in a particular family — but could well become valuable to future historians, as I hope this one will be.

Equally important to history, I think, are the memoirs of Dr. Thomas McNair Scott. I spent many hours interviewing Tom with a view to helping him write his memoirs, for private publication for his family and friends. A delightful man with great curiosity and (I learned from his former colleagues) a gift for diagnosis, Tom had become a pediatrician early in the twentieth century, when pediatrics was just becoming a field in America; it wasn't yet a field in England. Tom had a long, illustrious career teaching and practicing at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and elsewhere, and a long and happy marriage to Dwight McNair Scott, who did biomedical research. At the request (and with the help of) his children, Tom finished his memoirs shortly before his hundredth birthday, not long before his death (see excerpts below).

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Is that the secret meaning of the word ‘story,’ do you think: a storing place of memories?J.M. Coetzee, Foe

Story Circle Network, an active organization for women with stories to tell. Among other activities, an annual storytelling contest
Story Corps audio interviews. Host Michael Krasny, Forum, hosts hour-long show with David Isay, featuring ten compelling true stories told by ordinary people — history from the bottom up, as collected in Listening Is an Act of Love. Modeled on the Federal Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration (under FDR), StoryCorps engages Americans locally in oral history, archiving interviews at the American Folklife Center (Library of Congress).
StoryCorps "about" page. StoryCorps's focused initiatives include StoryCorps Griot (preserving the voices, experiences, and life stories of African Americans), the Memory Loss Initiative, StoryCorps Alaska (capturing the stories of Alaska's Native population)StoryCorps Outloud (capturing the experiences of the LGBTQ community), StoryCorps September 11th Initiative (to record at least one story to honor each life lost in the attacks on September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993), and the National Teachers Initiative (now closed).

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Storycorps: The good, the bad, and the ugly. Andrew Shaffer's excellent evaluation of the pros and cons of using the StoryCorps app (for Oral History Review, 11-13-15). Easy to use, and when it works, it works, but "the app’s downtime and the possibility of erasure could seriously derail a more time sensitive or serious oral history project." A must-read.
StoryCorps Animated Shorts. Here's an interview with Studs Terkel, for example.
StoryCorps Historias (Cuenta tu historia, or, Capturing Stories of Latinos in U.S.)
StoryCorps Memory Loss Initiative. Download free Commemorate toolkit to help preserve the memories of clients living with memory loss (zipfile, especially for caregivers in memory-loss care facilities)
The story of a girl. Rick Smolan's TED talk, 12-07, about a young Amerasian girl born in Korea and raised by her Korean grandmother-- and how their lives changed when a photographer got involved.
The story of faith and a life of giving: Lincoln woman writes grandson a biography of his mom (Margaret Reist, Lincoln Journal Star, 12-25-23) The story of faith and a life of giving: Lincoln woman Susan Sand writes grandson a biography of his mom when her only child was just a toddler, though she didn't realize that's what she was doing.
The Story of NYC Trash Through Art and Artifacts (Allison Meier, Hyperallergic, 1-16-18) The City Reliquary in Brooklyn is exploring centuries of trash in New York City, and the artists and groups who have responded to it.
The story of our lives (Imane Kurdi, Saudi Gazette, 3-30-13). Five years ago the Hospital of Chartres started hiring a family biographer for patients in their oncology department.
Story Stewardship: The Practice of Story Stewardship (Brené Brown). "The greatest threats to story stewardship are the two near enemies of building narrative trust: narrative tap-out and narrative takeover. Rather than building trust by acknowledging, affirming, and believing, we shut people down when we experience discomfort or disinterest, or when we take over the narrative and make it about us or our perception of what happened."
Storytellers help neighbors lower blood pressure (Mary Parker, Boston.com 1-24-11). Peer-to-peer storytelling may help African-Americans deal with high blood pressure, according to a new study.
Storyteller’s Techniques Help Students Create and Save Stories (Marjorie Turner Hollman, APH blog, 9-18-13) Hollman's storytelling background helped her draw the kids in and teach them not only to tell their stories but to write them down. Her process engaged not just the students but their parents, too.
Storytellers preserving rich history of Raleigh's Oakwood neighborhood, collecting oral histories for The Oakwood Project (Raleigh, North Carolina)
The Strangers Project, an ongoing collection of 15,000+ anonymous stories from the lives of the strangers we share our world with. Every page is handwritten right on the spot.
Sudbury company helps preserve family history (Carole LaMond, MetroWest Daily News, 1-3-11). Profile of personal historians Chris Wisniewski and Stephanie Nichols, showing how PHs help families preserve their memories, stories)
Suddenly, They’re All Gone "While you’re caring for the old, you can’t believe what you’re called on to do and where you find yourself, can’t believe that your time with them will ever end. Then one day, it just does.... The caregiving is over, but instead of feeling relieved, I feel worse."

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Suffragette banner returns home to Manchester after 100 years (Alexia Hendrickson, About Manchester, 9-7-17)
Surf’s Up—Here’s a Story with a ‘Happy Beginning’ (Keepers of Our Culture, 10-3-16, from Cedar Street Times). Mike Finn's story of a surfboard on the front of a house being lost and finding its way home again to new owners.
Survivors: Faces of Life After the Holocaust (Martin Schoeller, New York Times photo portfolio, 1-24-2020) Schoeller “felt that it was his professional and personal responsibility to not only reflect on and learn from the Holocaust, but to help memorialize it” with these unflinching portraits of survivors.
Susan Faludi: ‘In My World, Photographs Lie’ (Susan Faludi, Lens, NY Times, 5-16-17) Her father, Stefanie Faludi, a photographer, died in the woman’s ward of a Budapest hospital, at the age of 87. In the hardcover edition of her father's story, she left out the photos, as they lied -- they captured who the family wanted to be, rather than who they were. In the paperback edition (In the Darkroom), she included photos--as capturing a kind of truth, the "fluidity of identity" as one reader puts it, and in some cases the final images of relatives soon to die in the Holocaust.

Take Time to Tell Your Story (Independent Mail.com, 11-18-12)
Talk to Me (HuffPost video series of adult children interviewing their parents, starting with Christina Huffington interviewing her mother, Arianna. Seems to be mostly famous families. See Introducing Talk To Me: Authentic Conversations Between Parents and Children.

Tales from the Past (Patricia R. Olsen, Fresh Starts, NY Times, 10-11-08). Susan Owens is part of a growing trend of entrepreneurs (personal historians) who capture the stories of older generations.
Talking Photos (Legacy Stories -- click on the title under the phone and listen to audiofile of an interview with person shown)
Taking Things Seriously: 75 Objects with Unexpected Significance by Joshua Glenn. Important mostly as a concept: Make a book of photos of the things of significance in your life -- add stories, including the history behind the things important in your life.
Talk to Me: Authentic Conversations Between Parents and Children. See Introducing Talk to Me (Christina Huffington, Huff Post, 4-4-16)

The Task. An 8-part series about grief, mourning and memory after a father's death (Olivia Judson, Opinionator, NY Times, 2014).
--- 1.Home, Dismantled (Olivia Judson)
--- 2. Scenes of Confusion (2-16-14)
--- 3. Stalin and Soap (Olivia Judson 2-17-14)
--- 4. 54 Drawers (Olivia Judson, 2-18-14)
--- 5. A Piece of DNA (2-19-14)
--- 6. Weighing the Ice Cream (2-20-14)
--- 7 To Read or Not to Read?
--- 8 The Memory Stone
---The entire series

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Teenage Diaries—Decades Later—Mortify and Entertain (Dan Frosch, WSJ, 3-9-15) On stage, adults dredge up their youthful ruminations on crushes, tans, telepathic animals.
The teenage girls who flirted with Nazis before luring them into woods and shooting them (Maya Oppenheim, Independent UK, 11-16-19)
Tell the Story of Your Life (Maisy Fernandez, AARP Bulletin, Sept. 2017) In particular see Pam Pacelli's story, "One Woman's Story Takes Many Twists and Turns")
Telling Their Life Stories, Older Adults Find Peace in Looking Back (Susan B. Garland, Retiring, Your Money, NY Times, 12-9-16) Storytelling, so important in late life, may be facilitated in many ways, including Guided Autobiography classes (in which participants write stories to read aloud each week, on themes such as Money and Work), other forms of memoir writing workshops, telling one's story to a hired personal historian (to be captured in print, audio, or video), or participating in dignity therapy (as part of end-of-life treatment). I am mentioned in this piece, and colleagues Cheryl Svensson and Bill Erwin are quoted at length.
Tell Me More: On the Fine Art of Listening by Brenda Ueland, from her book Strength to Your Sword Arm: Selected Writings
Their Love Defied The Race Laws (Jane Lehmann-Shafran, personal historan, Your Story Here, 11-4-16) She was an American living in Lovelock, Nevada and he was a Canadian working nearby. They fell in love. But Nevada's race laws prohibited "miscegenation" and said they could not marry. But that wasn't Sue's only problem. She was also a young woman of Japanese ancestry and it was WWII."
Think YOUR KIDS would never throw away your cherished photos? I wouldn’t be so sure... (Dawn M. Roode, Modern Heirloom Books, 1-11-21) Your descendants will be more likely to hold on to your photos if... Adding stories and curating your collection to convey meaning, however, will make your family photo collection invaluable to them.
This former journalist's 'weird' idea is transforming the care of dementia patients (Tara Bahrampour, The Age, 12-16-16) "Three years ago, when Jay Newton-Small moved her father into a care facility she was given a 20-page questionnaire to fill out. Her father had Alzheimer's disease and his fading memory and agitated behaviour made it hard for caregivers to understand his needs. But as Newton-Small leafed through the lengthy form, she had a hunch that it was not the best approach. "I was like, 'You're never going to have time to read 20 pages on each patient," said Newton-Small, a Washington resident who was a reporter for Time magazine. So, at the risk of the staff thinking she was "weird," she offered to use her professional skills to write her father's story for them....The experience was so powerful that Newton-Small began compiling stories for others, first as a favour to friends and then as a start-up business that provides memory care facilities with online profiles..."
This midcoast writer captures voices, lives of the past (Meg Haskell, Bangor Daily News, 8-31-17) Nearly 15 years ago writer Donna Gold interviewed 10 elderly residents of Stockton Springs, the small coastal town where she has lived since 1990, backed by a $9,000 grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation. Her vision was to create a personal oral history of each of the 10 elders, capturing their reflections on the past and the changes they had seen in their lives. The result is “We Never Knew Any Different: Stockton Springs Stories of the Past Century,” an artfully edited compilation of personal memories, anecdotes and historical information that bring the quiet river town to vibrant life. The rich vein of history is more human in these pages, and it is what makes the book’s appeal both intimate and universal.
This was the only refugee camp in America for Jews fleeing the Nazis (Nina Renata Aron, Timeline News, 6-22-18) Roosevelt’s effort to help came at the end of the war, but still spared almost a thousand lives. They were temporarily housed at Fort Ontario in Oswego, New York from August 1944 – February 1946 (see see Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum).
The Tip-Off From a Nazi That Saved My Grandparents (Alexander Bodin Saphir, BBC News/Pocket, 10-21-18) It has often been described as a “miracle” that most of Denmark’s Jews escaped the Holocaust. Now it seems that the country’s Nazi rulers deliberately sabotaged their own operation.

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Titanic’s Chinese Survivors Resurface From Depths of History (Nuala Gathercole Lam, Sixth Tone: Fresh voices from today's China, 8-23-17) Six Chinese passengers survived the sinking of the Titanic. All were deported upon arrival in New York. "Out of several hundred people, they were the only ones who never told their stories,” says documentary filmmaker Arthur Jones, whose new film tells the story of the Chinese passengers who escaped the Titanic. “One of the side effects of the way that they were treated was that they were always in fear of being found out, being deported,” said Jones. “It just appears that Fang Lang never felt safe enough to tell his story.”
A Train, A Spoon and the Continuity of the Family Story (Robert Holton, Wealth Management.com, 12-9-14) "Objects become part of the family story and are imbued with an emotional value far beyond their economic value....For families and family advisors, we must at least attempt to address these story objects to avoid contentious issues later and perhaps build a more positive outcome for our families. And in doing so, we give these objects new purpose, and we give our family a shared story."
Telling Your Story TV interview with APH member Deb Moore and client Robin Horder-Koop about doing a personal history (5-minute YouTube video, What's West online, 12-15-09)
Terminal Island’s lost communities find recognition in book by USC’s Knatz. Story about the lovely book Terminal Island: Lost Communities of Los Angeles Harbor by Naomi Hirahara and Geraldine Knatz (Angel City Press).
The Terkel Rules: Translating from speech to prose. Michael Lenehan's fascinating conversation with Studs Terkel on when and how much it is okay to cut and paste (rearrange) material from an interview to make it seem as if that's the way the interview subject said it. (Should also be read by all transcribers and personal historians.)(Chicago Reader, 10-31-08)

Thanks(giving) for the memories—a preservation family project (Smithsonian Institution Archives). Gather together a couple of people from separate generations and branches of the family tree and do some photo identification and preservation. Set aside an hour between or after the meal to pull out a photo album, scrapbook, slides, family film and video, or those love letters in shoeboxes tied-up with string.
Therapeutic Writing (Carol Keegan, stroke survivor, Stroke Connection, Spring 2013)
A Therapist in the Mist: Where Therapy and Personal History Meet (Teri Friedman, APH blog, 10-9-13)
These Stories Will Change Your Life (Andrea Gross, Newsweek, My Turn, 7-21-06. What hearing my family history taught me about my mother and father)
They Survived the Holocaust. Now They're Confronting the Virus. (John Leland, NY Times, 5-4-2020) "The generation that endured Nazi death camps is especially vulnerable to the pandemic... And when that thread is broken, by age or by pestilence, many stories will end with it, some never told."
Things That Matter: The Secret of the Silver Cup (Pam Pacelli, APH: The Life Story People blog, 3-8-17)
The Things They Left Behind (Peggy Burds, owner of Emerald Estate Sales, First Personal Singular Column in Washington Post Magazine, 10-17-10). She concludes: "Everything I own has a story: It may not have started out as my story, but when I chose to bring it into my life, it became part of it. We all write our own history, and our stuff is often the only thing left to tell that story. I don't want my story to be a bunch of junk that doesn't mean anything."
Thinking About Memoir (Abigail Thomas, AARP, July 2008--watch the video, her talking about why people write memoirs). ). On other topics, watch her (after a short ad) talk about What Others Will Think. Click on subheads and see what she says about Structure, Direction, and Details--all previews for her book, Thinking About Memoir.
This I Believe (Stefani Twyford, "I believe in the power of the family story," Houston Public Radio, 2-13-09)
This Is Your Life (and How You Tell It), (Benedict Carey, Science section, New York Times 5-22-07)
This is your life. Stop tweeting, texting and multitasking for a minute. Instead, tell your story. (Michael McQueen,
Ode magazine, October 2010.)"As I sat there reading through my dad’s journal, I was captivated by how much I didn’t know about my father and his life. I was struck by the things that were important to him but had gone unspoken, and by how much we had in common....Don’t underestimate the power of your life’s stories. It may be tempting to put off ­sharing or writing them down for another day, but instead make that day today."
This 92-Year-Old Has Been Holding The Same Sign At Pride For Over 30 Years (Sarah Karlan, Buzzfeed, 9-12-16) Nearly every year, Frances Goldin attends New York City Pride holding a sign that reads “I adore my lesbian daughters. Keep them safe.” Her daughters, Reeni and Sally Goldin (shown in one of several photos), reside in New Paltz, New York, and San Francisco, California.
To Be Read in the Event of My Death (Carol Burke, Narratively, illus. by Julia Gfrörer) A writer embedded in Afghanistan takes an intimate look at one of war’s most private and painful traditions--final words left for survivors.
To Ireland, a Son’s Journey Home (Frank Bruni, travel memoir essay, NY Times Travel section, 10-26-12). His mother was from Ireland but in his Italian family Ireland got short shrift. Finally, he went there.
Top Reasons to Record Your Military History (Mary V. Danielsen, Documented Legacy).
Touchable Memories nice video brings to life a way to help the blind physically re-experience visual memories using 3D printers (pirate3D) to turn photographs into 3D-printed objects for people to feel, so they can "see" (with their fingers) a face or an ensemble of people.
Trapped on the Wrong Side of History (Soundprint radio, Richard Paul, producer, 3-21-11) In 1939, California farm girl Mary Kimoto Tomita traveled to Japan to learn Japanese and connect with the culture of her ancestors--and because of Pearl Harbor was trapped there. Her story -- told through interviews and letters from the time -- is a rare glimpse at a piece of the World War II experience.
Trash, the Library and a Worn, Brown Table: The 2019 College Essays on Money (Ron Lieber, Your Money, NY Times, 5-9-19) Each year, we ask high school seniors to submit college application essays they’ve written about work, money, social class and related topics. Here are five that moved us.
Traversing the Mystery of Memory by Richard A. Friedman (NY Times, 12-30-03). About the accuracy of nostalgia and how the brain records memories. Friedman concludes: "if anything marks us as human, it's more our bent for making sense of things than for discovering the essential truth about them."
A Trove of Diaries Meant to Be Read by Others (Elisabetta Povoledo, NY Times, 8-19-14) Subtitle: In Italy, the City of Diaries Honors Personal Memories "In a small Tuscan town, a repository of lives has been gathered since 1984 by the National Diary Archive Foundation. More than 7000 have now been collected. Each year a prize is offered with the promise of publication, to persuade diarists to entrust their writing to the archive." (A prize of 1,000 euros, or $1,332.)
Truant (poet Margaret Hasse's lovely poem about of a day she and her boyfriend skipped school).
The Truth About Luck: What I Learned on My Road Trip with Grandma by Iain Reid. (Read this Globe & Mail review by Kathryn Borel, Memoir of time spent with Grandma reveals old truths, young wisdom.)
The Truth About My Father (David Wright Faladé, New Yorker, 7-4-22) My mother was a white woman. Until I was sixteen, I believed that, on my father's side, I was descended from the enslaved people who had crossed the Atlantic in chains.
The truth has a price (Lauren B. Davis on memoir's potential for collateral damage, Globe & Mail 9-11-09)
'Try to make a life' (Donald Snyder, NBC World News blog, 9-26-13). Margot Friedlander hid for 13 months before being discovered in April 1944 and sent to Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in what is now the Czech Republic. "Try to make a life" is what her mother told her, during the war. After her husband's death in 1997, Friedlander took a memoir-writing class at the 92nd St. Y in Manhattan. "I wrote every night....I had all these stories in my head. Everything started coming back to me, many things that I pushed aside for years." She remembered the good Germans who risked their lives to save hers.

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Tucson storytelling groups build empathy, community (Danyelle Khmara, Arizona Daily Star, 7-18-16) Female StoryTellers, known as FST! and pronounced as “fist,” is one of several storytelling groups in Tucson. The group "focuses on the day-to-day lives and experiences of women and encourages them to write stories ranging from difficult subjects such as rape, abuse and terminal illness to the seemingly mundane and hilarious."
12 truths I learned from life and writing (Anne Lamott, TED2017, video of a TED talk) Pretty funny as well as wise.
20 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Family History (a series on the site of the Association of Personal Historians, "The Life Story People")
20 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Family History (Carmen Nigro, New York Public Library, 2-9-15)
Two family histories show how some stories are deeper than they appear (Historically Black podcasts
2 Women Moved to Write Stories Uncover a Surprisingly Personal One (Corey Kilgannon, NY Times, 5-15-15) The two women had come to Columbia to learn the finer points of storytelling and learned they were sisters, born to the same teenage mother in the early 1980s and adopted by different families.
272 Slaves Were Sold to Save Georgetown. What Does It Owe Their Descendants? (Rachel L. Swarns, NY Times, 4-1-16) In 1838, the Jesuit priests who ran the country’s top Catholic university needed money to keep it alive. Now comes the task of making amends.

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Great interview questions and guides

What to ask in a life-story/oral history interview

You will see wide variation in the kinds of questions asked. For those of us who want a life story to be a narrative, with a narrative arc of its own, and with lots of smaller stories within that framework, open-ended questions may be more helpful than fact-finding questions (which you can fill in with later).

       "Who what where and when" questions get at facts, including details for a life chronology. You need them for the narrative but an interview is not the most efficient way to gather details. (Early on, start a timeline, getting key dates and adding others later.) "How and why questions" are potentially much more interesting, more likely to elicit stories, to reveal motivations and decision points, to bring back memories, to reminisce about the important people in a life. Make sure you have plenty of both types of questions.

       Questions for which there is only one specific answer, especially "yes" or "no," are not going to encourage the person interviewed to open up. What you want is something that will open the floodgates for storytelling, and, when you become more skilled, try to open targeted floodgates, so what you end up with is more likely to contribute to a coherent story or set of stories.

       But if what you get is not well-organized, don't worry. A life story is not just an edited version of interviews. The life stories you get through interviews can be rearranged and edited and shaped into a narrative.  What you want is to get the stories and information flowing in ways that mean something to the storytellers and their families, and that capture their ways of expressing themselves, their voice, their style, their take on the world.

       One of the most valuable uses of interview time will be to ask family members who the people are in various family photos (and their age, if it's known), where and what year (or approximate time) the photos were taken, and what memories or stories each photo elicits. Sometimes the dates are written on the back of a photo.


Following are links to pages of possible questions to ask (or writing prompts) as well as links to articles about how to interview successfully.

Great Questions (StoryCorps). Wonderful sets of open-ended questions about a dozen and a half themes, to ask family and friends, young or old. There's a shorter selection of questions in The Great Thanksgiving Listen.  The StoryCorps Interview Planning Worksheet can help you keep track of who's interviewing whom.
Family Health History. You can download two PDF files: (1) "A Guide to Family Health History (which questions to ask, which information to collect, which diseases are hereditary, and so on) and (2) "A Guide to Genetics and Health."
Interviewing for Career-Spanning Profiles (Alla Katsnelson, The Open Notebook, 3-27-18). The full article.
A Crowd-Sourced Cheat-Sheet for Career-Spanning Profile Interviews (Alla Katsnelson, The Open Notebook, 2018).
Candidate Interview Questions (The Career Toolkit)
Brandon Stanton, On how I approach strangers in the street (YouTube video of the photographer and photoblogger for Humans of New York, talking to an Irish audience about how to make strangers relax and allow a photograph and interview. "It's all about the energy you give off" and "escalating levels of intimacy." It's not about the questions you ask, but he does start with broad questions, to find starting points to get into a conversation. (What's your greatest struggle right now? Give one piece of advice.) He's looking for a story nobody else has told him. See also More of Brandon Stanton (on YouTube, this time interviewed on Chase Jarvis Live, about how he got into photography after losing his job, and from there got into interviewing for Humans of New York)
The 36 Questions. (Daniel Jones, Modern Love, NY Times, 1-9-15), drawn from a study by psychologist Arthur Aron (and others) that "explores whether intimacy between two strangers can be accelerated by having them ask each other a specific series of personal questions. The 36 questions in the study are broken up into three sets, with each set intended to be more probing than the previous one." Related Times stories: To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This (1-9-15) and The 36 Questions: An Answer to Their Prayers?
50 Questions for Family History Interviews: What to Ask the Relatives by Kimberly Powell, About.com (slightly fact-oriented, but they might elicit some stories too)
The Art of Asking: How to Get the Best Responses On Camera (Debbie Brodsky, DMB Pictures) See also her series of production tips.
20 Questions to Ask Your Mother (Christine Carter, Greater Good Magazine, 5-5-22) Two sets of questions, actually -- one set for kids to ask their mother or grandmother for Mother's Day, and one for adults to ask their mother or grandmother.
50 Thanksgiving Story Starters (AARP Bulletin 11-1-11). Questions to ask at the dinner table.

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Guide for Interviewing Family Members (from Virginia Allee, A Family History Questionnaire) This is a great guide for younger members of the family, say, to ask older members of the family. Bring it and a tape recorder along to the annual family picnic, or to the home of an elder who is ailing and lonely and might welcome the attention.
Some Possible Questions, from The Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interviewing Guide. The first batch of questions asks for facts. The second asks about Family Folklore (Why did you leave to come to the United States? What possessions did you bring with you and why?) The third is about Local History and Community Life (Can you draw a map of your local community? Of your neighborhood? Your family home? Your farmstead?) 

You can download the guide or click on parts, such as The Interview.
How to Collect Your Own Family Folklore (sample interview questions, from the Smithsonian)
How to Talk to Holocaust Survivors About Their Lives (Rich Polt, JMore, 4-3-18) Includes 10 questions to help frame your discussion and the recommendation to record or document these discussions for posterity.
Storycorps Interviews (Archive)
They Say in Harlan County: An Oral History (Alessandro Portelli) Not a book about coal miners so much as a dialogue in which more than 150 Harlan County women and men tell the story of their region, from pioneer times through the dramatic strikes of the 1930s and '70s, up to the present. Listen to A Conversation with Alessandro Portelli (YouTube, Casa Italiano, NYU, 4-25-18) Words from a master of oral history. See also his outstanding book: The Order Has Been Carried Out: History, Memory, and Meaning of a Nazi Massacre in Rome.
Interviewing Relatives (Ancestor Search)

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Chris Lydon’s “Letterman List” of Interviewing Tips (1-3-13) Transom, a showcase for New Public Radio, hosts more pieces on interviewing, including the following:
---Before the first question (Rob Rosenthal, 5-15-12)
---On Interviewing (Alex Blumberg, 12-30-10)
---Losing Control in an Interview (Erica Heilman, 11-6-18)
---Staying The Course in a Tough Interview (Rob Rosenthal, 11-25-19)
---On Interviewing a Racist (Rob Rosenthal, 5-16-17)
---Interviewing for Emotions (RR talks with Liz Mak on HowSound, 9-30-19) Explore the Transom site for more great advice from popular broadcasters about questioning strangers. Some interviewers offer tips and tricks on their craft, excerpted from articles at Transom and elsewhere.
Interviewing for Research: Guide to One-to-One Interviews by Colin Hyde (East Midlands Oral History Archive, EMOHA)
Sample interview questions (T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History) A super collection of questions.
Tip sheet: Questions to ask at medical conferences when time is short (Tara Haelle, Covering Health, AHCJ, 8-14-23) Questions you can use for nearly any medical study presentation at a conference. "[K]eep in mind that most of the time, what you primarily need is the clinical significance of the findings. Or, if there is no immediate clinical significance, your readers will want to know what makes the findings important, surprising or otherwise notable." Provides many suggested questions.

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• Michael Takiff, of Gravitas History offered these tips:

    Rule 1: Be prepared. 

    Rule 2: Listen. Don't stick to your list of questions--roll with the punches.

    Rule 3: Ask open-ended questions. (Don’t put words into people’s mouths. Example: When did you kill you wife?)

    Rule 4: Don't interrupt.
How to Record an Oral History Interview (YouTube, East Midlands Oral History Archive)
Interviewing Family Members (Ancestry.com)
Memory List Question Book by Denis Ledoux, Soleil Lifestory Network)
Oral history interview questions and topics (JewishGen)
Question List, Memory Loss Initiative (StoryCorps)
Questions for Remembering 9/11 (StoryCorps September 11th Initiative)
Questions We Should All Ask Mom (Lisa Belkin, Mother Lode, NY Times Adventures in Parenthood blog)
Re-membering Pets: Documenting the meaning of people’s relationships with these family members by Barbara Baumgartner, in Explorations: An E-Journal of Narrative Practice (includes a list of questions to ask)

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A Script for Video or Audio Interviews with Family Members (RootsWeb, Ancestry.com)
Good interview questions for the family
Some Possible Questions (Marjorie Hunt, The Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History (PDF, free download, in whole or part)
Interviewing Guide

Some sure-fire topics for your oral history interview (10 good questions from Delmar Watson)
20 Questions to Ask the Important Women in Your Life (Jewish Women's Archive)
Suggested Questions for Veterans and Questions for Civilians (Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, U.S. Library of Congress)
Sample oral history interviews with World War II Veterans (History.com). Includes a script of suggested questions.
The Way You Tell Your Life Story Matters. Start Now. (James R. Hagerty, Wall Street Journal, 12-26-22) “Death steals everything except our stories,” wrote the poet Jim Harrison.... Preserve your stories now, while the memories are vivid. The best stories show not just what you have done but why and how. Starting points include how you got on a career path; what you are trying to do with your life and how it is working out; your biggest triumphs and failures, and what you have learned from them. Also worthwhile: the oddest, funniest, most wonderful and awful things that have happened to you."
Suggested Questions (Life Story Center, University of Southern Maine). Excellent questions listed by categories: Birth and Family of Origin, Cultural Settings and Traditions, Social Factors, Education, Love and Work, Historical Events and Periods, Retirement, Inner Life and Spiritual Awareness, Major Life Themes, Vision of the Future, Closure.

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Top 3 Tips for Conducting Better Interviews (Grace Bello, The Freelance Strategist)
Most Helpful Blog Posts (Modern Heirloom Books, 2-28-21) Scroll down for links to Questions to ask, and tips on creating memory-keeper books.
Types of Beautiful Questions (Beth M. Duckles) Thought-provoking social science type questions.
The Stories That Bind Us: What Are the Twenty Questions? (Marshall P. Duke, Huff Post, 2-23-15) For backstory, read The Stories That Bind Us (Bruce Feiler, NY Times, 3-15-13)
The Root of All Things: 20 Questions (Good Housekeeping) To study how families pass on their history to succeeding generations, Emory University psychologists Robyn Fivush and Marshall Duke created a 20-question Do You Know (DYK) scale. Check out the questions to fill in the gaps in your family history. You can also find them in this Huff Post story, What Are the Twenty Questions?
What questions should you ask in a video biography interview? (Jane Lehmann-Shafron, Video Biography Central)
Memory Joggers (sample questions from Trena Cleland, First Person Narrative)
50+ Most Common [Job] Interview Questions and Answers (The Muse)
10 Common Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them (Vicky Oliver, Harvard Business Review, 11-11-21)
Great Questions (StoryCorps)

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Guernsey Evacuees Oral History . Gillian Mawson's community group of Guernsey evacuees (ages 72 to 90) in Northern England, sharing stories with each other and the community about evacuating during World War II. Read how they do it -- how she gave them confidence with digital equipment and with talking to the public at events and on radio). Help elders bring history to life!
Artful journalistic interviewing (excellent links, on Writers & Editors, a sister site, to articles on interviewing as a journalist) You'll find links to sections on different types and aspects of interviewing in the Writers and Editors index.
Genealogy: 150 questions to ask family members about their lives (Barry Ewell, Deseret News, 2-11-14)
Help with emotional interviews. Chip Scanlan's article for Poynter is aimed at journalists but may be helpful to personal historians, also. See also Lessons Learned: Handling Emotional Interviews, Part 2.
Loosening Lips: The Art of the Interview (Eric Nalder, Seattle Times). This is for journalists, but some of the principles apply in personal history interviewing.)

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Good books on interviewing

Those geared to journalists may also be helpful for interviewing people for their life stories

The Art of the Interview: Lessons from a Master of the Craft by Lawrence Grobel. Memoir of a top celebrity interviewer who prepares deeply for long interviews. Don't expect helpful instruction on quickie interviews.
Ask More: The Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions, and Spark Change by Frank Sesno. Chapters on strategic questions to define a mission, diagnostic questions to get to the heart of a company's problems, empathy questions to learn how a change in law would affect citizens, confrontational questions to hold people accountable, creative questions to imagine change and challenge history, mission questions to help nonprofits fundraise more successfully, methodical questions to help scientists crack medical mysteries.
The Craft of Interviewing by John Joseph Brady
Creative Interviewing: The Writer's Guide to Gathering Information by Asking Questions by Ken Metzler
Digital Storytelling Cookbook (PDF, buy online from Center for Digital Storytelling, CDS). Also available: Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community by Joe Lambert, author also of Seven Stages: Story and the Human Experience.
Interviews That Work: A Practical Guide for Journalists by Shirley Biagi
Listen Up! The Art of Interviewing for Personal History (purchase online from author Paula Stahel)
Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting by Lisa Genova
The Talk Book: The Intimate Science of Communicating in Close Relationships (explains reflective listening and disclosure)
Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert Caro

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

           ~ Maya Angelou

From the website of Pat McNees

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Telling Your Story

"There's always time...until there isn't."

"Saving lives, one story at a time"  



Currently featured stories at top; after that, alphabetical by title.


“Memoir begins not with event but with the intuition of meaning—with the mysterious fact that life can sometimes step free from the chaos and become story.” ~Sven Birkerts

My neighbor lived to be 109. This is what I learned from him. ( David Von Drehle, Washington Post, 5-22-23) This essay was adapted from his book The Book of Charlie: Wisdom from the Remarkable American Life of a 109-Year-Old Man
When the future is running out, narrating the past helps to prepare (Dhruv Khulla, Washington Post, 7-14-19) "Storytelling — reflecting on the past and creating a narrative of your life, what it has meant, who you’ve become and why — is a powerful but underused way to develop the sense that your life has meaning. "The process of bringing coherence to one’s life story is what psychologist Dan McAdams calls creating a “narrative identity.” People get better at identifying important life themes as they age, and those who are able to find the positive amid the negative are generally more satisfied with life."
The simple action you can take right now to change your life. All you need is a pen. (Emily Esfahani Smith, Washington Post, 5-15-17) By the author of The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness) "[We] don’t always realize that we’re the authors of our own stories and can change the way we’re telling them....But the truth is, we all make what the psychologist Dan McAdams of Northwestern University calls “narrative choices” — and we can all edit, interpret, and retell our stories, even as we’re constrained by the facts....The stories we tell both reflect the reality that we’re living, and they also shape that reality....No matter who we are or what we’ve experienced, storytelling can help us manage the vicissitudes of life with more meaning."
• "This packrat has learned that what the next generation will value most is not what we owned but the evidence of who we were and the tales of how we loved. In the end, it's the family stories that are worth the storage." ~ Ellen Goodman, (Boston Globe via Deseret News, 4-12-02)
Dave Isay: Everyone around you has a story the world needs to hear. Do listen to this TED Talk, from TED2015.




Adna Man Recalls Battle of Chosin Reservoir (Julie McDonald, The Chronicle, 9-19-17) “He would hunt officers like you would hunt deer,” Duncan said. “Eventually they would go to the bathroom, walk away from everybody, then he’d sneak up on them, draw his .45 and put it to their head, and then he would tell them in Chinese and Korean ‘Come with me or die.’”
After the Wars. Chicago Public Radio's weekly series of short radio stories and images of America's veterans--a Points of View Production by Paul and Ben Calhoun, ed. by Cate Cahan. Click on image to hear vet's story.
Aha moments (Mutual of Omaha's delightful short videos on "defining moments" in people's lives, where they gained real wisdom)
All About Me: Memoir Week at Slate (sixteen pieces on memoirs and memoir writing)
A Look Inside Florence's Strangest Archive (Cara Giaimo, Atlas Obscura, 5-11-16) For six centuries, the Corsini Family has recorded everything that's ever happened to them.
Alzheimer's: Mementos help preserve memories (Mayo Clinic)
The American Civil War, Then and Now (The Guardian, 6-22-15, interactive) The women who dug the graves, the kids who watched the largest battle in US history – and the slaves forced to help fighters at the front. 150 years after the last shots were fired, Guardian photographer David Levene travelled across the US photographing the sites scarred by the American civil war. Plus an article by Levene: Blasts from the past: photographing the American civil war in 2015 (same issue of the Guardian, different page) To mark the 150th anniversary of its end, Guardian photographer David Levene took a trip across America to re-create some of the most iconic photographs taken at the time.
A Mother's Farewell (Joanne Fowler, People's Magazine, 12-4-06). At 50 and facing terminal cancer, Pam Fairmont made a video for her 10-year-old son Connor. Her message: 'I'll always be with you.'
An Alaska Native group is passing down traditional stories via Xbox. So far, it's working. (Eric March, Upworthy) An Alaska Native group decided to make a video game. It's like nothing you've ever played before. It's called "Never Alone" (or "Kisima Ingitchuna"). And it wasn't developed by Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, or any of the other big game studios. It was the brainchild of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) — a nonprofit community support organization for Alaska Natives and their families."
An Artifact Once Was Just Home Lower East Side Tenement Museum Welcomes a Former Resident (William Grimes, NY Times, 11-2-14) An example of video and print complementing teach other beautifully.
Anecdote (Australia, "Putting stories to work") offers a free download of Ultimate Guide to Anecdote Circles (PDF, a practical guide to facilitating storytelling and story listening). A blog entry criticizing a Steve Denning video about radical management for not telling stories also offers a Storytest to see if you can spot a story. Good site for insights into storytelling for businesses.
Animated StoryCorps shorts (series includes a conversation between a boy with Asperger's syndrome and his mom as well as two Brooklyn characters remembering how they fell in love and learning how to let go)
Archive your family's voting history ((Pam Pacelli Cooper, Verissima)
Are You Telling the Right Story of Your Life? (Kate Arms-Roberts, The Creativity Post. 3-20-13)
Are You the Same Person You Used to Be? (Joshua Rothman, New Yorker, 10-10-22) Researchers have studied how much of our personality is set from childhood, but what you’re like isn’t who you are. "Does the self you remember feel like you, or like a stranger? Do you seem to be remembering yesterday, or reading a novel about a fictional character? ...sometimes we recall our former selves with a sense of wonder, as if remembering a past life."

Arlington’s Martha Ann Miller, 101, publishes her autobiography, just as she said she would (Tom Jackman, Washington Post, 11-13-12). When a hundred-year-old woman tells you she's writing her autobiography, you nod politely and think, "Yeah, right." So here's Martha Ann Miller of Arlington, now 101, and here's her polished, published autobiography: 255 pages with great photos throughout, featuring the inside story of how Arlington became the first district in Virginia to desegregate its schools.
The Art of Listening (Henning Mankel, NYTimes Opinion 12-11-11, on what the West can learn from the African storytelling tradition. Contains a sentence that is hard to top: “That’s not a good way to die — before you’ve told the end of your story.”)
The Art of Vernacular Voice (Amy D. Clark, Opinionator, NY Times, 2-17-14). "Every voice on paper has a linguistic and social history that needs to be heard."
As a child, I shunned my Asian identity. As a Jewish adult, I embrace it (Christopher Michaelson, Forward, 6-23-22) Learning about what makes Chinese and Jewish cultures different from each other made me appreciate both more deeply
“AS OF A NOW” shows Baltimore rowhouses not vacant, but full of generations of “quiet stories” (Fern Shen, Baltimore Brew, 5-1-18) Film, debuting at Light City, honors the cultural memory of the city’s black residents amid demolition and development
Association of Personal Historians (APH, The Life Story People. "Saving lives — one story at a time") The organization no longer exists formally, but there are chapters in several areas. See A short history of the Association of Personal Historians (Pat McNees, Writers and Editors, 3-27-18). See also 21 frequently asked questions about personal histories and personal historians (8-23-17) and Is it still a great time to become a personal historian? (5-14-17)
(Disclosure: Pat was president of APH, 2010-2011)

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Auschwitz inmate's notes from hell finally revealed (Laurence Peter, BBC News, 12-1-17) Chilling testimony from an Auschwitz inmate forced to help the Nazi murder squads has finally been deciphered, thanks to painstaking detective work and digital imaging. "For the dead and the living, we must bear witness." ~ Elie Wiesel
Autobiography class aims to help seniors forge connections through stories (Brittany Woolsey, Huntington Beach Independent, 6-29-15) "Part of the beauty of guided autobiography, and why I like it, is that not only do people write about a certain time in their lives, but then when people come together, they share their stories. That's when the magic happens."
Autoethnography: Inquiry With a Heart (Jon Reidel, HealthCanal, 4-3-15). Narrating Social Work Through Autoethnography, ed. by longtime social work professor Stanley Witkin, features personal stories from 11 social workers, covering such topics as international adoption, divorce, death and cross-dressing. (An outstanding academic title for 2014, American Library Association) “Many of the authors told me it was the hardest thing they have ever written, but incredibly gratifying,” says Witkin.... “It’s just not how we’re trained as academics. You are writing in a narrative style without adhering to all the strict scientific conventions and third person writing that’s off-putting to people, particularly students. You are trying to bring your reader and yourself into the text.”

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Back to the Future. Photographer Irina Werning's wonderful pairings of old photos and later variations (adult reenactments). A marvelous variation on personal history.
The barrier-breaking power of learning someone else’s story (Larisa Epatko, PBS NewsHour, 7-13-17) How can storytelling cut through the noise? Narrative 4 formed in 2012 by a group of writers and activists who believed that learning each other’s stories and retelling them in the first person is a powerful way to gain understanding. The program evolved from Lisa Consiglio, Narrative 4’s executive director, who ran a literary organization in Colorado, including a story-swap program in English classes in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley." The program also helped unite members of the community ordinarily at odds. Storytelling and listening can be a partial remedy in an era of constant noise.
BBC's Great Lives Series (biographical radio and podcast series in which guests choose someone who has inspired their lives)
Be a Family Historian (Rick Shriver, Zanesville Times Recorder 12-11-11)
Becci Manson: (Re)touching lives through photos After the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Becci Manson and a global group of volunteer colleagues she recruited online helped clean and restore hundreds of damaged photos, mixed in the wreckage from the disaster. This TED talk is about that experience and process.
Becoming Three: The Myth of Instant Family (Abigail Rasminsky, The Toast, 6-27-14) A delightfully frank look at how totally a baby changes a relationship.

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"Memories are just stories waiting to be told." ~ Marcia Orland, Afterglow Media

Before he died, he recorded songs and stories for his future grandchildren (Ellie Kahn, Forward, 6-9-22) Diagnosed with brain cancer, her decided to share his lifetime memories, and record himself reading his sons’ favorite childhood books, for his grandchildren. His gift: 'The Wheels on the Bus' and Dr. Seuss. 
    "Knowing that we’re all going to die, what do we want our lives to be about? How do we want to be remembered? And how do we spend whatever time we have left? Rabbi Steve Leder of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles has a new book about legacy, called For You When I Am Gone: Twelve Essential Questions to Tell a Life Story, which guides readers to create what Leder calls “an ethical will” to share their most important values with their family. The questions are more about how you feel than about what you did (for example, What was your most painful regret and how can your loved ones avoid repeating it? When was a time you led with your heart instead of your head? What did you learn from your biggest failure?).

     "In 2009, when I was turning 60, I signed up for a yearlong workshop based on another book, by Stephen Levine, called A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last. We participants were all in good health, but we were instructed to imagine that we had received a terminal diagnosis. How did we want to spend that final year? Who did we want to spend time with? What would we regret not doing?"
Before I Die An abandoned house is transformed into a giant chalkboard, so residents can write on the wall, remembering what's important to them -- a brilliant combination of street art, personal expression, and messaging, created by Candy Chang. Now a book -- see Maria Popova's story on Brain Picking, about the mortality paradox: "When I think about death, the mundane things that stress me out are reduced to their small and rightful place; the things that matter most to me become big and crisp again. … Thinking about death clarifies your life." Check out Chang's other projects.

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The best Christmas gift--a life story (Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune, 12-10-11). The gifts he's treasured most have been the autobiographies his wife and kids wrote for him at his request.
***The Best Present Ever. This video from My Special Book, a lovably productive Argentinean firm, shows how someone feels when the family puts together a tribute book. Watch their delighted and happy expressions. This is why personal historians love their work. (See more such here.)
Between the Recipes, Scribbles Speak Volumes (Kate Murphy, NY Times, 1-28-13, on the marginalia in cookbooks--comments scribbled in the margins)
Beyond the Valley of the Doilies, Joy Press on Jessica Helfland, the billion-dollar scrapbooking industry, and what scrapbooking is all about (Salon.com, 12-4-08)
The biography business by Louis Menand, a review of Shoot the Widow: Adventures of a Biographer in Search of Her Subject by Meryle Secrest and Biography: A Brief History by Nigel Hamilton, and an interesting discussion, in the New Yorker (8-6-07)

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Books of Forgetting: Why we can't stop writing about what we can't remember (Cara Parks. New Republic, 5-11-14) . The problem of memory and memoir in an age when technology has both overcome and highlighted the limits of the human brain's capacity.
The Bookshop Owner Who Escaped the Nazis (Patrick Modiano, LitHub, 1-27-2020) In an excerpt from A Bookshop in Berlin: The Rediscovered Memoir of One Woman’s Harrowing Escape from the Nazis, Modiano writes about Françoise Frenkel's No Place to Lay One’s Head, which he believes belongs in the company of literary giants. What makes No Place to Lay One’s Head unique is that we cannot precisely identify its author.
Boom (Peter Arango, Medium, 5-26-17) On being a Baby Boomer, born in 1946-64.
The boy left behind in Nazi Vienna (Nik Pollinger, BBC News, 12-7-18) In fear for her life, Kurt’s Jewish single mother fled Nazi Vienna for the UK in 1939, leaving him behind. This 14-year-old’s story of abandonment and adversity can be told for the first time, through recently discovered letters. (Scrolling down through the text and illustrations may be slow; be patient.)
A bridge to the past: Personal historian helps tell stories (Jacob Livingston, Spokesman Review, 2-7-10, on the advantages and experience of hiring a personal historian)
Brothers in Arms (Dan Lamothe, Washington Post, 12-6-17) Four siblings wrote hundreds of letters to each other during World War II. The stories they tell of service, sacrifice and trauma was hidden away in an abandoned storage unit — until someone bought its contents. The mostly handwritten letters, on tissue-thin paper, dated to World War II and were penned mostly by the members of a single family — the Eydes of Rockford, Ill. Three brothers were in the military: one in the Marine Corps, one in the Army and one in the Army Air Forces--fighting Germany and Japan, and using pejorative terms to describe the enemy.

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Brooklyn Historical Society compiles residents' accounts from Superstorm Sandy for future generations (Lore Croghan, NY Daily News, 4-9-13)
Brownstone Detectives: This Guy Wrote a Book About His Brownstone and Wants to Do the Same for You (Jackson Connor, Village Voice, 8-4-15) "While not every customer can afford a hardbound album of their building’s history (the books start at 25 pages and a whopping $2,900), Hartig also offers a “House History Report” for a base price of $650 and a chain-of-title search for $175. Real estate companies have also enlisted his services, hoping the narratives he uncovers will help give their brokers a slight edge in the market."
The Business of Lives: Why People Are Turning to Professionals To Preserve their Life Stories (David Maloof, excerpts from Hampshire Life, Daily Hampshire Gazette 8-27-99)
The Business of Memory: Families want to preserve their life stories (Ilana DeBare, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, 8-20-06)
But Enough About Me What does the popularity of memoirs tell us about ourselves? Daniel Mendelsohn's review of Ben Yagoda's Memoir: A History (New Yorker,1-25-2010)

• Butler Reviews Life Review (Robert N. Butler, in Aging Today newsletter, 2000): "Life review, a normal developmental task of the later years, is characterized by the return of memories and past conflicts. Life review can result in resolution, reconciliation, atonement, integration and serenity. It can occur spontaneously, or it can be structured. Reminiscence, simply recalling events or periods of one's life, is only one aspect of a life review; although it can be therapeutic, it is usually not evaluative." This particular piece disappeared but if you google the key words you will find many passages online.

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The California fires were at my door. I had 20 minutes to pack. Here’s what I took. (Sarah Doyel, Vox, 12-15-17) The elementary school thought experiment became my reality. "When I was a child, one of my teachers gave us a writing assignment called “The Box.” We were supposed to write down five things, and only five, that we would take with us from a burning house. I don’t remember what I wrote down, but I do recall it was hard. Pets and family were exempt, and I just couldn’t think of five material objects that warranted a place on such a precious list. What could be important enough? Late on the night of Monday, December 4, as fires raged near us in Southern California, I found myself asking the same question....The Department of Homeland Security recommends keeping an emergency supply kit on hand at all times, one that includes water and non-perishable food, first aid materials, flashlights, and copies of documents like Social Security cards or birth certificates. Due to California’s predilection for earthquakes and wildfires, my parents have always kept these documents in a fireproof box in our house. That box was the first thing to go into the cars."
Cambridge Age Exchange, a UK charity uses new and digital media and intergenerational projects focused on reminiscence to promote learning and understandjing. One project, Untold Stories (Reminiscence Site of Untold Stories at Momentum Arts), funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, helped capture the lives and experiences of black and minority ethnic communities in Cambridgeshire . Another, Remembering Your East End, is a learning website for schools, focused on the living history of London's East End.
Capturing seniors' stories while she still can by David Ball (Herald Tribune, 2-10-2010). Check out the box, Words to the Wise. "Obviously, none of us live forever," said Wade Matthews, 76, a retired diplomat, avid birder and head of the Sarasota chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "We'd all like to see a little bit of the things we think are worthwhile passed on, partly for the historical record and partly for the hope that some of these ideas might be adopted by other people."
Carrying Two Hundred Years of Memories: The Blessings of Longevity (Pam Pacelli Cooper, Verissima Productions) I carry with me memories that are 200 years old. Two weeks ago, I responded to Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge to write about one ancestor a week for 52 weeks with a blog about my great grandmother, Isabel Hero Bradshaw Parker, whom I credit with my love of history. See • 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks (Amy Johnson Crow) Sign up for her series of prompts to help you share the discoveries you've made in your genealogy.

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A Celebration of Fathers (Ellie Kahn, Jewish Journal, 6-21-2020) A Los-Angeles based oral historian shares several stories about fathers.
Childless Matters (Janice Jacobs, APH blog, 9-21-16) "I’m childless, and do not feel compelled to share my reasons why with anyone. My desire to do a personal biography would be to acknowledge my ancestry, honor my existence to my friends, colleagues, and those I love who are my family or I consider my family. But most of all, I want to capture myself. I want to be able to look back on my life and preserve the memories in case my brain cells refuse to cooperate and to retrieve on demand in the future." Comments mention the value for public history, and one person cites a woman who at the age of 96 said, “I wondered why I wanted to write a memoir. I think it’s because I want to know myself better.”
Circular Biography. This Book World review of Mary Gordon's Circling My Mother suggests approaching a life story from various unreconciled angles)
Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy. A hidden army of female cryptographers, played a crucial role in ending World War II.
Colorado miners' stories brought to life. A Hundred Years After Irish Miners Lived And Died In Leadville, A Colorado Historian Is Bringing Their Stories To Life (Claire Cleveland, Colorado Public Radio, 6-4-21) Jim Walsh, a historian and researcher at University of Colorado Denver, first saw the cemetery in 2003 when he was working on his doctoral thesis. “And I remember even saying to myself that day that I was going to make this part of my life’s work,” he said. “The people who were buried there, their voices needed to be heard.” Reprinted also as Colorado historian bringing stories of Irish Leadville miners to life
Comanche student studies family history for dissertation (Fin Martinez, DailyLobo.com, 12-12-`6) After a rigorous career in academia, Eric Tippeconnic, a Comanche doctoral candidate, will be receiving his doctorate degree in history, making him the first professionally trained historian in his tribe’s history. “1852 is when my great grandfather Tippeconnic — that was his only name — was born, and he was born a quarter century before the reservation era began for Comanches, meaning that for a quarter century he was living life free on the plains, like all Comanches did.” Tippeconnic said, “I decided to begin there, because, number 1, it was in a period of time before western institutions overcame our traditional lifestyle. Number 2, it’s my namesake; he was the first one given the name ‘Tippekahni.’” Tippeconnic’s name is an anglicizing of “TippeKahni,” which translates to “rock house,’ the Comanche word for “guardhouse.”
Coming-of-age memoirs (a recommended-reading list)
Cookbook culture: A personal history in grease stains and pencil marks (Ian Mosby, Globe and Mail, 7-3-13) Author discovers in old cookbooks a neglected trove of history--particularly this one, with annotations for a woman's life.
Cousins who survived Holocaust reunite in Broward after almost 70 years (Elinor Brecher, Miami Herald 3-11-12). The two men, who last saw each other in a concentration camp, fulfilled a dream Sunday in Tamarac as they met again, thanks to a memoir that one wrote.
Cowbird ("a witness to life" -- gathers and preserves exceptional stories of human life). Each day Cowbird takes a photo and writes a short story to go with it. You can look these up by category: Curated stories, Most loved, With audio,, Most viewed, etc.. For example, see and hear I Had Never Heard the Word ( by Merredith Branscombe)
The craft of life story writing (links to excellent resources, Writers and Editors)
Creating a legacy for someone nearing death improves communication (results of a research study)
"Curiosity"—Another Name for History, and for Hope (Natalie Millman, Columbia University School of Social Work, 3-26-13)
A Creature of Comfort Builds a Home With a Constant Wanderer (Abigail Rasminsky, Hunker, 8-4-17)
Cry Across the Sound: a memoirist's chant (Beth Kephart, North American Review, 1-24-2020) "They died poor and unclaimed and before their lives began. ... They died lost to themselves or lost to others, loved or barely liked, in secret or on the street or without telling anyone that they were dying....We are to blame when we do not memorialize the living..." 
The Culture of Light (Brooke Shaden, Promoting Passion, 1-25-18) In a workshop teaching self-expression through photography and movement, students from underprivilaged communities are gathered in a a small room in West Bengal, India, learning how to use a camera, how to do self-portraiture, how to tell their own stories. This is a place where stories pile on top of stories so that every object, every location, is imbued with the deepest stories.

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Dad’s Love Letter to Mom on her 70th Birthday (on Julie Barton's website, 1-19-14). Mini-memoir as love letter.
The Daily Digi, devoted to digital scrapbooking (for do-it-yourselfers), has how-to articles, such as Planning an Album or Photobook and Printing Photobooks and Albums for Scrapbookers, by Liz of Paislee Press and Audrey Neal of Audacious Designs
Dancing in the Wonder For 102 Years: An Autobiography by Marilee Shapiro Asher with her cousin Linda Hansell. See story on All Things Considered: 102-Year-Old D.C. Artist Embraces A Century Of 'Dancing In The Wonder' (7-24-15)
The danger of a single story( much-viewed video, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, TEDGlobal, filmed July 2009) She tells how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.
Dark terrorism part 1: an unexpected prisoner of war (Swan Circle, UK, Mish J Holman's family history site). How my uncle Teddy, a merchant seaman, was captured by the Germans in WW2. Part 2: a tale from Changi Jail After one and a half years as prisoners of war, with no release in sight, the men of the Gloucester Castle were told they were leaving Lo Yang for Changi Jail in October 1944.
Dawn Thurston's advice for writing your memoirs(when you're not a professional writer). Wayne Groner's review of Dawn and Morris Thurston's book, Breathe Life into Your Life Story: How to Write a Story People Will Want to Read

D-Day stories
---My Grandfather’s Secret D-Day Journal (Barry Svrluga, Washington Post, 5-30-19) A powerful story in which voices from the past and present reveal a lifetime's emotional history, with a journal from the past bringing the horrors of D-Day vividly to life.
---History Interpreters Keep Alive Memories of Fallen D-Day Soldiers (Bill Hinchberger, Epoch Times, 6-5-19) Among the 26 U.S. military cemeteries and 30 memorials in more than a dozen countries administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC, a U.S. government agency), as the generations who survived World Wars I and II die off, cemeteries are making a transition from a mourning to a commemorative function, with more storytelling to keep memories of the people who fought those wars alive.

‘Dear Me’: A Novelist Writes to Her Future Self (Ann Napolitano, NY Times, 1-24-2020) “A different human wrote to the 24-year-old me than the one who wrote to the 44-year-old, but there are aspects of her in these later ages,” writes Napolitano, a novelist who writes to her future self every ten years. “One of the lessons in these letters is that our lives have chapters—I just happen to have an envelope to mark each of mine.”
Dear Photograph (take a picture of a picture from the past in the present--delightful!)
Determining Your Archetypes by Caroline Myss. Within our intimate support group, we each have four basic survival archetypes: the Child, the Victim, the Saboteur (The Guide, The Protector, The Facilitator), and the Prostitute. We each usually have about eight more archetypes, "as richly different as Vampire and Messiah," including the Actor/Storyteller, the Artist, the Addict, the Disciple, the Alchemist, the Avenger/Mercenary, the Celibate, the Coward, the Damsel/Knight (the romantic duo), the Hermit, the Judge, the Gambler (the Risk Taker), the Detective/Sleuth, the Goddess, the Femme Fatale, the Fool/Court Jester, the Healer, the Hero/Heroine, the King/Queen (see handout). She writes about the basic four in Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential.

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Detroit redefined: city hires America's first official 'chief storyteller' (Edward Helmore, The Guardian, 9-95-17) Irritated by the relentless focus on ruin porn, or pre-emptive stories about the city’s tech resurgence, Aaron Foley will attempt to offer a more nuanced portrait. The $75,000 position, believed to be the first of its kind in the US, was conceived to give Detroiters a way to connect and discuss issues that don’t get covered by the city’s traditional media.
Did Harry Burton Capture the Oldest Life Story on Record? (Fran Morley, APH blog, 3-22-17) Archaeologist Howard Carter made headline news around the world in 1922 when he uncovered the legendary tomb of King Tutankhamun, who ruled for just ten years before his death at about nineteen years of age. Burton’s magnificent photos have enabled a BBC documentary about the photographer who made Carter a star.
The Digital Afterlife of Lost Family Photos (Teju Cole, On Photography, NY Times Magazine, 4-26-16)
Dignity Therapy. For the Dying, A Chance to Rewrite Life (Alix Spiegel, Morning Edition, NPR 9-12-11). Listen or read transcript.
Dignity Therapy (section under How Storytelling Can Aid in Healing (Pat McNees's website on illness and dying)
Documentary Story Quilter Dr. Joan M.E. Gaither
Do History (a site that shows you how to piece together the past from fragments that have survived, with a case study of Martha Ballard)
Don't let big-mouthed relatives bury your family history (Larry Lehmer's Pass It On blog)
Doris Buffett publishes book on 'obscure' family history (Fredericksburg.com Business Browser). Doris's brother, Warren, is not so obscure.
Do You Know Me? It's Still Me (Sue Hessel, APH blog, 3-13-13), on helping dementia patients find and save their stories--and on helping caregivers see them as individuals and not their disease.

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A Duggar Revisits Her Religious Upbringing (Ruth Graham, NY Times, 2-10-23) Jinger Duggar Vuolo, who was one of 19 children on a popular reality show, becomes a powerful voice in a trend of young adults re-examining their own conservative Christian childhoods. Mrs. Vuolo writes in her book that what she is doing is not deconstruction, exactly, but “disentangling,” a process she compares to methodically working a clump of hardened putty out of a healthy head of hair. By “disentangling,” she has separated “the truth of Christianity from the unhealthy version I heard growing up,” she writes.
The Duo Who Documented the Birth of NYC’s Subway (Jessica Leigh Hester, Atlas Obscura, 3-6-2020) For brothers Pierre and Granville Pullis, photographing the sprawling system was intrepid, precise work—not unlike the construction itself. Excellent photos from a century ago.
Dying woman reveals family's gangster secret (Orange County Register, 7-18-11) "It's a raw last conversation. We've heard many life stories, war accounts, prisoner of war nightmares and confessions that folks share before going to the grave. Yet, I've never been vividly transported to the underworld of Prohibition....She recalled her early life with the Shelton brothers, who ran East St. Louis and Southern Illinois the way Al Capone ran Chicago." Follow-up story: Granddaughter glad to know gangster past (Orange County Register, 9-19-11)

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Early homesteading family’s daughter turns 100 (Stacy Moore, Hi-Desert Star 1-1-14)
Easing Into Memoirs (Kathryn Gullo, Scholastic, Write It Teacher Center, on teaching memoir-writing to children--perhaps equally helpful to adults)
Echos of Memory (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) An ongoing collection of survivor reflections, memories, and testimonies, written by Holocaust survivors in their own words.
The Ecstasy and the Agony of Being a Grandmother (Robin Marantz Henig, Rites of Passage, NY Times, 12-27-18) Becoming a grandmother was joyful and thrilling, but it was tempered by a stinging knowledge: that my grandchild’s life would unspool into a string of birthdays I will not live to see.
11 Ways Remarkable Storytellers Create New Worlds (Michael Simmons, Time, 6-10-15)

Esther at 101: “My life has been devoted to supporting civil rights.” (Susan Goodman, Acting Our Age: Women's Lives at 85+, 3-11-19) Susan Goodman has spent her life ensuring that older people don't get left out of our national narrative. This is one of several interesting profiles.
Eva Hart describes escaping the sinking Titanic, 1985 (5-minute video on YouTube)
Everybody has a tale to tell, and Ellie Kahn wants to hear and hand down as many as possible (Eitan Arom, Jewish Journal, 7-28-17) She makes her living as an oral historian, interviewing elderly Jewish folks and summing up their life stories in a book or video presentation.
Everyone has a memoir in them Elizabeth Floyd Mair, StarTribune, 8-12-11). "Marion Roach Smith recommends keeping details specific and seeing what happens if you write about big events obliquely, looking at them sidelong rather than straight on. She writes that in most cases she'd rather read an essay about dressing for a funeral than about sitting there listening to the eulogy."
The Examined Life (Lynn Vincent, World, 5-30-14) Vincent writes about personal history and historians, formerly "an “encore career” populated mainly with professionals from related fields like social work or journalism," increasingly a first career, facilitated by "the convergence of high-end home video and self-publishing options, as well as web-enabled genealogical research" and an interest in the lives of ordinary people--often recorded for the families of the subjects, who, left to their own devices, often fail to collect the stories of their elders while they are alive and able to remember and articulate them.
Everyone Has a Story to Tell:To write a memoir, cultivate the habit of listening to yourself. (Abigail Thomas, AARP, July 2008)

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A Facebook story: A mother's joy and a family's sorrow. Ian Shapira, Washington Post, has edited and annotated Shana Greatman Swers Facebook page to tell her story from pre-baby date nights to a medical odyssey that turned the ecstasy of childbirth into a struggle for life.
Face to Facebook with the Past. Erika Schickel (L.A. Times opinion page) on reconnecting in cyberspace with high school friends whose memories of facts and events threaten to pollute our personal storyline.
Family Brought Power to the People (Dave Bloom, ESRA Magazine) Family member Moshe Waldman,appointed chief engineer of the first main diesel-powered electric station in Tel Aviv, had to live in the power station to maintain it 24/7. Sent a power bill, he appealed the charges. "After much debate, the committee recommended to management that the bill be cancelled but it appears that they took the recommendation a step further and eventually management agreed that all workers of the company would be given free electricity as part of their salary package." When the number of employees grew from 100 to 10,000, the company came to regret the decision.
Family learns to tell a new kind of Thanksgiving story (Esmeralda Bermudez, Column One, Los Angeles Times, 11-27-19) "I’ve learned over the years that as a Salvadoran immigrant raised in this country, I’m the kind of American whose history can easily be erased. Up until a year ago, I knew nothing of my own roots, my mestizo-indigenous past....one of the main reasons why millions of Salvadorans live in brutal poverty until this day is because after El Salvador gained independence in the 1820s, the government, in a series of decrees, seized the communal lands of the indígenas and then forced them to work the land for dirt-cheap wages." Esmeralda Bermudez writes narrative stories about the lives of Latinos for the Los Angeles Times.
Family memoir captures Alberta readers award (Eric Volmers, Calgary Herald, 6-7-14) Calgary author receives $10,000 Alberta Readers' Choice Award for a story about his mother (Almost a Great Escape: A Found Story by Tyler Trafford)
Family Reunion (part 1) by Paige Adams Strickland. (Strickland was adopted at 18 months and grew up in Cincinnati during 1960s and 70s. After much searching, she found her birth family in 1987. This story about a reunion is one of many stories about adoption that you will find in the magazine Adoption Voices .
Family trees (separate section, below)
Fathers - invest in your past for your kids (Bob Brody, San Francisco Chronicle 6-18-11). Keep a journal about your kids' lives, suggests Brody, who is doing so. "In the process, you'll leave your children (or grandchildren) a keepsake even more precious than your wedding ring, an heirloom as valuable in its own right as your house, a tangible, heartfelt legacy for the next generation vastly better than any insurance policy." Brody blogs at Letters to My Kids.
A Father's Last Gift to His Son (Meghan Vigeant, Stories to Tell, 6-13-17) While planning to record them, she caught some of her father's last stories as they rode in a car and wrote them down. Lesson learned: Record them as soon as you think of it, because you never know.
Father’s legacy of service, kindness (Betty Enright, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6-23-14). After his death, she learns of wartime kills her father could not tell his family about, despite awards he received for heroism.
The Father You Choose: Denial or deification? Remembering a roguish desert rat (Adair Lara, San Francisco Chronicle 6-13-04)
Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky by Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer. See also Horse-Riding Librarians Were the Great Depression’s Bookmobiles (Eliza McGraw, Smithsonian, 6-21-17) During the Great Depression, a New Deal program brought books to Kentuckians living in remote areas. And The Women Who Rode Miles on Horseback to Deliver Library Books (Anike Burgess, Atlas Obscura, 8-31-17), and Female Librarians on Horseback Delivering Books, ca. 1930s (Deb Street, History Daily).
15 of the Rarest (And Most Mind Blowing) Photographs in History
50 stories of change (Equitas, 1967-2017). "We are human rights changemakers. Discover the stories of 50 inspiring human rights leaders who have changed lives around the world through human rights education with Equitas’ support."
Fifty Things About My Mother (Laura Lynn Brown, Slate, 5-9-14) A Mother's Day essay about a mother after she's gone. Wonderful way to gather random memories.
A final toast for the Doolittle Raiders (Bob Greene, CNN, 4-14-13)
Filter Fish (Oliver Sacks, New Yorker, 9-14-15, written as he was dying) "Gefilte fish will usher me out of this life, as it ushered me into it, eighty-two years ago."

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Figuring Out What’s Most Important to Share (Debbie Brodsky, DMB Pictures, 8-8-19) Delightful child's story, and four categories of stories to think about: Family History, World History, Values/Family Values, A Person's Essence.
Finding My Father’s Auschwitz File (Allen Hershkowitz, New York Review of Books, 1-25-19) A detailed account of what a long-term survivor of the Nazi concentration camps went through and how he survived.
Finding New Homes for Old Collectibles (Taylor Whitney, Personal Historians blog, 12-19-16) "My storage unit contains what would be in my garage if I had one: my mother’s history, my grandmother’s history, and my history. But did I really need to keep 300-plus 7 UP bottles and related memorabilia... Using my research skills, I found the Seven-Up Bottlers Association and Laura Grott" and through her the Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco, Texas. DONATE TO A MUSEUM! Now Taylor heads "Preserving the Past."
Finding Our Way: From Courtrooms to Living Rooms (Deborah Perham, APH, The Life Story People blog, 1-31-14) The personal history business has become a field court reporters easily relate to and transition into. What they have in common.
First Person Festival of Memoir and Documentary Art (Philadelphia, annual event)
First Person Project brings a new take on history (Stephen May, The Red&Black, 4-18-13). This project (in University of Georgia’s Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies) lets ordinary people come into the facility and interview each other in pairs, usually friends or family, about their personal history and experiences with larger historical and cultural events.
5,000 residents of 'dying city' Grand Rapids lip-dub song about the Day the Music Died (a/k/a The Grand Rapids Lip Dub -- a lively and moving 8.5-minute video that captures both the city and its community spirit --posted by Caryn Ganz 5-31-11 on YahooMusic)
Florence Wolfson Howitt, Famed for Rediscovered Diary, Dies at 96 (Dennis Hevesi, NY Times 3-7-12, obituary about diarist featured in Lily Koppel's The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal)
For Better or for Worse comic strip about a personal photo history's value after memory loss (Lynn Johnston, strip ID 7564, date 2008-08-03, and strip ID 7470, 2006-10-15)
For Dying People, A Chance To Shape Their Legacy (Julie Bierach, Weekend Edition, NPR, 4-9-11). Imagine that you've just been told you have only a short time to live. What would you want your family and community to remember most about you? In St. Louis, a hospice program called Lumina helps patients leave statements that go beyond a simple goodbye.

Foresights and Hindsights (Harry Zubkoff's blog of his own personal history, with entries such as McCarthy-era case in our Greenbelt (Maryland) hometown and Jews playing poker, a tribute.
The Forgiveness Project a UK-based charity that uses real stories of victims and perpetrators of crime and violence to help people explore ideas around forgiveness and to encourage people to consider alternatives to resentment, retaliation and revenge. See The Forgiveness Toolbox (going beyond understanding, building bridges, empathy, curiosity & courage, accepting responsibility, resisting conformity, beyond resentment) “The core issue when dealing with violent extremism is recognizing that we all dehumanize each other.” Read real stories of victims and perpetrators. (search by country and by topic). Topics include bereavement, knife crime, restorative justice, conflict and war, political violence, sexual abuse, perpetrator, victim/survivor). Here, for example, is the story of Sammy Rangel, a perpetrator and victim of violence--"I went into prison as a street punk and came out as a brutal leader with a killer mentality.”
For 92 years my father buried his feelings. Then he started Zooming. (Laura Fraser, Outlook, WaPo, 2-5-21) Forced by a pandemic to live by video, a once distant dad unlocks his memories and emotions.

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For the love of stuff ( Lee Randall, Aeon). "I am my things and my things are me. I don’t want to give them up: they are narrative prompts for the story of my life." "Who are my people? Open my front door and the first thing you notice are books. They line the walls, hover overhead, and stack up on tables. Each is a chunk of autobiography, a clue to who I was while reading it..."
For 20 years, a Tennessee baby thief kidnapped more than 5,000 children from the streets, hospitals, and shanty towns of Memphis. Now, 70 years later, survivors of her 'house of horrors' are confronting the past. (Erika Celeste, Insider, Yahoo News, 12-4-19) "For over 20 years, Georgia Tann ran a lucrative child-kidnapping and -adoption ring. As the executive director of the Tennessee Children's Home Society, Tann got rich by stealing babies from their parents and adopting them out to unsuspecting families. More than 5,000 children were snatched by Tann, and at least 500 children are believed to have died while under her care. Surviving adoptees from the Children's Home Society spoke with Insider about what they endured and how they found out who they really were."
Found in Translation (Tyler Foggatt, New Yorker, 12-23-19) Lithuanian cartoonist and translator iglė Anušauskaitė travelled to New York to find missing sections of young Jews’ autobiographies, hidden in Vilnius during the Second World War. A contest for the “best Jewish youth autobiography,” open to young men and women, was interrupted by Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939. A group of Jews managed to smuggle out thousands of texts. See A Trove of Yiddish Artifacts Rescued From the Nazis, and Oblivion (Joseph Berger, NY Times, 10-18-17) "Many of the items, the experts said, offer glimpses into the hardscrabble everyday lives of the Jews of Eastern Europe when the region, not Israel or the Lower East Side, was the center of the Jewish world."
4 Easy Ways to Find Your Way into Life Story Writing (Dawn M. Roode, Modern Heirloom Books, 1-27-2020) Don’t let the idea of embarking on a full-blown memoir intimidate you; rather, start by writing your way in, one memory at a time. Diagram your life. Brainstorm persistent memories. Use writing prompts (or write the stories photographs prompt). Revisit the past, in various ways.
Foxfire, a magazine and a project begun as part of "experiential education" by students at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School, a private secondary education school in Georgia. Students interviewed local people for oral histories and to capture and preserve crafts and other aspects of Appalachian culture. Eliot Wigginton, who developed the Foxfire educational philosophy, gathered Foxfire articles into an anthology, The Foxfire Book: Hog Dressing, Log Cabin Building, Mountain Crafts and Foods, Planting by the Signs, Snake Lore, Hunting Tales, Faith Healing, Moonshining, and Other Affairs of Plain Living, which became a bestseller. Eleven more followed.

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Frank McCourt and the American Memoir (Jennifer Schuessler, NYTimes, 7-25-09)
The Freedmen's Bureau Project. Emancipation freed nearly 4 million slaves. The Freedmen’s Bureau was established to help transition them from slavery to citizenship, providing food, housing, education, and medical care. And for the first time in U.S. history, the names of those individuals were systematically recorded and preserved for future generations. Watch the video to learn more. Read also 1.5 Million Slavery Era Documents Will Be Digitized, Helping African Americans to Learn About Their Lost Ancestors (Open Culture, 6-24-15) The Freedmen’s Bureau Project is a new initiative spearheaded by the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Frequently asked questions about personal history work (APH, The Life Story People)
French Researchers Want To Know How People Will Remember the 2015 Paris Attacks (Huffpost, 11-13-16)

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From Hiroko to Susie: The Untold Stories of Japanese War Brides (Kathryn Tolbert, WaPo, 9-22-16--article plus video) They married the enemy, then created uniquely American lives. After World War II, tens of thousands of Japanese women moved with their new husbands, American soldiers, and assimilated into American culture. Tied to film“Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides."
From School Files of an Earlier Era (Susan Dominus on journalist/collector Paul Lukas's rescue of a filing cabinet about to be thrown out, containing girls' school records from the 1910s to the 1930s, and what he did with them, NY Times 9-13-10)."What historical record detects is scattershot; we can hardly guess ourselves what elements of our lives will be of interest down the road, whether what seems significant now will go unobserved, be deemed irrelevant, or be too subtle for documents to detect."

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Future Elder Caregivers Should Learn Life Histories. The social work and history departments at the University of South Florida designed a project to introduce the concept of "person-centered care": Working with a class of 22 undergraduates, 23 participants from a residential facility for seniors shared their life stories in various ways (talking, creating a scrapbook, being videotaped for an oral history, etc.).
A Future Without Personal History (Michael Moore-Jones, Read-Write, 1-19-11). A sixteen-year-old who has never sent a letter, wonders what it will be like to have no letters documenting his life -- as his digital records disappear.


Games we used to play This list, with descriptions, brought back old memories to me and may to you as well.
Genealogical and historical resources (links to main useful sites in several categories)
Genealogy and history (a fascinating miscellaneous collection of useful links)
Genealogy and family trees: The Big Picture (a good place to start)
German grandchildren of Nazis delve into past (Kirsten Grieshaber,Associated Press 5-14-11).
Getaway Driver (Lauren Hough, Texas Highways, March 2022) A grandpa’s tall tale about Bonnie & Clyde’s escapades in Shamrock sends a Panhandle native back to the scene of the crime.
Getting Personal: An estate plan should include stocks, bonds — and a life story (Ed McCarthy, Wealth Manager magazine, 5-1-07)
The gift of an ordinary day (Katrina Kenison). Scroll down and watch the video. Have a hankie nearby.
The gift of a personal historian. Give someone (yourself, maybe?) the gift of a personal historian, to help with your life story.
Going Home Again (David Brooks, NY Times, 3-20-14). On Sting's TED talk: "Sting’s talk was a reminder to go forward with a backward glance, to go one layer down into self and then after self-confrontation, to leap forward out of self. History is filled with revivals, led by people who were reinvigorated for the future by a reckoning with the past."
The golden era of the pneumatic tube — when it carried fast food, people, and cats (Phil Edwards, Vox, 6-24-15) For decades, these tubes — which use compressed air or a vacuum to move all sorts of capsules — carried weird and wonderful things.
GRAB & GO KIT: Is yours ready? (Annie Payne, APH, 7-12-13) Keep near your door for that natural disaster that forces you to leave home quickly. In your grab & go kit keep the the relevant papers of your life that, if lost, would be hard to replace; insurance papers, legal documents, and financial records, yes; but also family history mementos and items of special family significance. Annie tells how to organize.
Grandma Gatewood: The First Woman to Solo Hike the Entire Appalachian Trail (Outdoors, 3-26-21) In 1955, Emma “Grandma” Gatewood told her children that she was “going for a hike in the woods” – little did they know that this hike would be the entire 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail (A.T.), the longest hiking-only footpath in the world. She did not tell her children where she was going; she was worried that her kids would try to stop her. She was 67 years old at the time, a mother of 11, a grandmother of 23, and a survivor of more than 30 years of domestic abuse.
Grandma's Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes (Dan Hurley, Discover, 6-11-13). Fascinating. Your ancestors' lousy childhoods or excellent adventures might change your personality, bequeathing anxiety or resilience by altering the epigenetic expressions of genes in the brain.
Grandma Taught Our Son a Lot (Diane J. Strickland, Globe & Mail, on the value of cross-generational life story telling)
Granny's Life Story (one of several YouTube videos, labeled Mastanamma, Country Foods) On this video, 106-year-old Indian woman who cooks in open on wood fires and has a thousand rural India recipes in her head (which she is demonstrating and her great-grandson is videotaping). This video focuses more on her life story. (H/T Dhyan Atkinson)
Great interview questions (scripts for interviewing members of your family)
The Great Thanksgiving Listen is a national movement that empowers young people—and people of all ages—to create an oral history of the contemporary United States by recording an interview with an elder using the free StoryCorps App. To date, thousands of high schools from all 50 states have participated and preserved more than 75,000 interviews, providing families with a priceless piece of personal history.
Greenwich Library holds new memoir-writing courses (Ken Borsuk, Greenwich Time, 1-27-16). Because so many people wanted to take the class again, registration became restricted to first-timers. People who had taken the class before formed their own memoir writing groups. Former New York Times editor Joan Motyka led the beginner groups.
Griots and Griottes: Keepers of History (Joanna Lott, Penn State Research May 2002). In many parts of West Africa, the job of preserving people's stories is carried out by the griots, masters of words and music.
Growing Up and Old in the Same Little Neighborhood (Manny Fernandez, NYTimes, 1-11-11) tells one of 8 million stories in the Naked City, this one of John Maloney, who stayed put in his neighborhood of Windsor Terrace, in Brooklyn.
Grub Street Memoir Project (Boston)

Guided Autobiography workshops, developed by James Birrens, now taught in person and online. Write the story of your life -- two pages at a time. I took Cheryl and Anita's trainer instruction course online and was surprised to find myself bonding with the other participants. Anita and Cheryl have stopped working together on the instructor training. I now lead Guided Autobiography groups in Bethesda, Maryland. Here are stories about other GAB groups, as members call them:
---Autobiography class aims to help seniors forge connections through stories (Brittany Woolsey, Huntington Beach Independent, 6-29-15) "Part of the beauty of guided autobiography, and why I like it, is that not only do people write about a certain time in their lives, but then when people come together, they share their stories. That's when the magic happens."
---Doing Guided Autobiography (GAB) Online (YouTube video, Wendy Bancroft's online group, 4-24-18). This really captures how a group can interact online.
---Guided Autobiography: Small Group Sharing (YouTube video)
---VOICES: Reflections on the Guided Autobiography Experience
---Urban Senior: Guided Autobiography (Sandra thomas, Vancouver Courier, 9-1-16 Wendy Bancroft helps people of all ages, but especially older adults, keep their memories alive through stories, which she guides them to write — two pages at a time. Excellent Q&A.
---Telling the Stories of Life through Guided Autobiography Groups by James E. Birren & Kathryn N. Cochran. Provides sensitizing questions which help participants write on life themes (as opposed to life stages): Branching points. Family. Money. Work. Health and body. Sexual identity. Experiences with and about death. Your spiritual life and values. Your goals and aspirations.
---Writing Your Legacy: The Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting Your Life Story by Richard Campbell and Cheryl Svensson. More themes for Guided Autobiography groups.
---Memoirs: Sharing a Life Story (Susan Christian Goulding, Orange County Register, 3-22-16) Samples from one GAB group.

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The Harlem Hellfighters were captured in a famous photo. Now a retired archivist has uncovered their stories. (Michael E. Ruane, WaPo, 11-11-17) The New York City-based unit was famous for its prowess in battle and the indignities it suffered at the hands of many white officers. Discrimination was so bad that the regiment was shunted off to fight with the French army and equipped with French helmets and French rifles, historians say. At the time, many Americans, including military leaders, believed African Americans lacked the intelligence and courage to fight....The 369th proved the skeptics wrong and went on to achieve a remarkable combat record." Here's their story in more detail: “And They Thought We Couldn’t Fight:”* Remembering the Nine Soldiers in a World War I Photograph (Barbara Lewis Burger, National Archives blog, 11-7-17) How the archivist doggedly pursued their stories and what their stories were.
Harry Lamin's letters from World War I, a blog on which letters from an English soldier are posted by his grandson exactly 90 years after they were written; now the son has died and the grandson has taken over, but there are also links to new blogs that this one inspired. Maybe it will be a model for someone you know!
Have a Story to Tell? Your Personal Memoirist Is Here (Alina Tugend, Entrepreneurship, NY Times, 8-31-16) Your generation's stories, if not written or otherwise recorded, will be lost. There's a whole new line of one-person enterprises that help individuals and families tell their stories. Members of the Association of Personal Historians (which folded in May 2017) will help you tell your life (or company) story--in print, audio, or video, or all three.
Have You Heard? Gossip Turns Out to Serve a Purpose Benedict Carey, Science, NY Times, 8-16-05)
• The health benefits of storytelling for the elderly (Jane Oppermann, Chicago Daily Herald). This is a placeholder, as the link no longer works. Calling Jane Oppermann: Is the story available elsewhere?
Hear, Hear. What Do You Hear in the Places Around You? (Sue Hessel, Association of Personal Historians blog, 1-11-15). A project in which students and community members in LaCrosse found and/or audio-recorded interviews about specific places downtown. Ariel Beaujot: “Most people grew up with history that emphasized dates of when a building was constructed or a war was conducted. People represented in history texts were famous or were political and military leaders. With this partnership between UW-L and Downtown Main Street Inc., we take history to the street level, collecting stories of people who worked, lived and shopped in downtown La Crosse.”
The heart and craft of lifestory writing (Sharon Lippincott's blog--and check her blogroll for more of the same)
Heirloom that survived the Nazis (Charlotte Sutton, St. Petersburg Times, conveys a family's story of survival in a story about a piece of furniture)
The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers And Their Fight For Recognition (an excerpt on 1A from the book The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers by Elizabeth Cobbs) The story of how America’s first women soldiers helped win World War I, earned the vote, and fought the U.S. Army. They were deployed to France to man the telephone switchboard (when General John Pershing discovered that inexperienced doughboys were unable to keep him connected with troops under fire, only to be denied veterans' benefits upon return to civilian life. This is the story of their 60-year fight for full rights.

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Helpers can jog your memoirs . Can't find the words, or the time, to record your life story? You can hire a ghostwriter or scrapbook artist to do the hard work for you. (Dianna Marder, Philadelphia Inquirer, philly.com 11-12-04, on your life, by personal historians)
Her blueprint for change by Subash Jeyan (The Hindu 8-6-11). Nothing can be started if one decides that the task is mammoth and it cannot be taken up, says author and researcher C.S. Lakshmi who co-founded SPARROW (along with Neera Desai and Maithreyi Krishna Raj) to archive women's lives, their history and struggles. (Sparrow is a sound and picture archive for research on women --archiving print, oral history, and pictorial material)
Her Happiness Jar (Elizabeth Gilbert) In a big old glass apothecary jar she found in an antique store, Elizabeth Gilbert, every day, aat the end of the day, writes down the happiest moment of her day and puts it in the jar. Some people need more instruction about that--more rules.
Hey, at Least You Can Be Virtually Immortal (J. Peder Zane, NY Times, 3-12-13). Digital devices and online services and service providers can help you leave a record of your life for younger and future generations, once you sort through it all.
Historically Black (Washington Post and American Public Media Reports). This podcast series brings to life the "people's museum" of personal objects, family photos and more donated to the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American History and Culture. Listen, for example, to Two family histories show how some stories are deeper than they appear. Some episodes led to unexpected places.
Historic vault contents opened, reveal... skates? (CBC News, 1-26-17) Documents and developer's records found from the 1960s appear to belong to a building designer.
History of Toronto's Chinese community (Metro Morning, CBC, 10-20-17) If it wasn't for Arlene Chan's work, we would know very little about the history of Toronto's Chinese community. Listen to audio recordings.
History’s ‘Unknown Woman.’ Few cared who she was or what she accomplished. (Petula Dvorak, WashPost, 7-20-17) It’s not clear how Mary K. Goddard, who printed the signed copies of the Declaration of Independence, spelled her middle name or what she looked like. "The same thing happened to the heroic rider who turned a decisive battle during the American Revolution by riding through the night to alert the troops that the British were coming. "No, not Paul Revere. His ride and the way he spelled his name was well documented because he became a journalist after the war and regaled (and regaled) the story. "Sybil Ludington was 16 when in 1777 she rode twice as long as Revere had, from New York to Connecticut, to alert the militia that British troops were about to attack a supply depot."
‘His voice became my constant companion’ – how Dan Johnson kept his dad’s memory alive ( Dan Johnson, BBC, 11-22-22) When BBC correspondent Dan Johnson posted on Twitter shortly before Christmas that he had finished editing a project capturing the voice of his late father Graeme, he was surprised by the reaction. It made him consider the importance of preserving the memories of loved ones. "I'll never hear my dad as an old man, the tales he would have told his grandsons, the new interests he'd have immersed himself in. But he left me his snorting, sniggering laughter, the traces of his Hull accent still stretching out his words, and his friendly voice preserved in all its rich, gentle warmth."
Home Movie Day(an annual celebration of amateur films and filmmaking)
Horse-Riding Librarians Were the Great Depression’s Bookmobile (Eliza McGraw), Smithsonian, 6-21-17) During the Great Depression, a New Deal program brought books to Kentuckians living in remote areas.
How a 50-year-old photo mystery was solved. Well, at least half of it. (Manuel Roig-Franzia, Wash Post, 7-20-18) 'Late one night inside an art-filled home on a tranquil parkway in Silver Spring, Md., a woman decided to take her laptop to bed with her. She clicked on a story about an old picture. Her eyes widened. “No,” Michele Holzman thought to herself. “That couldn’t be me. Could it?” The article, published in late May in The Washington Post, told the story of a remarkable photograph taken by a teenager at the Poor People’s Campaign demonstration that took over the Mall in the summer of 1968. The image — depicting a young African American man and a young white woman splashing through the Lincoln Memorial’s Reflecting Pool — had never been published.'
How a Grieving Daughter Led a Theater Reporter to an Unexpected Story (Michael Paulson, NY Times, 7-25-17) The box of treasures James Houghton, a major figure in the nonprofit theater world, left his daughter -- with photos: He Spent His Life in Theater. Here’s What He Left Behind. (7-20-17)
How a 7-year-old Aleppo girl on Twitter became our era’s Anne Frank (Caitlin Gibson, Washington Post, 12-6-16) "Anne Frank was already gone by the time she became famous, and she never could have known that tens of millions would read her diary. But Bana, her mother has told journalists, always understood that strangers were following her words. Her messages aren’t private musings, but a public cry for help."

How a War in the Middle East Changed My Family in the Philippines Forever (Cinelle Barnes, Catapult, 8-7-18) Papa left the summer I turned eight. The emotional toll of a wife who blamed him was too much to carry along with the burden of repatriating thousands of Filipino citizens.
How Dead Letters Brought My Family to Life: Jessica Pearce Rotondi on the Family Saga of Her Missing Uncle (LitHub, 4-21-2020) From her book What We Inherit: A Secret War and a Family's Search for Answers To me, nonfiction is an act of translation, and the task for the writer is to bring dead letters to life."
How Humans of New York Got Started (Mark Mann, SiteBuilder Report, 11-18-15)
How I failed my father (Bob Brody, Newsday, 6-21-15)
How memoirs took over the literary world (Laura Miller, Salon.com, reviewing Ben Yagoda's Memoir: A History)
How One Former Marine Used Ballet To Spread Veterans' Stories Around The World (Priscilla Frank, Huff Post, 3-3-15)
How Stories Deceive by Maria Konnikova (New Yorker, 12-29-15) makes it clear how we can be conned by a good storyteller. "When we’re immersed in a story, we let down our guard. We focus in a way we wouldn’t if someone were just trying to catch us with a random phrase or picture or interaction....In those moments of fully immersed attention, we may absorb things, under the radar, that would normally pass us by or put us on high alert. Later, we may find ourselves thinking that some idea or concept is coming from our own brilliant, fertile minds, when, in reality, it was planted there by the story we just heard or read." From the book The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every Timeby Maria Konnikova. Excellent insights into the power of storytelling.
How Smyrna went from ‘redneck town’ to growing economic powerhouse (Haisten Willis, Cobb County Courier, 3-15-18) Brief history of a small town that got a makeover, drawing on William Marchione's book A Brief History of Smyrna, Georgia.
How the 'Green Book' Saved Black Lives on the Road (Alexander Nazaryan, Newsweek, 3-9017) Video and story, read with music in the background. Do you know what a Sunset Town is? Or how dangerous "driving while black" has always been?
How to Become Your Company's Storyteller(Jennifer Wang, Entrepreneur, 1-10-12). A company can position itself against giant competitors through storytelling. "A lot of business owners fall in love with their own product and forget that other people need to be romanced by a story," Bisceglia says. "A brand should make you feel something when you say the name. Without context, it's just stuff."
How to Collect Your Own Family Folklore (guide from Smithsonian Office of Folklife Programs), including Sample Interview Questions
How to Do Your Own Life Review (video of Jane Fonda, 2 minutes, on Oprah show)
Here’s how to make a special photo book for a milestone event this year (Monica Lee, Clicago Storywerks, 1-9-15)

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How Intergenerational Narratives Inform Family Identity (Ashley M. Smith, on Cider Spoon Stories, 11-7-18) Research shows that narrative skills are largely shaped by habitual verbal interaction between parents and children. In other words, it is in talking to their parents (or other caregivers) that kids learn how to tell stories....And teachers have demonstrated how incorporating family history into social studies teaching likewise leads to historical empathy—a direct result of connecting the student’s own family and life to historical events."
How storytelling can help dementia patients (Comfortdying.com) A roundup of articles about how storytelling can improve caregiving for patients with Alzheimer's and other forms of demential.
How to Apply Makeup (Nicole Shawan Junior, Guernica, 2-24-22) "I dig at my face, my chest, my arms, and my back as deep as I can. I squeeze every swollen mound, no matter how full or slight. When I finish, I curse myself for how ugly I am, for how ugly I make myself, for my open sores, for the blemishes that pock my entire body, for the money I spend every month on makeup, for picking without washing my hands first."
How to Create a Timeline: The Power of Re-working Your Life’s Story, Part 1 of 2 and The Timeline Exercise: Creating Shifts & Healing Meanings in Your Life Story, Part 2 of 2 (Athena Stalk, Neuroscience and Relationships, Psych Central, 10-21-18)
How to edit your family history so it will make sense 20 years from now (Dawn Roode, Modern Heirloom Books, 7-31-23) 1) Be explicit with family members’ surnames and ages. 2) Orient your reader with explanatory help throughout your family history. 3) Provide graphic “cheat sheets” to make things easy for your readers.
How to Listen When You Disagree: A Lesson from the Republican National Convention (Benjamin Mathes, founder of the Free Listening Project, Urban Confessional, 7-27-16) When you find yourself in disagreement, just ask one question: “Will you tell me your story? I’d love to know how you came to this point of view.” (“Hear the biography, not the ideology. ”)
How to Pass Along Values and Life Lessons to Heirs (Robert Powell, Wall Street Journal, 12-7-12)
How to preserve the stories behind your family heirlooms (Dawn Roode, Modern Heirloom Books, 7-17-23)
How to Preserve Your Family Legacy (WSJ video, 8-14-15) The WSJ interviews Iris Wagner on the process of creating a personal documentary. She explains that it may take from a few weeks to a couple of years, and one client says that while he may at first be speaking to his parents, he is also talking about his life for his grandchildren and later heirs.
How to Recover from a Happy Childhood (Rivka Galchen, New Yorker, 10-3-22) Like many children, I didn’t really understand what my parents were like. But I collected clues. A good model for how to remember one's parents and one's childhood.
How to Write a Memoir: Be yourself, speak freely, and think small (William Zinsser, American Scholar, Spring 2006)
How To Use Photographs as Prompts for Writing Life Stories (Dawn Roode, Modern Heirloom Books)
How to Write Memoirs (BBC website)
* How to Write Your Memoir (Joe Kita, Reader's Digest -- slow-loading, but worth it)
How will you be remembered? Here’s how to adopt a ‘legacy’ mindset (Katherine Kam, Washington Post, 1-14-24) Building a legacy — which benefits others and will survive beyond your lifetime — encourages you to think deeper and longer term. 'Don’t wait to pass down a legacy', said Nancy Sharp, an author and story coach in Denver. She guided Kaplan in creating his life letter, which some people also call an ethical will. These aren’t legal documents, but rather, a snapshot document to capture one’s essence through the recollection of meaningful experiences, key family history, values, life lessons, and hopes and wishes for future generations.“Ideally, this should be shared during one’s lifetime,” Sharp said. 

       See also What is an ethical will? What is a legacy letter? Links to many articles on the topic of legacy and remembrance.
The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey by Dawn Anahid MacKeen. A hundred years later, Stepan Miskjian's granddaughter discovers her grandfather's long-long journals of trying to stay alive through the Turkish genocide of Armenians as World War I rages. This book alternates his memories of that horrible time (well told) and her story of retracing his steps (not quite so interesting).
Huge 'Legacy Gaps' In Baby Boomers' and Parents' Views of Inheritance (Allianz study)

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I Can Still Hear My Father’s Voice (Rafael Warnock, NY Times, 6-15-22) Pvt. Jonathan Warnock was a walking sermon. See also ‘This Is Jim Crow in New Clothes’ (Jamelle Bouie, NY Times, 3-19-21) Senator Raphael Warnock’s first speech on the Senate floor brought the past into the present. “We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we have seen since the Jim Crow era,” Warnock said, pointing to a wave of bills that limit voting in Republican-controlled states like Arizona and his own Georgia. “This is Jim Crow in new clothes.” A mini-civil rights history.
I can't sell that! It belonged to my great-grandmother! (Clémence R. Scouten, Freeman's Auction) On the endowment effect, loss aversion, sentimental value, and storage costs.
I cleaned out my mother’s things years after she died. As I lost the clutter, I gained clarity. (Blake Turck, WaPo, 5-8-21) "...after weeks of sorting, I finally settled on what to keep, what to say goodbye to. As I lost the clutter, in return, I gained clarity. I found solace in finally understanding that stuff and memories were two very different things. And the memory of my mother was something that could never be thrown away, because it lived inside me.
I delivered my own baby (Rachel Fielding, as told to Emily Cunningham, The Guardian, 7-6-12). "For the first time it dawned on me: I was going to give birth, on my own, in the kitchen, in a matter of seconds."
‘I’m not just one thing’: At the Human Library, labels and tears are shed as people open up about their life stories (Taylor Telford, WaPo, 8-19-18) An event at the local public library was an offshoot of the , a worldwide nonprofit group where people from the community serve as “books,” sharing their real-life stories and struggles. Today’s ­titles were wide-ranging: an incest survivor; a woman suffering post-traumatic stress disorder; a gay, transgender Saudi Arabian man; a first-generation Guatemalan immigrant. Posters invited participants to “unjudge someone.”
The Implications of plot lines in narrative and memoir. Victoria Costello's essay on storytelling approaches to illness narratives (Nieman StoryBoard 7-11-11). Costello (the author of A Lethal Inheritance: A Mother Uncovers the Science Behind Three Generations of Mental Illness ) writes about illness narrative as an interactive experience, and about three common plotlines: the restitution narrative, the chaos narrative, and the quest narrative.
In Andalusia, On the Trail of Inherited Memories. Doreen Carvajal (NY Times essay, 8-17-12), an essay by the author of The Forgetting River: A Modern Tale of Survival, Identity, and the Inquisition, an investigative memoir by a Catholic woman raised in Costa Rica and California, about the secrets a family of Sephardic Jews kept to stay alive during and after the Inquisition.
Inheriting Family Heirlooms, and the Stories of Migration They Tell (Hannah S. Pressman, Hadassah Magazine, 3-4-2020) Despite our era’s embrace of Marie Kondo and the new religion of decluttering, an argument can still be made for the power of physical items to convey a sense of places and people left behind.
In memoirs, varieties of truth (William Loizeaux, Christian Science Monitor, 2-8-06, writing "If the critical elements of a first-person narrative arise from conjecture, informed imagination, or imagination that contradicts known fact, then you better call it fiction....The line that should be most closely tended is the line of trust between writer and reader."
Inheriting my father’s tradition (Ed Nakfoor, Hometownlife, 3-18-16) "I regret not knowing more about Howard, like I regret not chronicling more of my dad’s life. There’s always next week. Until there isn’t."
In Skokie, Memories Of Genocide Retold In Stories Of Everyday Objects (Julia M. Klein, Jewish Forward, 10-24-18) A traveling exhibition originating at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, in Skokie, a Chicago suburb known for its high concentration of Holocaust survivors, makes these linkages explicit and encourages reflection on how objects acquire and change meaning.
The Intergenerational Self. A wonderful series of blog posts by Julianne Mangin, author of Secrets of the Asylum: Norwich State Hospital and My Family. Other blog posts in the series include Norwich State Hospital During World War II (1-1-18, War causes a staffing crisis at the hospital), Not Your Typical Grandparents (an understatement, 12-8-17), and Architecture of Norwich State Hospital (because form reflects function, 11-30-17). She writes: "I started out, during my transformation from reluctant genealogist to ardent family historian, just wanting a narrative of my mother's family history that made sense. I hoped that knowing what had really happened to Mom and Grandma would help me understand why they sometimes behaved in ways that were emotionally hurtful: Grandma toward Mom, and Mom toward me."

Intergenerational trauma
---Stitching Together an Artist’s Meditations on Genocide and Trauma (Monica Uszerowicz, Hyperallergic, 1-25-18) A short film, timed for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, offers an insightful portrait of fabric artist Linda Friedman Schmidt, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. “Too many people in this world are treated like rags: used, discarded, disrespected, unwanted...I transform the worthless into worthy, the bad into good, give permanence to the disposable through art."
---Study of Holocaust survivors finds trauma passed on to children's genes (Helen Thomson, The Guardian, 8-21-15) New finding is clear example in humans of the theory of epigenetic inheritance: the idea that environmental factors can affect the genes of your children
---Traces of Genetic Trauma Can Be Tweaked (Erika Beras, Scientific American, 4-15-17) A new wrinkle to the story: “The effects of trauma which can be transmitted to the offspring can be reversed by a positive experience.”

Interview with personal historian Stephanie Kadel Taras (audiofile) on Ann Arbor program "Everything Elderly," about what a personal historian does,and why, and what you might get if you hire her. (Each personal historian is different.) Here's the program description.
Introducing "Talk to Me": Authentic Conversations Between Parents and Children
In Twilight of Life, Civil Rights Activists Feel ‘Urgency to Tell Our History’ (Eduardo Medina, NY Times, 2-19-22) Young people who marched and organized during the civil rights movement are now in their 70s and 80s. With fewer and fewer remaining, oral historians rush to record their stories. Among them, David Cline, a history professor at San Diego State University, was one of the oral historians asked in 2013 to conduct interviews for the Civil Rights History Project, a joint initiative by the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Ira Glass on Storytelling (Wimp.com video)
I Remember It Well, lyrics to the song from "Gigi" (Alan Jay Lerner / Frederick Loewe) as sung by Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold--capturing the different ways a couple may remember things.
Is This Your Mother? This Facebook campaign to identify people in a cache of lost family photos, became Lost and Found: The Search for Harry and Edna (an exhibit and an online story--read the chapters tagged at top of website)
It’s Healthy to Put a Good Spin on Your Life (Elizabeth Bernstein, WSJ, 4-6-15) How we construct personal narratives has a major impact on our mental well-being. One study looked at four themes in people's narratives: Agency (Do you see yourself as able to influence and respond to events in yr life or are you battered by external forces?); Communion (are you connected to others, or disconnected?); Redemptions (do you take a negative experience and find a positive outcome?); and Contamination (do you tell stories of good things turning bad?). Read the story to learn what they found.
It's Not Just About You (Adam Hochschild, First Person Singular, Nieman Storyboard Digest, on making memoirs reader-oriented, not ego-oriented) "A first thing to ask yourself about personal narrative is: What portion of my experience will resonate with other people?"
It’s Science: Having Sisters Helps You Become A Better Person (Annamarya Scaccia, HuffPost, via Motherly, 3-9-18) Turns out a sister could teach you a lot about conflict-resolution, empathy and how to nurture others. Send this to your sister, as my brother did to me!
I was in Nice — here is what I saw and didn’t see (Richard Campbell, Hamilton Spectator, 7-22-16) "When the fireworks ended, the carnage began where I had walked moments earlier...Later I would look at the photos I took and see the top of the truck just behind it. It had been halted — and the driver killed — just one short block away."


Japanese Internment Camps During World War II
Behind a WWII internment camp’s barbed wire, two Scouts forged a bond. It endured when they both entered Congress. (Lori Aratani, Wash Post, 8-18-17) Norman Mineta and Alan Simpson first met in middle-of-nowhere Wyoming in the 1940s, as two Boy Scouts at an internment camp for Japanese Americans. They met again in Congress, forming a bipartisan friendship that has endured into their 80s.
She fought the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and won (Lori Aratani, Washington Post, 12-18-19) Legal scholars often cite cases involving three men: Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru Yasui and Fred Korematsu, who challenged the government’s efforts to restrict the movements of and eventually remove Japanese Americans from their homes on the West Coast and put them into camps out of “military necessity.”All lost, but their cases were later revisited and their convictions overturned when researchers found the government had suppressed documents that showed Japanese Americans did not pose a wartime threat. Mitsuye Endo’s case, the only one brought by a woman, is less well-known, but her victory on Dec. 18, 1944, forced the government to close the camps and allowed thousands of Japanese Americans to return to the West Coast....Endo rarely spoke about her role in the Supreme Court case that forced the government to free thousands 75 years ago."
Legendary photographer Ansel Adams visited a Japanese internment camp in 1943, here’s what he saw (Dan Murano, WashPost, 11-20-15) Wonderful photos taken at Manzanar Relocation Center, California.
Three Boys Behind Barbed Wire, 1944 (Vintage Everyday, 12-4-19) Story of a photo Toyo Miyatake took in 1944. As a professional photographer and a Japanese-American, Miyatake snuck film into the internment camp Manzanar and built a camera out of scrap wood, since cameras were strictly forbidden inside the camps.
Secret use of census info helped send Japanese Americans to internment camps in WWII (Lori Aratani, WaPo, 4-6-18) In 2000, historian Margo J. Anderson and statistician William Seltzer found documents that showed officials with the Census Bureau had secretly provided block-level information of where those of Japanese ancestry were living in California, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Arkansas, info that helped send Japanese Americans to internment camps in WWII. That's why Trump's threats to similarly use the census have raised alarm.
‘What is democracy?’ During WWII, a Japanese American soldier struggled to answer. (Kathryn Tolbert, WaPo, 4-4-19) Key Kobayashi was among the 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent ordered into internment camps. Then he was drafted.


Back to alphabetical order
Jeanette Winterson on Adoption, Belonging, and How We Use Storytelling to Save Ourselves (Maria Popova, BrainPickings) "Adopted children are self-invented because we have to be; there is an absence, a void, a question mark at the very beginning of our lives....When we tell a story we exercise control, but in such a way as to leave a gap, an opening. It is a version, but never the final one. And perhaps we hope that the silences will be heard by someone else, and the story can continue, can be retold."
Jessie Foveaux, 100, Dies; Sold Her First Book at 98 (Douglas Martin, NY Times, 10-27-99) "In a 1997 auction Warner Books paid $1 million for the rights to publish the book....Her book, never intended for publication, ''just poured out,'' said Charley Kempthorne, a part-time farmer who taught a writing class at the Manhattan Adult Learning Center. 'She had bottled it up for many, many years.' " Her memoir was never a bestseller but got wide pre-publication publicity.
A Jewish Family’s Twentieth Century Story (listen to On Point interview with Tom Laskin, about his book The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century One family, three paths out of Eastern Europe in a century of change: One to America and a fortune making Maidenform bras. One to Israel, and sweat of the brow toil and settlement. One to misery and mass graves in the Holocaust.
Just Screw It: How I Told My Family I Was Writing About Our Feud Over the Sweet'n Low Fortune (Rich Cohen, Slate 3-29-07)

Keeper of the Stories (L.D. Burnett, U.S. Intellectual History blog, 2-3-18) Her grandparents were Okies , displaced by the Dust Bowl. "They were environmental and economic refugees, desperate for work, desperate to live. So they migrated to California, where they were despised for being poor and uneducated, ignorant cotton-pickin’ Okies. And they worked in the fields alongside Japanese farmworkers, and Black farmworkers, and Mexican and Chicano farmworkers – the laboring classes." During World War II, Italian and German farmworkers were subject to a dusk to dawn curfew, and Japanese farmworkers were rounded up and sent to Japanese internment camps. "And the sudden removal of thirty or forty percent of agricultural laborers before the summer harvest of 1942, as well as the seizure and auction of their land and property – that 'made room' in the agricultural economy of the San Joaquin Valley for my grandparents to stop being farmworkers and become farmers themselves."

Keeping it secret: revealing the secrets in your family history (Kristen Hyde, Ancestry.com, 12-15-17) Australian family secrets tend to resemble American family secrets, in that many families family trees conceal "secrets and lies," particularly about the products of illicit (including interracial and extramarital) love and procreation. "Family historians reported needing to develop practical strategies to protect family members’ sensitivities, and manage the raw emotions that revealing secrets can provoke." Related story: Secrets of Nation (Ann McGrath, Inside Story, 7-15-16) The buried secrets of Australia’s frontier share features with encounters in the United States, writes McGrath, author of Illicit Love: Interracial Sex and Marriage in the United States and Australia, focusing partly on the relative experiences of Native Americans Australia’s Indigenous people.
Keepsakes worth keeping: Five families on the artifacts they rescued (Jura Koncius, Magazine, Washington Post, 9-18-19) "Amid all the frenzied decluttering, organizing and tidying going on these days, it’s easy to overlook the special things worth keeping. They may be locked in a safe-deposit box, wrapped in tissue in a closet or entombed in a plastic container in a storage unit. They might be faded or torn, eaten by moths and the passage of time. Rescuing a family artifact takes thought and often money. But the act of saving it and honoring it can be tremendously satisfying….There’s an ever-expanding number of ways to preserve those memories."

Kind World #48: The Secret Erika Lantz and Frannie Carr Toth interview Julie Lindahl (WBUR, Kind World series, 11-21-17) Growing up, Julie Lindahl felt an indescribable guilt, a feeling she could never understand. Once she discovered that her grandfather had been a brutal SS officer during World War II, she decided to devote her life to digging into the truth. Unlocking the secrets of her family showed Julie the worst, and then the best, of humankind. “Shame, you can’t contribute anything, but responsibility, you can do a lot with,” she says. “It’s a challenging story, but one that gives me a great deal of hope…”
‘Kiss Everybody’: Parents’ Voicemails Preserve Their Memory in Death (Charles Ornstein, ProPublica, 5-22-15) Reporter marvels how the things he cherishes most about his parents aren’t those that he would have ever imagined. "I then made the fortuitous discovery that my smart phone was really smart—it required a second delete to send discarded messages into the ether....When I upgraded my iPhone last year, I kept the old one and, just to be safe, saved the messages to a digital voice recorder. I had a trove of verbal memories." Same program on Terry Gross's Fresh Air (5-25-15, listen or read transcript).

Ku Klux Klan stories it's easy to like
---Rabbi and the KKK (Snap Judgment radio program, Soundcloud) A New York Rabbi has his faith tested by a man named Larry Trapp when he takes a job in Nebraska.
---This Man Spent Decades Befriending KKK Members. Hundreds Have Left the Group Because of Him (Benny Johnson, Independent Journal Review, Aug. 2017) Blues musician Daryl Davis, a black man, learned the most effective way to get a Klansman to give up his hood: friendship. He asks,“How can you hate me when you don't even know me? Look at me and tell me to my face why you should lynch me.”


Land of 10,000 Stories: The Complete Collection (Boyd Huppert's wonderful collection). Watch these on YouTube. Here's one heartwarming example: Emmett & Erling Boyd Huppert shows us the unlikely friendship between a Minnesota World War II veteran and the preschooler living next door. This story quickly became a favorite of people all around the world, and led to several follow-up stories about the bond between Emmett & Erling in the Land of 10,000. You can subscribe here.
The Last Gandy Dancer (John Frey, Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine, 4-22-22) "My own grandfather was a railroad engineer in the 1920s, and he knew gandy dancers. They were crews of men, four to a team, two teams to a rail, whose job was to lay and maintain track. Each man used a five-foot iron bar (a “gandy”) to lift and move rails back into alignment after the wear and tear of heavy train wheels." The gandy dancer "was the man who sang the call and response that created the rhythm for his two teams." A doctor listens to a patient's life story.
Laugh, Kookaburra (David Sedaris, New Yorker, 8-24-09 -- an example of "show, not tell" about family relationships)
The Last of the Granny Witches (Anna Wess, Appalachian Ink, 9-6-15) We are the last of the granny witches. The old ones, the original Appalachian queens, were daughters of the Celts and the offspring of Druids, and we are their children.
The Lead Belt Jewish History Project (Teresa Ressel, Daily Journal, 2013 story) about "The Lead Belt Jewish Oral History Project” as told to Anita Hecht of Life History Services in collaboration with the Missouri Lead Belt Jewish Historical Society.
Learning to Do Historical Research: A Primer for Environmental Historians and Others . William Cronon surveys essential stages of the research process and different kinds of documents that can offer information and insights about the past
Legacy letters (ethical wills)
A legacy of storytelling (Lisa Lombardi O’Reilly, Coastal View, 1-12-18) Don Manuel Larios, received a land grant near Hollister, California in 1839, and his youngest son, Estolano Larios, went to school at the Santa Barbara Mission from 1869 to 1874. The last years of Estolano’s life were spent with Ralph Milliken at Hollister recapturing the stories of his life and early California, and from those stories Milliken’s historical fiction “California Dons” was written and published. Estolano’s fourth son, Paul, growing in Oregon, listened to his father's stories but Estalano also wrote many stories down, leaving a legacy of boxes of papers and photos, much of the material about early California history.
Let’s Remove Secrecy of the Centralia Massacre as Centennial Approaches (Julie McDonald, The Chronicle (Washington), 11-28-17) Author Sandra Crowell spoke to a local group about one of the region’s darkest secrets — the 1919 Armistice Day Parade in Centralia that ended in bloodshed and a lynching, personifying the increasing strife between laborers and their bossesl. In conflict: American Legionnaires, veterans of World War I, and veterans from Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies). "Fears of Communism spreading to the United States after the successful Bolshevik Revolution in Russia fueled suspicion by citizens toward the Industrial Workers of the World, described in its posters as “one big union of all the workers” who sought higher wages, fewer hours and better working conditions. Citizens opposed opening of an I.W.W. union hall in Centralia in 1917, seeing their activities as treasonous and a threat to the American way of life."
Life After Tim, by Janet Burroway (St. Petersburg Times), in which Burroway describes what she learned about grief after her son Tim Eysselinck, a former Ranger and Army captain, committed suicide after finishing work in Iraq.
• Life Chronicles: This Woman Creates Virtual Memories So That Families Will Never Forget Their Loved Ones (Amy Paturel, Good Housekeeping, 12-16-16) After a near-death experience and then learning that her best friend was dying of cancer, Kate Carter was called to take action.
Life in Pacific Grove California: Personal Stories by Residents and Visitors to Butterfly Town U.S.A. by Patricia Hamilton. And listen to: How I Got My Town To Write A Book (Hamilton on Storyical, Life Story Professionals)

A Life Stolen: The Joseph Hardy Story (Allison Peacock, Family Scrybe, 7-2-20) John Hardy was seven years old when he witnessed his uncle kill a prominent white plantation owner in self-defense in 1925 Louisiana. This is a chilling story about the kind of radical bigotry black families in Louisiana still endured every day in the 1920s, more than 50 years after the end of slavery. Decades later, as the last family member with firsthand knowledge, he was interviewed to memorialize his account. A story of racial injustice and resilience.

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AARP_Story+of+my+life.pdg (881 KB)

The Story of My Life (Maisy Fernandez, AARP, Sept. 2017

Life's Stories (Julie Beck, The Atlantic, 8-10-15) How you arrange the plot points of your life into a narrative can shape who you are—and is a fundamental part of being human."Pretty much from birth, people are “actors.” They have personality traits, they interact with the world, they have roles to play—daughter, sister, the neighbor’s new baby that cries all night and keeps you up. When they get old enough to have goals, they become “agents,” too—still playing their roles and interacting with the world, but making decisions with the hopes of producing desired outcomes. And the final layer is “author,” when people begin to bundle ideas about the future with experiences from the past and present to form a narrative self." (Quoting Dan McAdams)
Life Story Institute (Charley Kempthorne's "Journalong" and other treasures, from a lifetime of journaling and leading a writer's workshop for memoirists, autobiographers and family historians. . Listen to Dave Booda's interview with Charley (Darken the Page blog, episode 54).
Life Story Writing: How putting events into a story may aid the healing process (links to excellent pieces on Dying, Surviving, and Aging with Grace website)
The Life Review Process in Later Adulthood, PhD dissertation by Linda M. Woolf (comparing the theories of Erik Erikson and Robert Butler, both of whom conclude that "a positive resolution of the life review results in a reorganization of the personality."
****The Life Report,. First "fascinating and addictive" life stories (prepare for a long read) posted after David Brooks asked, on the NY Times Op Ed page (10-27-11): If you are over 70... I’d like you to write a brief report on your life so far, an evaluation of what you did well, of what you did not so well and what you learned along the way." The first life reports were followed by Life Reports II (11-28-11).
Life Savers: Capturing your family history is a phone call away. Mary Helen Tibbs (Memphis magazine, 4-07, PDF) hears about the "legacy videos" produced by husband-wife team Verissima Productions (Rob Cooper and Pam Pacelli).
The life story business and market (links to stories about, Writers and Editors site)
A Life Without Left Turns (Michael Gartner, USA Today, 6-15-06). A moving story that illustrates how a life (and a long, happy marriage) can be depicted through one theme --in this case, that this journalist's father chose early in life never to drive--to walk, or to be a passenger and navigator, instead)
Lifewriting Basics (Telling HerStory, Story Circle Network)
The Listening Project (BBC). BBC Radio4's answer to StoryCorps: Capturing the nation in conversation to build a unique picture of our lives today and preserve it for future generations.
Listen: A 93-Year-Old’s Nashville Accent Lives On, Even As Dialects Fade (Blake Farmer, Nashville Public Radio, 12-29-17) "He said, 'Is there a sweeter word in the vocabulary than the word motha?' ...That dropping of the "r" is more closely associated with Georgia plantations, says MTSU linguist Rick Morris. In Nashville, a "non-rhotic" accent — as it's technically known — often a sign of affluence, he says. There's also the more working-class sound of country music. Dialect experts say the city is really a hodgepodge of southern sounds, without the distinct features from places like New Orleans or Savannah."
Listening--Really Listening and More on Listening by Susan Turnbull (Personal Legacy Advisors), with a link to Nancy Kline's "Generative Attention--Transformative Listening."
Lives During Wartime (Home Fires Readers, NYTimes, American Veterans on the Post-War Life, launched 11-10-09)
'Living headstones' use technology to honor the dead (Susan Gilmore, Seattle Times 7-31-11). "Wave a smartphone over the bench-style headstone of Edouard Garneau at Holyrood Cemetery in Shoreline and you'll learn he was a collision-repair specialist and successful businessman who loved to barbecue, fly his airplane and travel." Technology brings digital 'lives' to the graveyard.
"Living a meaningful life is as simple as storytelling" (Emily Esfahani Smith, PBS News Hour, 3-10-17) "And when people say their lives are meaningful, it’s because three conditions have been satisfied: They believe their lives matter, they have a sense of purpose that drives them forward, and they think their lives are coherent and make sense. It sounds like a lot, but that last point is something you can do right now. People tell me the simple act of storytelling gives meaning, or can at least clear the path to it....Making a narrative out of the events in your life provides clarity. It offers a framework that goes beyond the day-to-day. It’s the act itself, and not necessarily sharing their story with others, that helps people make sense of themselves and their lives. And we all have the power to tell or to re-tell our life story in more positive ways." (But sharing those stories in a small group with others who are also writing their stories can be a powerful experience.)
Local historian hosts weekly social media game show (Zoey Fields, Monticello Herald Tribune, 6-4-19) A Facebook game show that tests local Monticello knowledge now has more than 3,000 subscribers and keeps growing. Historical Society president Kean MacOwan hosts the show every Sunday night and gives away “fake chicken” to the winner.
Long Beach’s first human library puts phrase ‘I’m an open book’ to the test (Cory Bilicko, Signal Tribute, 6-6-14) Seventeen local people from strikingly diverse backgrounds agreed to become the first-edition “books” in Long Beach’s inaugural human library last Saturday, allowing anyone off the street to sit with them for 15 minutes and ask them questions to learn from their life experiences. What a wonderful idea and event!
The Lost Diaries of War (Nina Siegal and Josephine Sedgwick, NY Times, 4-15-2020) Volunteers are helping forgotten Dutch diarists of WWII to speak at last. Their voices, filled with anxiety, isolation and uncertainty, resonate powerfully today.
Lovers in Auschwitz, Reunited 72 Years Later. He Had One Question. Was she the reason he was alive today? (Keren Blankfeld, NY Times, 12-8-19) For a few months, they managed to be each other’s escape, but they knew these visits wouldn’t last. They knew they would be separated, but they had a plan, after the fighting was done, to reunite. It took 72 years.
A love story in black and white (print and video, Jewish Forward, 9-7-12). Same story (about my goddaughter) told in the NYTimes wedding section Abigail Rasminsky, David Goldstein (7-22-12). Note what he did with their emails.

Lowriding, San Diego's "low and slow" Chicano lowrider car culture
---Everything Comes from the Streets (YouTube, documentary, KQED Truly CA).
---San Diego Lowriders: A History of Cars and Cruising by Alberto López Pulido & Rigoberto "Rigo" Reyes. San Diego’s unique lowrider culture and community has a long history of “low and slow.” Cruising the streets from 1950 to 1985, twenty-eight lowrider car clubs made their marks in the San Diego neighborhoods of Logan Heights, Sherman Heights, National City, Old Town, San Ysidro and the adjoining border community of Tijuana, Mexico.

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Precious memories: 8 refugees share the things they brought to remind them of home (NPR Special Report, 10-22-22) If you had to leave the country where you were born and raised, what would you bring with you as you begin a new life in a strange place?
I can't sell that! It belonged to my great-grandmother! (Clémence R. Scouten, Freeman's Auction) On the endowment effect, loss aversion, sentimental value, and storage costs.
I cleaned out my mother’s things years after she died. As I lost the clutter, I gained clarity. (Blake Turck, WaPo, 5-8-21) "...after weeks of sorting, I finally settled on what to keep, what to say goodbye to. As I lost the clutter, in return, I gained clarity. I found solace in finally understanding that stuff and memories were two very different things. And the memory of my mother was something that could never be thrown away, because it lived inside me.
‘Love and Stuff’ (Judith Helfand, NY Times, 5-7-14, video and print) After her mother passes away, the filmmaker Judith Helfand struggles to pack up her things — figuring out what to keep and how to let go. "Had my mother and I done this sifting and packing together, the way she pleaded with me over the years between her diagnosis and death, I’m now convinced that we would have bonded over the memories wrapped in all that stuff. But when I had the time to go through all this with her, I didn’t."
What a Literary Left-Wing Legend Left Behind (Ellen Gruber Garvey, Lilith, 4-14-21) 'For decades, Fran carried her sign, “I adore my lesbian daughters: Keep them safe,” written in gracious script, enhanced with glitter, to the march.... Fran, a meticulous planner of events and activities, had told us that $500 should be used to cover food for memorial gathering in her Lower East Side apartment, where people could take memorabilia and items they wanted or needed or that she had designated for them, while celebrating her life....When someone dies, disassembling their home with others is a chance to reminisce… But there has been no such gathering."
The Staten Island House Where Black History Lives (Corey Kilgannon, NY Times, 3-7-22) A 90-year-old former schoolteacher’s collection includes Muhammad Ali’s boxing shoes and Tuskegee Airmen headgear — but it also features Ku Klux Klan toys. Elizabeth Meaders funded her acquisitions by working several jobs at a time, as well as buying items on installment plans and borrowing against the value of her house.


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Make History: The 9/11 Museum (add your story to the collective telling of the events of September 11). Here's Steve Rosenbaum, with I've Got My 9/11 Story. What's Yours? (his account of the filmed records he collected and donated)
Mama Always Comes Home (Debbie Brodsky, Bethesda Magazine, 2-10, on creating a deployment video: a military mom's messages to her children)
Mama's Last Picnic (Margaret-Ann Allison on ValWebb.com blog, 3-11-19) Prideful competition at family picnics
A Man, His Wife, and a Fish: A Love Story (Sam Uhl, APH blog, 2-20-13). A delightful story about the power of listening--especially the power of a young person listening to an elder)
Man Who Learned to Read at 91, Writes a Book at 98 (Good News Network, 3-5-12)
Mapping Memory in Spain project, part of effort to capture memories of Spain's Civil War and top confront the legacy of 40 years of Franco's dictatorship.
Mark Stoffer Hunter reflects on becoming 'Mr. History' (Thomas Friestad,The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, 5-19-19) As a child Stoffer Hunter photographed many Cedar Rapids buildings being torn down.Now as a partner in History Connect, he will help with R&D, working with developers to restore historic sites.
Max Glauben Will Live Forever (Harriet P. Gross, D Magazine, Feb. 2019) A new Dallas museum will show an exhibit with a Holocaust survivor the likes of which you’ve never seen. Or talked to. His likeness and life story will be preserved for eternity in a 3-D holographic moving image, which future generations can talk to.
Memoir of time spent with Grandma reveals old truths, young wisdom (Kathryn Borel, Globe & Mail, 3-15-13). This is an essay more than a review, but it's a good enough review that I've already ordered my copy of The Truth About Luck: What I Learned on My Road Trip with Grandma by Iain Reid.
Memoirs and Memory, by Frank Bruni, author of Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-time Eater
Memorial videos give lasting farewell (Jeff Strickler, StarTribune 6-6-11). Shortly before Connie Dunlap died in October, she sat in front of a camera focused in a tight close-up and talked about her faith and how it shaped her battle against cancer....Ken Kurita of Videon Productions teared up as he showed a video taken of his father, Dr. Kenji Kurita, who died in January. “This is all about life’s treasured moments,” Ken Kurita said.

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Meet Virginia Stopher, 19-Year-Old “Girl Hobo” of the 1920s, Who Left Her Husband to Ride the Rails (Mimi, Slate, 1-26-19) Stopher had just been arrested in Pima County for smuggling six hacksaw blades into the local jail to help two other hobos make their escape. Originally published in the Tucson, Arizona Daily Star on Sunday, Feb. 18, 1923.
Memories Matter (Christy Lyons, ByLyons, 8-9-19) Her father's sudden death after a session going through old family photos with her made Christy appreciate William Zinsser's line: “Memories too often die with their owner, and time too often surprises us by running out.” She writes: 'How many times had I, like others, said, "One day I will sit down with my father and ask him questions about the past"? It taught me not to wait for a seemingly perfect time, which never seems to arrive.' Christy now helps several people with their personal histories, in addition to her work as a journalist.
Memory Café opens for couples dealing with Alzheimer's (Alzheimers Reading Room)
The Memory Lady’s Daughter Tries to Fill the Gaps (Beth Thompso, NY Times, 8-12-13). A daughter whose mother is 94 cares for the generations before and after her, living their lives and preserving their memories.
Memory Writers Network (essays about memoir writing, on Jerry Waxler's blog)
The Me My Child Mustn't Know by Dani Shapiro (NY Times 7-14-11). Can a memoirist write with total honesty if she is worried about what her son might think? (The book Shapiro doesn't want her son to hear her read from is Slow Motion: A Memoir of a Life Rescued by Tragedy
Merrill Memoirs keeps stories alive (Brenna McCabe, Valley Breeze 12-14-11)
Metropolitan Diary (New York Times) Reader tales from the city.
Michael Kinsley Has Some Advice for Baby-Boomers Who’d Like to Be Remembered (Vanity Fair, 4-4-16) "...the ultimate baby-boomer competition, the one coming next, [is] about reputation. How will you be remembered after you die? You’re going to be dead for longer than you were alive, and all you will have is your reputation. So you want to pay some attention to it while something can still be done."
Metropolitan Diary: ‘Anything Goes’ on the Streets of New York (these particular diary entries are from the NY Times on 8-7-11; there is a collection of them here.
“Mirrors With Memories”: Why Did Victorians Take Pictures of Dead People? (Bess Lovejoy, Mental Floss) and here photos matter!
Missing Christian Velten inspires life story books. British personal history firm launched after founder's brother disappears at age 28 (BBC News)
Missionary, nurse, activist reflects on growing old (Chris Hubbuch, AP, Washington Times, 3-20-17) June June Kjome, 96, says three things make life worth living: faith, family and friends. There’s no sense complaining or worrying. “Get off your duff and do something,” Sue Hessel helped her put her life story and lessons learned in a book.
Modernizing the ‘Kodak Moment’ as Social Sharing (Stuart Elliott, NY Times 4-25-10: 'Chief memory officer of the family' is the archetypal consumer in new Kodak ad.
More retirees sharing life stories and values through ethical wills, other personal legacies (Dave Carpenter, Washington Post, 10-4-12, 2 pages). Life histories, ethical wills and video recordings are just some of the ways people are leaving their personal legacies for loved ones
The Mormor Monologues Give Nanas Back Their Voice (Linda Abbit, Senior Planet, 10/28/2013) “Mormor is the Norwegian nana – the one who always listens, gives advice, nurtures and comforts. But is anyone listening to Mormor?” The Mormor Monologues – a web-based art project – brings to life a series of older women via a creative, multisensory experience made up of of their recorded voices with English subtitles and photos of each woman in her home surroundings.
The Most Valuable Investing Lesson I Ever Learned (John Reeves, The Motley Fool, 10-18-12). John took my life writing course, and his stories were excellent even then!
The Moth, a nonprofit group that runs storytelling events in New York and Los Angeles
---Storytellers Finding Success on Stages Large and Small: Going Solo Gets Crowded by Alex Williams, NYTimes 8-14-09

---Songs of Themselves (Jim O'Grady, NYTimes, 11-14-08)
A Mother Abroad: The Role of die Mütter in Vienna, Austria (Abigail Rasminsky, Rebel Girls Boundless, 8-2-19) Vienna provides amazing support for married mothers, allowing them abundant time off to care for their babies and toddlers. The "A Mother Abroad" series will explore what parenting looks like outside of North America with mothers living in Bahrain, Australia, Tanzania, Argentina, India, and Austria.
A Mother's Farewell Joanne Fowler, People Magazine 12-4-06). At 50 and facing terminal cancer, Pam Fairmont made a video for her 10-year-old son Connor. Her message: 'I'll always be with you.'
Mother's Day Special: Better than roses Want to do something really special for your mom this Mother's Day? Find out who she really is (Marylaine Block, My Word's Worth)
The Mother’s Day I’ll Never Outdo (Abigail Rasminsky, Lands' End, The Journal, 5-11-18) Featuring Judy Sklar Rasminsky and a frozen croissant for breakfast.
Mutti makes a memoir (Felt & Wire). thanks to a skilled ghostwriter, a generous husband and an on-demand publishing platform, Margarete Aust McNeice has a beautiful book to leave her daughters, grandchildren, and 90-year-old sister.
My Absent Father (Jane Smiley, The New Yorker, 10-3-14) His absence turned out to be a gift.
My artobiography: From birth, to marriage, to her son's early death. How one woman chronicled her life in a series of sketches (Sabine Durrant, Daily Mail, 11-24-10. Ann Frewer's book, Life, the Greatest Privilege, makes a lovely gift.
My Chosen People (Abigail Rasminsky, The Jewish Daily Forward, 4-2-08) "Here I was, surrounded by four clueless goyim, and I had stumbled upon the meaning of the holiday. I suddenly understood that it wasn’t about remembering the schlep my ancestors made from Egypt to give me my freedom. It was about honoring what we all overcome every day to be where we are..."
My Delusional, Wonderful Recipe Book (Charlotte Mendelson, New Yorker, 6-15-21) “Slowly, I’ve accepted that my recipe book is not a work in progress but an artifact, which contains hints and scraps of my former self.”
My Father's Coat (Cathy de Moll, Cowbird 1-11-15) "Cowbird is a public library of human experience, offering a simple set of storytelling tools — for free, and without ads."
My Grandparents’ Generation (a poem by Faith Shearin, The Writer's Almanac, 5-4-15). Read and listen.

My Grandfather the Outlaw (Frank Bruni, Opinion, NY Times, 2-2-13)
My Legacy of Lying (Mandy Syers, Dead Darlings, 7-21-16) Her father and grandfather told lies to survive, to live by their wits. Then the stories about survival were often embroidered with lies and fabrication. "When you come from a family of bullshitters, you expect a story’s magic to be greater than the sum of its facts."
My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant (Jose Antonio Vargas, NY Times 6-22-2011)
My Life in Hiding by Maja Hrabowska (PBS, 5-16-13) on her harrowing experience surviving the Holocaust). "For years we tried to retain sanity by silencing the scream, by hiding our memories deep in subconsciousness, and for some time it worked. We knew something that others didn’t, and this secret was with us only; we carried this burden alone. The war was over, but we were different from other young people, quieter, more careful whom we talk to, feeling still unsafe. Many years passed, and now unexpectedly I found that there are others with similar pasts, and hidden memories."
My Literary Education with Elizabeth Hardwick (Darryl Pinckney, Personal History, New Yorker, 9-19-22) She didn't consider herself a teacher. But, through warm, sometimes ruthless attention, she made people writers.
My Motherless Mother (Candy Schulman, Opinionator, NY Times, 1-13-16)
My Mother Was an Okie by Beth Lightfoot (a KitchenScraps story posted on Women's Memoirs)
My Sephardic Inheritance: a Spoonful of Salt, a Spoonful of Sugar (Hannah Pressman, Tablet, 2-15-17) What a family heirloom taught me about my ancestors, and the mysterious parts of my Jewish history
My Son, My Soldier, My Sorrow. (Janet Burroway, St. Petersburg Press 6-13-04). Three essays written over 20 years by a liberal, pacifist mother struggling to understand her conservative son, a proud soldier and member of the NRA.
A Mystery Hidden in a Family Photograph (David Botti, NY Times, 11-23-22) Did this photo of his great-grandfather Donato Tarullo when he was 19 years old (taken in the mid-to-late 1960s) hold a tangible clue about where he’d come from? Could the digital sleuths on the Times’ Visual Investigations unit figure out where his great grandfather had lived?
My Turn: Saving a life, for those left behind (Jane Lehmann-Shafron, Los Angeles Times 12-12-11). "I have interviewed hundreds of people — most of them in their 70s and older. While I can't be sure that I have added any days to those lives, I am certain that, for my subjects and their families, helping tell their stories has saved their lives by creating a little piece of immortality.I do know that telling my dad's story helped preserve his life and gave new meaning to my own."
My Words Are Gonna Linger: The Art of Personal History, ed. by Paula Yost and Pat McNees, with foreword by Rick Bragg. “At last, a collection that shows the ‘why, what, and how’ behind memoir as legacy.”~ Susan Wittig Albert, author of Writing from Life

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Narrative and Healing (LitSite, Alaska; Aron Wolf and others on how telling your story can improve your health)
Narrative medicine: Doctors-in-Training Record a Different Type of Patient History (Margot Adler, NPR, 10-28-03)
Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness by Rita Charon (see also other books with the title "Narrative Medicine")
The Narrative Playbook: The Strategic Use of Story to Improve Care, Healing, and Health (Business Innovation Factory, funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
The National Archives has billions of handwritten documents. With cursive skills declining, how will we read them? (Debra Bruno, Washington Post, 6-17-19) Volunteers are typing transcripts. Many volunteers will be needed. But reading documents from earlier centuries has been a struggle also. We can do it again.
The nature and malleability of memory, links to many interesting pieces, including this round-up: How reliable are our memories (how close to the truth)?(Pat McNees, Writers and Editors blog, 8-31-13)
The Nazi Downstairs: A Jewish Woman’s Tale of Hiding in Her Home (Colin Moynihan, NY Times, 10-5-18) A search for a lost masterpiece uncovered a woman’s harrowing account of escaping deportation, and possibly death, while spying on a Nazi at close range.
The Neighborhood Where I Grew Up – Where Movies Were Made (Dale Komai, If These Pictures Could Talk, 9-4-17) Looking back, he realizes that the Our Gang comedies were filmed in the neighborhood he grew up in. The story, with photos.
Neisser family letters bring history and heroism to life (Allison Hanes, Montreal Gazette, 5-2-18) "What makes Echenberg’s book so interesting, is that the letters form the backbone of the narrative....It is positively remarkable that this entire body of intercontinental correspondence has been preserved, first for many decades by those getting the letters on both sides of the ocean, then again by those same recipients departing Europe for South America. Those letters were considered so important, they were among the few items that those fleeing brought along on their journeys. Afterwards, the precious papers were kept by the descendants of the long-since deceased writers."...“I thought the letters gave the story an authenticity,” Echenberg said. “It was written in that time… You really hear the voice of the person writing it.” The book: Walter's Welcome: The Intimate Story of a German-Jewish Family's Flight from the Nazis to Peru by Eva Neisser Echenberg with Judy Sklar Rasminsky
A New Gig in Government: Chief Storyteller (Candice Norwood, Governing, 4-24-19) Some cities (Detroit and Denver) are hiring people to share locals' stories and change the traditional narrative surrounding the place they call home.
19 of the World’s Best World War II Museums and Historical Sites (Tripplo)
1929: interviews with elderly people throughout the US (Aeon) The iconic Fox Movietone News, which ran in the United States from 1927 to 1963, was one of the first newsreels to marry moving pictures and sound. Pieced together from Movietone News footage made available by the Moving Image Research Collections at the University of South Carolina, this short film features interviews with elderly people across the US shot in 1929.
93-year-old's WWII feats are hidden no longer (Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11-23-08, a personal story of heroism becomes social history)
No More Lies. My Grandfather Was a Nazi. (Silvia Foti, NY Times, 1-27-21) "On her deathbed in 2000, my mother asked me to take over writing a book about her father. I eagerly agreed. But as I sifted through the material, I came across a document with his signature from 1941 and everything changed. The story of my grandfather was much darker than I had known... In Lithuania, he was celebrated as a hero. But we can't move on until we admit what he really did....I concluded that my grandfather was a man of paradoxes, just as Lithuania — a country caught between the Nazi and Communist occupations during World War II, then trapped behind the Iron Curtain for the next 50 years — is full of contradictions."
No other family's quite like yours, so capture its history (Andrea Gross, St Petersburg Times, 8-28-07). Those funny tales and memories needn't fade with time and distance.
Nostalgia of the Misremembered (N. West Moss, Timber: A Journal of New Writing, 1-28-19) "Whether or not they are accurate or true (whatever that means), the memories we choose to harp on, the stories about ourselves that we choose to tell over and over again, are a kind of identity formation, a way in which we construct our own narratives....The more often we remember an event, the further it strays from the original, like a crayon drawing of a Xerox copy....So I wonder at the preponderance of the good memories filling my consciousness as he lay dying...."
Not all the victims of Hitler died before he did. Mike Shatzkin, who blogs about publishing and digital change, posted this entry between engagements; it is a fascinating example of history made vivid through personal history.
Not Quite What I Was Planning NPR's delightful slideshow of images and text from the book Not Quite What I Was Planning:Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure, edited by Rachel Fershleisher and Larry Smith, based on the six-word memoirs from the storytelling magazine Smith.
Not Without My Father: One Woman's 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace by Andra Watkins. Amazon review: "This is a book without traditional heroes, but one in which you'll find yourself rooting for the non-heroes who struggle to give meaning to their lives, the daughter by walking and the father by selling his daughter's books along the way. Both finally have the time to explore and try to overcome memories of bad times in their relationship, and both realize the time remaining to mend their ways is short." The father is the interesting character in this story, which I'd check out of the library, rather than buy.
Nurturing the Right to Be Heard (Penelope Franklin, Association of Personal Historians blog, 10-16-13) Women, in particular, are waiting to be heard -- are given fewer opportunities than men to tell their stories.

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Obituary Writing in the Selfie Age (James R. Hagerty, Wall Street Journal, 7-20-16) Workshops on writing your own obituary are helpful if you worry that your survivors will leave out facts and details about your life that they often may not even know about -- or that they will fail to capture the essence of your life. You can probably find a workshop (or a writer) near you, to help you write yours. (Help your survivors by making this one task they don't have to do on their own in the stressful and too-short time after you've died.)
Object Lessons in History (Sam Roberts, NY Times, 9-27-14). Five years ago, the BBC and the British Museum collaborated on a hugely successful radio series and book called A History of the World in 100 Objects (by Neil MacGregor). The Smithsonian followed up with The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects (by Richard Kurin). "Material culture has become a science among academics, but let’s acknowledge that it’s also a clever way to hook people on history."
The Objects of Family History (Kathy Miller, Women and Work...Then and Now, 9-30-14) “Objects have heft. We can touch their surface, feel their weight. Objects have purpose. They do things that shape lives and events. Though not all objects survive, even those that don’t have a place in our memory very different from words and images....for my sisters and me, objects that mattered were those that could take us back to the everydayness of our growing up.Those aluminum cups that we always pulled out for outdoor picnics....The mixing bowls in the kitchen, the colored blocks we stacked as toddlers, the funnies from the Detroit Free Press."
Oh, the stories they could tell. Preserving family lore is worth the work (story featuring Linda Coffin and the Association of Personal Historians, Cathi Nelson and the Association of Personal Photo Organizers, and personal historian Betsy Storm in the advertising section of the Chicago Tribune, 9-15-16)
Olivia Bee’s Personal Images of Her Teenage Years (Gina Liberto, NY Times Magazine, T blog, 6-19-14)
One by one, D-Day memories fade as war's witnesses die (Angela Charlton, AP, Quad Cities Times, 5-9-19) 'Jolivet, his granddaughter, told the AP of his yearning for leaders who "bring people together, instead of divide them." Bernard Dargols would have had a clear message for the D-Day anniversary, she said: "Never take democracy for granted. Dictatorship is always a bad solution. Violence is always a bad solution. Keep democracy alive. Fight for democracy, for freedom, for peace."...Dargols himself worried about the day when all the veterans will be gone. "It could start again," he wrote in his memoir. "We must be vigilant, at all times."
One grandfather worked on the A-bomb. The other was a victim. How their grandsons now create art together.target="_blank"> (Sheri Venema, WashPost, 1-18-18) “All the clever, celebrated men who designed and built the bombs are responsible for the catastrophe of their use,” Keiper says. “But all Americans share that burden.”
On Excavating Memory (Dani Shapiro, interviewed by Suleika Jaouad, Studio Visit, The Isolation Diaries, 1-20-21)
One Man's Youth As A 'Stateless Foreigner' In Japan During World War II (Robin Young, WBUR, speaks with Isaac Shapiro, 87, who has reissued his memoir Edokko: Growing Up a Stateless Foreigner in Wartime Japan. Edokko means child of Edo — Tokyo's former name. He was the son of Russian Jewish musicians who fled persecution during the Bolshevik Revolution, then moved around the world as Adolf Hitler began his rise — from Germany to France and, in 1931, to Japan, where Shapiro was born. Young speaks with Shapiro about his life and experiences during the war.
Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience (PBS Series, with clips from firsthand accounts of war by servicemen and women)
Ordinary People (Chris Wright, Boston Phoenix 1-17-02). Memoirs used to be the territory of the famous, the intrepid, or the afflicted. Today, everyone's getting into the act, often with the help of a personal historian.
Organize Family Recipe Cards to Create An Heirloom Cookbook (Vanessa Boucher, EverPresent).
Organizing and Preserving Your Heirloom Documents by Katherine Scott Sturdevant (how to safely collect, preserve, and publish diaries, memoirs, letters, papers, or memorabilia from your relatives and ancestors)
Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (OLLI) nationwide sponsor a lot of life story writing programs. Here are some stories posted by OLLI'sLife Story Center (Jennie Chin Hansen, James Birren, Sophie Freud)
Other People's Photographs (Luc Sante, Paris Review, 6-13-19) The photos taken by street photographers in the past tell us little without the stories we remember with them. ith the stories, they are something else.
Our Storied Lives, Part 1: The Quest For 'Something More' (Jon Hamilton, Morning Edition, NPR, 8-30-10) ""You're constantly rearranging the narrative of your life," says Antonio Damasio, a behavioral neurologist from the University of Southern California and author of the upcoming book Self Comes to Mind, which is about how our sense of story influences our lives. "And you're rearranging as a function of the experiences that you have had and as what you imagine your experiences in the future ought to be." Part 2. Our Storied Lives: Narrating, Navigating Adversity about how we change our stories as life changes us.
Our Imagined Families: The Myths and Rituals We Live By (PDF, John R. Gillis, Working Paper 7, The Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life, Feb. 2002)
Our stories, ourselves (Sadie F. Dingfelder, Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association Jan 2011). The tales we tell hold powerful sway over our memories, behaviors and even identities, according to research from the burgeoning field of narrative psychology.
The Oxford Project. Do check out these photos, and read about the project: Photo project gives voice to 'backbone of America' (Wayne Drash, CNN, 10-7-08, with video, photos, text)

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Pain, But No Regrets: A Father Remembers His Adopted Son (Bill Jones, StoryCorp story, Morning Edition, NPR, 2-20-15)
Palmer Warner House in East Haddam Opens As Trailblazing LGBT Site (Cate Hewitt, CTExaminer, 10-7-19) East Haddam, CT. Preserved letters, diaries, photographs, a house and its gardens tell the story of Frederic Palmer and Howard Metzger, two men who met and fell in love in the 1940s and lived together as a couple as openly as society allowed. Considering the time period, what’s unique about Palmer (1901-1971) and Metzger (1921-2005), who lived in the historic Warner-Palmer House at 307 Town St. in Haddam Connecticut is the fact that their personal history is preserved at all, and intact at that. Tours of Warner-Palmer House are available May – November and require reservations.
Passive Aggressive Note (folk humor in the digital age?)
Pen-pals (Lisa Lombardi O’Reilly, CoastalView.com, 10-10-19) After Gramma was gone, in the desk in her kitchen where Gramma kept important papers Mother found a pen-pal letter from a young girl in Berlin in the 1930s with surprising historical interest. How did we miss it?
A Pearl Harbor survivor spent decades trying to forget it. Then one man got him talking. (David Montero, Los Angeles Times, 12-7-16). Writer Ed McGrath gets Lauren Brenner to talks about his experiences surviving the bombing in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, of the battleship USS Arizona,by the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces, bringing the United States into World War II. Only 335 of the ship's crew made it out alive. Sometimes memories are so painful that it takes patience and time to get the storyteller to let them unfold. Bruner and McGrath's book, <i, appears to be self-published--it's not an Amazon. Can someone provide publishing details?
Permanent Record: A trove of 1920s report cards and the stories they tell (Paul Lukas, Slate, a series that starts 9-18-11 and continues in July 2012):
1. How I found the report cards, and how they changed my life.
2. Searching for Marie Garaventa
3. Lucille Fasanalla saved the romper she made as a student at Manhattan Trade her whole life.
4. How the Manhattan Trade School prepared a generation of New York women for the workplace.
5. Making stuffed animals for John and Caroline Kennedy.
6. Rose Vrana is 95. She went to trade school in the 1930s. I found her report card. Then I found her
7. Eva and Bee: Both children of the Depression, one ended up designing Mamie Eisenhower’s inaugural gown, the other was a mentor to Calvin Klein.
8. The saddest story in the report cards I found—and how it came to have a happy ending.
• Keep up with the project by reading the Permanent Record blog (untold stories from a stash of Depression-era report cards)

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Personal/History: Teaching the Next Generation about the AIDS Crisis (David Robinson, MyJewishLearning, 1-25-16)
Personal History (a wonderful series of essays in the New Yorker, series described here.
• Personal History Productions. On the Aging Boomers Radio Show (Sonoma County), listen to personal historians Susan Milstein and Andi Reese Brady tell how they developed a business interviewing people about their lives and presenting them as audio CDs or beautiful bound books
Photo album rescued from trash a trove of WWII African American life (Bonnie L. Cook, Philadelphia Inquirer, philly.com 1-30-12)
PhotoBook Press (for heirloom-quality photobooks, made with archival paper and Smyth-sewn-signature bindings, which, unlike glued bindings, won't fall apart)
A photographer documents her late husband’s belongings: ‘The leftover scraps of ordinary life’. (Giulia Rhodes, The Guardian, 11-21-15) When Carol Hudson’s husband died suddenly, she took photographs of his possessions. The result is a moving portrait of him. "I always photograph. That is how I get through things.’"
Photographing Our Everyday (Dawn M. Roode, Modern Heirloom Books, 11-7-17) We all take pictures of the milestones, big and little: the first days of school, the first lost tooth, high school graduation, and of course, birthdays. But what of the everyday moments? The in-between that, really, is the essence of our lives?
Photo hosting websites (useful when a group is collecting and posting photos for a big project)
Photos uncover travels of Frontenac couple, thanks to Facebook (Susan Weich, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 2013). Amateur photographer Jeff Phillips found and bought a cache of 1,100 slides for $60, then set about tracking down the people in the photos, via Facebook. He created a Facebook page called “Is this your mother?”, an online conversation ensued, and three weeks later the family found the site. Then the whole episode became an exhibit.
Playing Kitchen Detective: Home Cooks Try to Recreate Family Recipes; What Did Grandma Put in Her Kugel? (Alina Dizik, WSJ, 2-22-12)
•  Podcast for veterans and saving stories before they’re lost to time (Maggie Ginsberg?, Sunday Reads, Madison Magazine, 12-19-21) This piece about one veteran's story is a reminder that if you don't record the stories of the veterans you know, they may be lost to time. See also Welcome to the “My Life, My Story” podcast (VA Presents, 9-25-2020) At VA hospitals around the country, strangers (writers) walking into hospital rooms are capturing the stories of America's veterans, patients who choose to tell their stories. The program is called, “My Life, My Story.” In seven years, they've interviewed over 5,000 Veterans at over 50 VA hospitals--veterans as young as 22 and as old as 108.
Postcards from Yo Momma (a repository of modern-day maternal correspondence, sure to make you smile)
• Potter's Field, Hart Island, New York. Unearthing the Secrets of New York’s Mass Graves (Nina Bernstein, NY Times, 5-15-16) Over a million people are buried in the city’s potter’s field on Hart Island. A New York Times investigation uncovers some of their stories and the failings of the system that put them there. Sidebar: How to Avoid the Fate of a Common Grave (Nina Bernstein, 5-15-16) Revealing the many paths that led New Yorkers to a common grave.
The Power of Daily Writing in a Journal (Clare Ansberry, Wall Street Journal, 1-26-16) Keeping a journal for 52 years has helped Charley Kempthorne to be happier, healthier
The Power of Rewriting Your Personal Story, According to Research ( Nancy Ryerson, Foxfeed blog, Michael J. Fox Foundation, 2-6-15) 'When Natasha McCarthy, a guest blogger and person with Young-Onset Parkinson’s disease, started writing about Parkinson’s soon after her diagnosis, she hadn’t planned on sharing it with anyone. She finds typing to be easier than holding a pen to write, but still saw her blog as private diary. “When I would finish a post it felt like an odd sense of relief that I was no longer holding it inside, despite that it wasn't for anyone to read other than myself,” she says.' Sharing it allowed her to meet others in her age range with the same challenges.
The Power of the Earliest Memories (Sue Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal, 4-7-14). "Sorry, Facebook: Parents, Not Snapshots, Are the Way for Kids to Capture and Benefit From Memories" "Early memories have a higher likelihood of surviving when children are encouraged to talk about them soon after the event." Ask open-ended who, what, where, and when questions, not questions with one-word answers.
The Prayer of an Unconventional Family (Anne Lamott, Opinionator, NY Times, 11-17-12)
Preserving Market Memories: Ann Arbor Farmers Market project records oral history (Rebecca Friedman, Ann Arbor Chronicle)
Preserving Family History, One Memory at a Time (Claire Martin, NY Times, 3-15-14) "StoryWorth provides a selection of questions, chosen by Ms. Leiken, for her mother to answer each week. It then emails the questions to Ms. Mills, and when she replies, her answers go to her family and are stored on a website where they can read them privately. It is one of a handful of new companies focused on enabling people to collect their family histories."
Preserving Wealth By Defining A Legacy - The Role Of Family Historians (Bingham C. Jamison, Forbes, 5-16-17) Capturing the founder's story of how a family firm developed and thrived, giving future generations a narrative and an account of core values, can help keep the family firm going.
Preserving Your Family History (Terri Scott, Bellaire Buzz, Nov 2011, interviewing Susan Farnsworth, owner of Susan's Concierge for Seniors, and video personal historian Stefani Twyford).
Preserving an art legacy (Dagney C. Ernest, Village Soup, Camden Gazette, 9-17-17) At the grand opening of the new Langlais Sculpture Preserve, personal historian Megan Vigeant recorded oral history as friends and neighbors shared their stories about Bernard “Blackie” Langlais, the Maine-born artist who abandoned oil painting and the New York art world for an intense decade-plus creating large wooden works on his Midcoast Maine property. He died at age 56 some 40 years ago, but the sculptures still live.
Print on demand (POD), what you need to know
Privately Published Autobiographies by Texans: Their Significance for Scholars by Jane F. Healey. Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Vol. 95, No. 4 (Apr., 1992), pp. 497-508
Published by: Texas State Historical Association, available to subscribers only (and in some libraries)
Protect photos, documents, and other papers from natural destruction over time (Scrapbook.com)
The Public Practice of History in and for a Digital Age (William Cronon, Perspectives on History, American Historical Association)

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Questions We Should All Ask Mom (Lisa Belkin, Motherlode blog, NY Times 5-6-09)

Radio Diaries. Listen to great interviews. Various categories:Portraits, Histories, Prisoners of War (from the notorious prison for American soldiers on the outskirts of Saigon during the war in Vietnam), Studs Terkel's interviews with workers for Working, and  more.
Radio spots tell stories of forgotten New Mexicans, UFO-spotting (Kathaleen Roberts, Columbus, Indiana Republic 2-8-12). State folklorist Claude Stephenson trimmed 261 oral portraits down to 240 words timed at 1.58 minutes each, snippets of New Mexico history about everyone from Ham the astrochimp to a UFO-spotting Socorro sheriff.
Real estate video for restored 140-acre Wisconsin farm borrows personal history approach to make a property enticing.
Recipe books
---Playing Kitchen Detective: Home Cooks Try to Recreate Family Recipes; What Did Grandma Put in Her Kugel? (Alina Dizik, WSJ, 2-22-12)
---Between the Recipes, Scribbles Speak Volumes (Kate Murphy, NY Times, 1-28-13, on the marginalia in cookbooks--comments scribbled in the margins)
---The Joy of Preserving Recipes (Mary V. Danielsen, Documented Legacies, Flip-Pal, Part 1 in series)
---Organizing Your Family Cookbook Project (Mary V. Danielsen, Part 2)
---A Holocaust survivor, a rescued family cookbook, and the taste of home (Tim Carman, WaPo, 10-26-22) In the 1960s, a family recipe book that had been rescued from the Nazis after survivors of the Holocaust had successful fled the country, leaving it behind. You can see the beloved, well-used Fenyves family recipe book (1920) by going to the website of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and searching for "family recipes" or "Fenyes family recipe book." You'll many other such collections as well.

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Recording family histories before it's too late (Rosemary McClure, LA Times, 12-19-09)
Recording Your Story, (Logan Molineaux, Daily Herald, Utah). Very helpful for beginning personal historians and their clients.
Rediscovered Tapes Detail Memories of Brookline Holocaust Survivors (Patricrecipe book"k Skahill, WBUR News, 5-23-18) For years, hours of videotaped interviews with survivors of the Holocaust sat packed away in a closet in Brookline. Now, filmmaker Harvey Bravman has rescued those old tapes, weaving dozens of interviews together into a “living memorial” for survivors: Soul Witness: The Brookline Holocaust Witness Project (a documentary film in progress, 30 years in the making)
Rediscovering WWII's female 'computers' (Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN, 2-8-11). This story of women secretly recruited during WWII to calculate weapons' trajectories for fighting U.S. troops is captured in the documentary Top Secret Rosies (on Vimeo).
The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal by Lily Koppel. Rescued from a dumpster on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, a discarded diary brings to life the glamorous, forgotten world of an extraordinary young woman. A young journalist tracks down the woman whose 1930s world was locked away in a trunk for almost 75 years.
Reel life: the biographical films bringing joy to people with dementia (Juliette Jowit, The Guardian, 5-31-17) Jo is watching her own life story on television. See how she reacts. My Life Films combine music, photos, clips and interviews to celebrate the lives of those with dementia – and help carers build better patient relationships. “There is nothing positive about dementia, [but] in a way we bring a little bit of good into their lives, it’s a celebration,” says Jorg Roth, who set up the UK charity with his wife Carolin. “I talked to a gerontologist friend: I thought it was the entertainment value; she said no, it’s the journey, it’s the interest we show in somebody, it’s family coming together.”
Reflections (these excellent Novartis images, by Tom Hussey, capture a current image of an elder looking in a mirror at a younger image of themselves)
Remembering together - How long-term couples develop interconnected memory systems (Alex Fradera, Research Digest, 7-29-14) "It's possible that as we grow older, we offset the unreliability of our own episodic systems by drawing on the memorial support offered by a trusted partner. This might explain why when one member of an older couple experiences a drop in cognitive function, the other soon follows. Our memory systems are more of a shared resource than we realise."
Researching family history has never been easier (7 on Your Side story: "It is a gift that will last generations."
Re-membering Pets: Documenting the meaning of people’s relationships with these family members by narrative therapist Barbara Baumgartner, in Explorations: An E-Journal of Narrative Practice
Remember this? A project to record everything we do in life (Alec Wilkinson,The New Yorker, 5-28-07, on "lifelogging")
Retirement home bands together to bring WWII stories to life . Their stories are collected in World War II Remembered (by residents of Kendal at Hanover)
Revelations (Lisa Lombardi O’Reilly, The Times That Bind, Coastal View, 7-12-18) What you can learn by climbing into someone else's skin.
Riding Out the Storm (Dan Yashinsky, Pulse, 2-2-18) Storycare, in this research and teaching hospital for the elderly, means creating a time and space where stories can be told, heard, imagined and remembered. The patients often tell me that they've lost the thread of their own life stories: They can barely remember their pre-hospital lives and find it hard to imagine what might happen next. On a good day, storycare helps them to reclaim their sense of wonder and suspense--and, surprisingly, laughter--even in the midst of their suffering.
Ritchie Boys, a secret U.S. WWII unit bolstered by German-born Jews (60 Minutes, 1-2-22) The Ritchie Boys were responsible for gathering more than half the actionable intelligence on the battlefield during World War II. For the many German-born Jews in their ranks, defeating the Nazis was heartbreakingly personal. Jon Wertheim reports.
See also
---Life as a Ritchie Boy (video of talk, 6-6 or 7-2014) As part of the D-Day+70 Years Commemoration weekend at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas, Dr. Guy Stern speaks about how they used intelligence to interrogate German prisoners of war, ending with this message: "I wish for our country that we would have the same sense of unity and purpose that we experienced as a country in WWII."
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “It’s Amazing to Me How Distinctly I Remember Each of These Women” (Dahlia Lithwick, Jurisprudence, Slate, 7-21-2020) Ruth Bader Ginsburg reflects on her nine female classmates at Harvard Law School and the divergent paths their lives all took from there. (Click on internal links to see what those women remember.)

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Sages & Seekers, a nonprofit organization designed to bridge the intergenerational gap between seniors and teenagers in order to generate the exchange of valuable wisdom, strengthen community, and dissolve age-related segregation-- in other words, young people interview old people about their lives. Here are answers to frequently asked questions.
Sasha and Zamani, African proverb about the two stages of death. Steve Pender's blog entry about African concept that you are truly dead when you are no longer remembered. Stefani Twyford on the same story, both of them citing James Walsh, who spoke of the proverb/concept at an APH conference.
Searching for a Needle in a Haystack (Dale Komai, Discover Nikkei, 8-28-14) Dale posted his search request on this site that publishes human interest stories about Japanese immigrants and their descendants who settled in the U.S. and got a surprise email response from a stranger in India.
She’s a thrift store detective of sorts — she buys mementos and returns them to their rightful owners, free of charge (Sydney Page, Washington Post, 1-10-22) To date, she has returned hundreds of heirlooms; she stopped counting after she hit 190.
Six Glimpses of the Past: On photography and memory. (Janet Malcolm, The New Yorker, 10-29-18) "If I had known I was going to write about him, I would have asked my mother questions. But now I am like a reporter with an empty notebook....The past is a country that issues no visas. We can only enter it illegally....We are each of us an endangered species. When we die, our species disappears with us. Nobody like us will ever exist again."

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Save a Life…In a Story. Marcia Passos Duffy (SeniorJournal.com, 4-12-05, on becoming , a personal historian, after realizing she'd failed to capture her late mother's stories
Saving Carnegie Hall (Joanne Kaufman, WSJ, 4-17-13) Carnegie Hall's archivist, Gino Francesconi, went from conducting Respighi to conducting research.
ScrapMoir (Bettyann Schmidt, guestblogger, Women's Memoirs, on scrapbooking around ordinary moments in life)
Saving personal histories, before they are lost (Timothy Fannin, Sarasota Herald Tribune, 6-3-19) “It’s easy to leave the house, the car, the money, the boxes of pictures,” said personal historian Curt Werner. “But it’s much harder to leave pieces of yourself.” Sometimes it's easier to share your life story with a stranger than with your own family. But get the stories before a person's memory fades, before those memories are gone forever.
A Seamstress’s Autobiographical Text Embroidered Onto Her 19th-Century Straitjacket (Kate Sierzputowski, This Is Colossal, 4-3-18) While German seamstress Agnes Richter (1844–1918) was a patient at the Heidelberg Psychiatric Clinic during the 1890s, she would densely embroider her standard issue straitjacket, stitching the object with words, phrases, and diaristic entries in deutsche schrift, an old German script. "I am not big," "I wish to read," and "I plunge headlong into disaster" are phrases deciphered from the jacket.
Searching for a Needle in a Haystack (Dale Komai, If These Pictures Could Talk, 9-3-17) "Like so many Nisei born in the United States during the early decades of the twentieth century, my father, Hiroshi Komai, left behind a large collection of personal artifacts after he passed away in 2004." Dale interviewed his father, scanned and edited hundreds of old photos. "Even so, there’s so much about his life that remains a mystery to me to this day." With photos and old Japanese music.

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The secrets buried under a family tree (Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe, 4-18-08)
Secrets of Memoir panel (Video of panel discussion held 11-2-11 at NYU Bookstore, sponsored by National Book Critics Circle)
Secrets of a Successful Interview (Valerie Holladay, Ancestry Magazine, 2-05)
The Secrets We Keep ("Mit Schlag," on Mother Sugar blog, 12-10-12). Writing anonymously, a happily pregnant but exhaustingly nauseated and 24-hour "morning sick" young woman writes about the secrecy and denial with which countless women cloak their first trimester. "I wonder whose anxiety we’re trying to protect in concealing these first few difficult months: the mother-to-be? Are we trying to protect me from the shame of admitting I am barely functional; that I can’t go 45 minutes without eating? That I’m afraid of losing the baby? Are we really trying to protect a woman from sharing that she had a miscarriage, signaling to her that this is something she should want to keep hidden? Or are we trying to protect our culture from admitting that not all pregnancies are beautiful and easy and make it to term, and that that loss can be absolutely devastating?"
The Secret Tales of an Irish Boyhood Long Ago (Michael Whelan, IrishCentral, 8-27-15) "Before he died, I sat down with [my father} to talk in a way I had not talked with him as a child. “What was it like,” I asked, “the world where you grew up?” In his answers I felt a psychic legacy pass to me, an uncanny sense resonate in me for a world gone forever, a memory wakened of a lost boyhood which somehow I knew."
Seeing the Subway as an Open Book (Jackie Bischof, WSJ online, 6-22-12, profiles freelance photographer Ourit Ben-Haim about her surreptitious portraits of New York subway riders as they read their books)
Self-Portrait in a Skewed Mirror by Carlin Flora (Psychology Today 1-1-06). You're more than the star and author of your own life story. You're also the spin master. How you tell your tale reveals whether you see yourself as victim or victor, even when your story veers from the life you lived.
Self-Publishing and Print on Demand (what you need to know)
75 years ago, the U.S. interned thousands of Japanese-Americans (Rachel Weiss, Newsday, 2-16-17) 'They are doing it no again now with other groups.'

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Shapeshifting (Marjorie Turner Hollman, Sharing the Fire presenter, League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling, 1-20-16) Love the Rumpelstiltskin comments.
Sharing Life Stories (Peg Milnik, Press Democrat, 2-3-13). There's a burgeoning effort among estate planners, educators and financial advisers to encourage older people to get their stories recorded. This story is about four personal historians who help make that happen.
She found a 100-year-old diary in her San Francisco home. Following its story changed her life. (SarahFeldberg, San Francisco Chronicle, 8-19-21) That story literally fell into Lalanne’s life in January 2019, when a 119-year-old diary slipped from her basement ceiling during seismic retrofitting. Once Lalanne unlocked what the pages contained, she felt an overwhelming responsibility to share it -- to make sure the words scrawled in a diary and hidden in the ceiling of a house in San Francisco for more than 100 years would not be lost to history.
She found long-lost love letters hidden in her attic. Then the hunt began for their owner. (Sydney Page, Washington Post, 3-7-22) “As I age, I have a newfound appreciation for recognizing that my grandparents and the elders in my family have led complete and full lives that I will never fully understand or really know about.” So she was adamant about reuniting the family with the long-lost heirlooms.
Shopping for Antiques, Finding My Mother (Healther Sellers, Opinionator, NY Times, 5-14-15) About the power of objects to help us hold on...."The whole time I’d grown up with her, and long after, she’d desperately worried that people were trying to take her things....She scattered photographs, destroyed my father’s 1950s love letters to her, gave away her lovely kitchen things and then called me, wondering where they had gone. Alzheimer’s took her memory, and she lost everything...."
Should You Worry About Data Rot? David Pogue, Pogue's Posts on Technology (3-26-09), writes about problems in deterioration, stickiness, poor storage quality, online storage sites going out of business overnight, technologies changing and equipment for reading data becoming obsolete. Enjoy the videos, but for preservation, consider the book.
Show & Tell (Marjorie Turner Hollman leads a Show & Tell session at which members of the public bring a treasured item from their past and tell stories about the memories it brings)
Sir Paul Nurse: 'I looked at my birth certificate. That was not my mother's name' (The Nobel prize-winning geneticist revealed his biggest genetic secret when he took the stage for storytelling group The Moth)
6th graders create civil rights documentary (Doug Moore, Post-Dispatch, 2-1-11). History teachers everywhere: Read this story!
Six Word Memoirs (platform for sharing them, developed at Smith College). A Six-Word Memoir is the story of your life—some part of it or all of it—told in exactly six words. For example: attributed to Hemingway: "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn." Andie Grace: "Wasn't born a redhead; fixed that." The first collection: Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure. See also Larry Smith's TED talk: Six Words Are the Way In (or I Would Have, You Never Asked). In 2006 Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser invited Smith readers to describe their life in just six words. "The constraint fueled creativity." The stories kept coming. Bob Redman: "After cancer, I became a semicolon." And a community of storytellers was born: Smith College "What's Six?" site. See more on Wikipedia.. See also YouTube exercise to prep you for writing your own six-word memoir.

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Smell:Welcome to Our Museum of Smells (Jaspal Riyait, Melissa Kirsch, Tejal Rao, Will Anderson, NY Times, 11-18-2020) "For years I've been in search of a candle that smells like Nuts 4 Nuts, the infamous New York City cart that serves these treats all over the city. I've never actually cared for the nuts themselves and think they actually aren't great, but the aroma is pure magic." ~ Marc Rosenberg
Building a Personal Smell Museum of Los Angeles (Tejal Rao and Ryan Young, NY Times, 10-13-2020) “Every time you notice a smell — fresh bread, your best friend’s house, a wet dog, garlic frying in butter — it means volatile particles in the air have entered your body and, just for a moment, become a part of you,” she said. “There is no sense more intimate, or more complex, which is why recalling your own personal smell memories can be so precise, vivid and even emotional. Your recollections might be one day, or several decades old, but that smell was once a part of you.”

Soldier admits sneaking into Auschwitz during WWII Mike Collett-White (Reuters)‘My life depended on 50 cigarettes,’ 92-year-old says in interview about biography The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz: A True Story of World War II by Denis Avey with Rob Broomby
Soldiers Lost and Found: Students Rediscover the Fallen (Michael M. Phillips, WSJ, 10-20-12). A generation of Tom Clark's high school history students have been tracking down the families of Indiana's war dead and creating an archive of their stories. "His classroom is like a forgotten corner of the Smithsonian."
A son’s photographic journey through Alzheimer’s with his dad Gene DiRado showed his son, Stephen DiRado, the fundamentals of line drawing and perspective and kept him stocked with crayons and encouragement as he made his way in the art world. As a photographer, son collaborated with father to photograph his decline through Alzheimer's, winning a $5,000 grant from the Bob and Diane Fund, which supports visual storytelling (photography and/or multimedia work) that documents Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
A Son’s Race to Give His Dying Father Artificial Immortality (James Vlahos, Wired, 7-18-17) "That clinches it. If even a hint of a digital afterlife is possible, then of course the person I want to make immortal is my father....I have the option of allowing the Dadbot to converse with my family out loud, via Alexa (though unnervingly, his responses would come out in her voice)....The Dadbot will no doubt be a paltry, low-­resolution representation of the flesh-and-blood man. But what the bot can reasonably be taught to do is mimic how my dad talks—and how my dad talks is perhaps the most charming and idiosyncratic thing about him."

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Speak, Memory by Oliver Sacks (New York Review of Books 2-21-13). Fascinating article about the nature and relationship of memory and storytelling, and the fallibility and malleability of human memory.
Start new Chanukah tradition by sharing family stories (Ellie Kahn, Cleveland Jewish News, 12-7-17) With tips for how to do so.
‘Step out of line’: Emmy winning ‘Mrs. Maisel’ actress tells powerful tale of her grandmother fighting Nazis ( Sarah K. Burris, Raw Story, 9-22-19) Actress Alex Borstein won the award for a best supporting actress in a comedy series during the 71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Sunday. When accepting her award, however, she told a touching story about her grandmother’s bravery fighting the Nazis. “To my mother … to my grandmother,” she said. “They are immigrants, they are Holocaust survivors. My grandmother turned to a guard. She was in line to be shot into a pit. She said, ‘What happens if I step out of line?’ And he said, ‘I don’t have the heart to shoot you but somebody will,’ and she stepped out of line. And for that, I am here and my children are here. So step out of line, ladies, step out of line.”
Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One. (Ann Banks, My Turn, Newsweek.) Don't underestimate the power of storytelling. It got folks through the Depression. It can work now, too.
Stories about patients in clinical research at NIH (Read more stories in Building Ten at Fifty by Pat McNees
The Stories of the Holocaust (Robin Pogrebin,, NY Times, 3-20-13), about Coming of Age in the Holocaust an exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, done jointly with The Ghetto Fighters' House Museum

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The Stories That Bind Us (Bruce Feiler, NY Times, This Life, 3-151-13). “The last few years have seen stunning breakthroughs in knowledge about how to make families, along with other groups, work more effectively. The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.” Children learn resilience when they hear what their relatives before them have faced. See also The Stories That Bind Us: What Are the Twenty Questions? (Marshall P. Duke, Huff Post, 2-23-15)

Stories Waiting to Be Told (Mary Harrison, Teaching Tolerance, Perspective No. 18, Fall 2000). ESL teachers in a middle school in North Dakota give refugee students a chance to tell their stories of loss and violence, by giving them a place to feel safe and build trusting relationships.
The Stories We Tell, or How I Met My Husband (Sharon Greenthal, Huff Post, 11-1-12) "What narrative do you have about your life? I don't mean the voice in your head that speaks to you about things you'd rather not hear, like 'get your butt to the gym,' or 'you need to call your mother.' I'm talking about the narrative you share with others, the stories you tell to define yourself to the world. "
‘Storycare’ should be an essential part of health care (Dan Yashinsky,, TheStar.com, 6-2-17) "Storycare means creating times and places in the hospital for people to tell, hear, imagine, and remember stories. For people with dementia, storytelling sparks rich and imaginative responses, even from those who have forgotten the names of their loved ones. For psychiatry patients being treated for severe depression, wondertales full of breathtaking suspense can help them regain their desire to discover what happens next — in the story, and in their own lives. In the palliative unit, I listen to life-stories, share tales of wisdom from around the world, and we laugh, too, despite the solemn setting."
Storycatching guidelines, for storycatching with a circle of friends, based on Christina Baldwin's book, Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story

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Ugandan memory books (BBC photo story about how people in an oral-history culture are dealing with parents' early deaths from AIDS)
Uncovering the history of Seneca Village in New York City (Sunday Morning, CBS News, 2-6-22) For thirty years before Central Park was developed, part of what became the park had been a settlement, home to the largest number of free Black property owners in New York City before the Civil War. (And because they owned property, they could vote.) Irish and German immigrants moved in, too. In 1853 the city used eminent domain to take control of the land. In all, about 1,600 residents were displaced, including nearly 300 from Seneca Village.
The untold stories of Japanese war brides (Kathryn Tolbert, Washington Post, 9-22-16) Fascinating story, by the daughter of a war bride, who helped make the documentary Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides and oral history collection Japanese War Brides: An Oral History Archive

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Valrico memoir writing class is all about sharing (Eric Vician, Tampa Bay Times, 9-25-13) "The written word will never be replaced. Passing it along to family members is probably the greatest thing you can do in your life. It's a lost art."
A Very Good Liar (Erin Branning, Hippocampus, 7-7-21) "One afternoon, while sitting at the nurse's station, she sees her chart and the words Anorexia Nervosa written under Diagnosis. She doesn't know what this means, and no one has ever used those words with her." A daughter's memories of her mother.
Veterans, Alone Together, Share Stories They Can’t Tell You (Lawrence Downes, NY Times Editorial Observer 10-5-08,writing about weekend workshop run by Vets 4 Vets, a Tucson nonprofit that is setting up peer support groups around the country for a new generation of veterans making the transition from "hunter-killer" mode to husband-student mode)
Veterans History Project (capturing personal accounts of American war veterans and U.S. citizen civilians involved in war efforts, such as USO workers, flight instructors, medical volunteers). You can download the VHP field kit and forms online. See Newt Minow's letter, at 20, after returning home from service in World War II. (There's a page turner so you can see all nine pages.)

Veterans Writing Project . Offers no-cost seminars and workshops for members of the armed forces, active and reserve, who want to learn about writing in order to tell their stories. Their core curriculum is Ron Capps's book Writing War: A Guide to Telling Your Own Story. Written by a veteran for veterans, it details the elements of craft involved in writing both fiction and non-fiction. The Veterans Writing Project publishes a blog and a literary journal O-Dark-Thirty .
Video Biography: The reluctant subject (Jane Lehman-Shafran, Video Biography Central, on why and how to keep after their life story)
Video Memoir: The Life That Got Away (Jane Lehman-Shafran has made personal and family history documentaries for many clients, and regrets the one she didn't make -- of her Nana. On Wrote by Rote.)
Virtual Wall, Vietnam Veterans Memorial (look up Vietnam War casualties by name, place, date, and other details--get more info, add a photo, etc.)
Video Memories (Anne W. Semmes, Greenwich Citizen, 4-10-13). As part of its ongoing exhibit, "From Italy to America," the Greenwich Historical Society offers "A Box of Photos Tells No Tales: Preserving Family History," a look at the latest trend in organizing and preserving personal histories -- the "Ken Burns-styled" video narratives of Peter Savigny (Time Stories, moving stories)
Vivian Maier, the Chicago nanny and street photographer nobody knew about (fascinating story on Chicago Today). What would you have done with such a discovery? John Maloof started a Vivian Maier blog; see also Artsy's Vivian Maier page of photos.

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Walking Across America: Advice for a Young Man (Andrew Forsthoefel with Jay Allison, Transom.org, 4-2-13) Want to hear more? Listen to 40 stories on Cowbird.
Walking Home Erika Swyler, The End, NY Times, 6-24-15)
The Way We Write History Has Changed (Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic, Jan 2020) Enter the smartphone, and cheap digital photography. Instead of reading papers during an archival visit, historians can snap pictures of the documents and then look at them later.
The Weeksville historic community in Brooklyn was created for free African Americans (Curbed NY, video on Facebook) A community-organized archaeological dig saved this historic Brooklyn settlement, founded by a former slave.
We Aren't Who We Think We Are (Leah Donnella, Code Switch, NPR, 7-1-2020) Part of her story about her ancestry. “I will likely never know which parts of Africa my ancestors were taken from.... But some accident of history gave me a last name that's actually pretty uncommon—one that I could use to track down a small part of my family's history.” List to more Code Switch stories.

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We Found Our Son in the Subway (Peter Mercurio, Townies, NY Times Opinionator page, 2-28-13). A wonderful story.
We will all leave a legacy - whether we like it or not (Lyndsay Green, Globe and Mail, 1-11-19) "What if we were told our life was to abruptly end? Have we been living a life aligned with our values? Would our time on earth have made a difference to anyone or anything? What would we be leaving behind for those we love? What responsibilities would be left dangling? What story would people tell about us after we’re gone? Have we been taking full advantage of this one precious life, both for ourselves and for others? What would be our legacy?...We are building our legacy continuously by the way we lead our lives, whether consciously or not. The actions and contributions we make every day are the components that will structure our remembered self."
We’re Losing Generations of Family History Because We Don’t Share Our Stories (Rachael Rifkin, Good Housekeeping, 11-13-19) "Most people don't know much about their family history. This is because people usually don't become interested in genealogy until they're in their 50s and 60s, when they have more time to reflect on their family identity. The problem is that by that time, their grandparents and parents have often already passed away or are unable to recount their stories." Rifkin writes about how to cultivate an interest in each other to begin with, including some questions to ask family members.
What a Literary Left-Wing Legend Left Behind (Ellen Gruber Garvey, Lilith, 4-14-21) 'For decades, Fran carried her sign, “I adore my lesbian daughters: Keep them safe,” written in gracious script, enhanced with glitter, to the march.... Fran, a meticulous planner of events and activities, had told us that $500 should be used to cover food for memorial gathering in her Lower East Side apartment, where people could take memorabilia and items they wanted or needed or that she had designated for them, while celebrating her life.'
What can I say that hasn't been said before? (Olive Lowe, Life Stories by Liv, 2-19-18) "It is not what we experience, but the way we experience it, that makes our stories unique....First and foremost, the goal of writing should be selfish–it is a therapeutic process, helping you reflect on, make sense of, and even find closure to events in your life. Secondly, good stories deserve to be told, not necessarily on a loudspeaker broadcast to the entire world, but in meaningful ways to those close to you."
What is the difference between a memoir and an autobiography (or memoirs)? Pat McNees, Writers and Editors
What Is Nostalgia Good For? Quite a Bit, Research Shows (John Tierney, NY Times, 7-8-13) Nostalgia, long considered a disorder, is now recognized to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety — making life seem more meaningful and death less frightening.
What is the difference between a memoir (or memoirs) and an autobiography? (Pat McNees, Writers and Editors)
What Kids Learn From Hearing Family Stories (Elaine Reese, The Atlantic, 12-9-13) "Over the last 25 years, a small canon of research on family storytelling shows that when parents share more family stories with their children -- especially when they tell those stories in a detailed and responsive way -- their children benefit in a host of ways."
What's the Point? Bettyan Schmidt (guesting on Women's Memoirs) urges you to include stories with those scrapbook photos, not just headings: Tell stories about the memories those photos represent.
What's Your Story? Participants have 10 minutes to share a part of their lives during monthly storyteller gatherings (Sherilyn Forrester, Tucson Weekly, 8-2-12)
What’s Left Behind (Joy Juliet Bullen, on Suleika Jaouad site, The Isolation Journals, 3-16-22) A meditation on legacy and a writing prompt.
What Will the Theme of Your Life Be in 2017? (Kira M. Newman, Greater Good, 12-30-16) If your life were a movie, where would the plot be headed right now? Newman discusses three common life themes: communion, agency, and redemption.
When Affluent Families Dig Up Their Past (Paul Sullivan, Wealth Matters, NY Times, 1-18-19) "Generationally wealthy families have long commissioned or participated in documenting family histories — think of the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds. At their most basic, these works preserve the stories of suffering and greatness that can remind younger generations of what came before them. But a new group of wealthy entrepreneurs and family business executives are using the past as action plans to guide change in themselves or their family. Wealth management firms are in on the action, with historians on staff. There are also independent historians ready to serve paying clients. Both family health histories and family business histories may be helpful, if difficult, and there are a couple of ways of dealing with honest but negative stories. .
When Family Stories Are Hard to Tell (KJ Dell'Antonia, Motherlode, NY Times, 3-24-13). "When stories are difficult, tell them anyway.... There may be some stories that are never publicly told, but as families, we are the keepers of one another’s stories, no matter how brutal they are. We have to find our own ways to tell them."

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When History Is Personal by Mimi Schwartz. The stories of twenty-five moments in Mimi Schwartz’s life, each heightened by its connection to historical, political, and social issues. These essays look both inward and outward so that these individualized tales tell a larger story—of assimilation, the women’s movement, racism, anti-Semitism, end-of-life issues, ethics in writing, digital and corporate challenges, and courtroom justice. Similarly, see her previous book: Thoughts from a Queen-Sized Bed (about what it means to be married for almost forty years).
When I Was Your Age, We Didn't Have Sites for Writing Our Bios by Sarmad Ali (WSJ, 3-31-07, evaluating LifeBio.com and biowriters.Net)
When Jack Daniel’s Failed to Honor a Slave, an Author Rewrote History (Clay Risen, NY Times, 8-15-17) The story of Nearest Green, the Tennessee slave who taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey, shows how enslaved people likely provided the brains as well as the brawn in what was an arduous, dangerous and highly technical operation. Green was rented out by his owners, a firm called Landis & Green, to farmers around Lynchburg, including Dan Call, a wealthy landowner and preacher who also employed a teenager named Jack Daniel to help make whiskey. Green, already adept at distilling, took Jack Daniel under his wing and, after the Civil War and the end of slavery, went to work for him in his fledgling whiskey operation.
When Patients Share Their Stories, Health May Improve (Pauline W. Chen, MD, NY Times 2-10-11). See conversation about the article at Healing Through Storytelling Tara Parker-Pope, Well column, NY Times, 2-10-11).

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When the future is running out, narrating the past helps to prepare (Dhruv Khullar, Washington Post, 7-12-19) At the end of life, people want to feel their life mattered. "A growing body of work suggests that a powerful but underused method of creating this sense of mattering is storytelling — reflecting on the past and creating a narrative of one’s life, what it has meant, who you’ve become and why." Humans have "tremendous power to frame a narrative. The same series of events — becoming a parent, getting a divorce, losing a loved one, finding a job — can be a tale of resilience and restoration or misfortune and regret. The process of bringing coherence to one’s life story is what psychologist Dan McAdams calls creating a 'narrative identity.' People get better at identifying important life themes as they age, and those who are able to find the positive amid the negative are generally more satisfied with life."
When we save every memory, we forget which ones are special (Dara Horn, WashPost, 9-19-13) What is lost in that cloud is the art of forgetting, the selective memory that distinguishes trash from treasure.
When Writers Expose the Dead (Ken Budd, Opinion, NY Times, 11-30-13) How do we handle the painful truth in our memoirs?
Where I'm From, a poem by Georgia Lyon, which some teachers use as a writing prompt, suggesting that class members write their version. See examples on her website.
Where Will All the Stories Go? (Part 1) by Mary Patricia Voell (Legacies, 4-11-17). Part 2. and Where Will All The Stories Go? A Partial List (Legacies, 4-12-17) Practical tips for sharing (the "release" of catch and release.

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Who Actually Wins (and Keeps) the HGTV Dream Home? (Amanda Paige Inman, Catapult, 2-22-22) “If you think about something often and hard enough, it eventually calcifies into a belief that it is already yours. We actually believed those walls would house us....At night, I focused my eyes on three bubbles on my popcorn ceiling and pictured the Dream Home in my mind: its walls of layered stones, the wooden columns in the ceiling.”
Who Gets the Last Word on Steve Jobs? He Might. (Tripp Mickle, NY Times, 10-22-22) When Laurene Powell Jobs unveiled a website dedicated to the story of her late husband, historians wondered if it could change how influential people burnish their legacies.
Who Owns an Interview (Mark Fowler, Rights of Writers, 1-7-11)
Who owns the story? (part 1) and Who owns the story? (part 2), by Janet Riehl and Stephanie Farrow, are not about legal ownership but about ethical ownership, asking you questions such as "Is the story true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?" and in particular, "With regard to secrets, are they necessary to your story? Are they yours to tell?" (Guest blogs on Women's Memoirs)

Who Will Write Our History?: Rediscovering a Hidden Archive from the Warsaw Ghetto by Samuel D. Kassow. See review (Variety) of this "vital and sobering" film, which "unveils the secret diarists of the Warsaw Ghetto, who testified on every page to the life that the Nazis tried to bury." And another view: Of Course We Must ‘Write Our History’ — But Do We Need To Restage It? (PJ Grisar, Forward, 1-24-19)

Why Arizona doesn't observe daylight saving time (Anne Stegen, 12News, 3-9-18)
Why I'm a Transformative Language Artist (Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Huff Post, 8-25-14) "I've seen how coming together to tell our stories makes its own synergy and community, even among unlikely bedfellows, like the workshop I facilitated in a small Kansas town for "at-risk" and "troubled teens" coupled up with elderly women at a well-heeled retirement center. By the third week of writing together, the girls -- mostly abandoned by their mothers who favored drugs or abusive boyfriends instead of their daughters -- were sitting in the laps of the older women, reading their new poems aloud."

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Why memoir writer Deb Moore enjoys telling stories of others' lives (Terri Finch Hamilton, Grand Rapids Press 12-11-11)
Why memory lane is such a mortifying stroll (Diane Mapes, msnbc, on how your brain is wired to keep mental souvenirs from times you'd rather forget), and her discussion of Robin Hemley's Do-Over! In which a forty-eight-year-old father of three returns to kindergarten, summer camp, the prom, and other embarrassments
Why this child of holocaust survivors will visit Germany, but not Poland (Sherry Amatenstein, Medium, 3-16-18) Why I broke a promise to my father to visit his hometown, Lodz.
Why Write Your Life Story (Pat's links, The Healing Powers of Narrative)
Why write your memoir? Martha Jewett shares a few answers (4-7-09)
Why You Should Dig Up Your Family’s History — and How to Do It (Jaya Saxena, NY Times, 2-3-19) Learning your history is forced reckoning, asking you to consider whose stories you carry with you and which ones you want to carry forward. Whatever you do, be prepared to fall down a rabbit hole, Ms. Koch-Bostic said. “I think it appeals to people who love an intellectual pursuit, because that’s really what it is,” she said. “It’s solving a puzzle at the highest level, and the benefit is that you get to find out about your family.”
Wisdom in the Stars (Meghan Vigeant, Vermont Story Preserves, "spreading stories around," 10-14-09) In this series of audio-recorded interviews at farmer's markets, the sounds of the market become part of the story.
With Father-and-Son Writers, Who Gets to Tell the Family Story? (Tad Friend, New Yorker, 4-11-22) A relationship reconsidered by reading between the lines.
With personal histories, everyone can star in their memoir (Marsha King, Seattle Times, 9-29-06)

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Words of Obama’s Father Still Waiting to Be Read by His Son (Rachel S. Swarns, NY Times, 6-18-16) Letters written long ago by Barack Obama Sr. shed new light on a young Kenyan whose ambitions helped change the course of U.S. history. But for the president, they may also revive old pain.
World Storytelling Day (March 20th)
World War I: Experiences of an English soldier (a blog made from transcripts of Harry Lamin's letters from the first World War, posted exactly 90 years after they were written)
World War 2: 'We All Had a Piece of Hitler's Desk'. Joy Hunter recalls a remarkable life, working in Churchill's War Rooms and attending the historic Potsdam conference in 1945. (Elizabeth Grice, Telegraph, 9-3-09)
Wrapped in the Flag: A Personal History of America's Radical Right by Claire Conner, whose parents admired Franco and thought Eisenhower was a secret Communist.
Write for Your Life (Anna Quindlen, Newsweek, 1-22-07)
Writers and Editors (rich set of links to resources for writers and editors)
Writing About Your Religious Upbringing: Jeanne Fobes on Growing Up Catholic (Memoir Mentor, 6-7-11).
Writing a Memoir Taught Me How to See My Mother (Sherry Turkle, LitHub, 2-28-22) "In writing my memoir, the narrative arc of my mother’s struggle became clear and I saw how she drew me into denial for her sake because that is where she wanted us to live. I understood that we participated in this not-knowing together. Writing this story brought me closer to her, with a deeper understanding of how she bent the truth to her purposes."
The Writing Assignment That Changes Lives (Anya Kamenetz, nprEd, 7-10-15) Why do you do what you do? What is the engine that keeps you up late at night or gets you going in the morning? Where is your happy place? What stands between you and your ultimate dream? Heavy questions. One researcher believes that writing down the answers can be decisive for students.
Writing Memoir (online community, AARP,
Writing Our Lives in Challenging Times (Telling HerStory, StoryCircle Network). Blog with interesting writing prompts, wrapped in essays such as Failures and Other Fiascos (12-19-08) and Glories, Gifts--and Graces
Writing Your Life Story--Tips and Techniques for Success (Mike Brozda)

Writing Your Way to Happiness by Tara Parker-Pope (Well blog, NY Times, 1-19-15) "Researchers are studying whether the power of writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness. The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health....Dr. Wilson believes that while writing doesn’t solve every problem, it can definitely help people cope. 'Writing forces people to reconstrue whatever is troubling them and find new meaning in it,' he said."

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A Year at War (stories of the 30,000 men and women of First Battalion, 87th Infantry, taking part in the Afghanistan surge), excellent New York Times video series.
Your Personal Memoir preserves priceless family histories (Nicole Rupersburg, Oakland County Prosper, 8-31-17) Personal historians Susan Carroll and Gigi VanderWeele have been encouraging people in Oakland to record their stories and capture them in print (a technology that doesn't change every year or so, like video does) because once a person is gone their stories are gone, too.
You Might Remember This. Painter/experimental filmmaker Jeff Scher's animated portrait of his son Buster’s life from ages 6 to 10 (Opinionator blog, NY Times 6-18-11, music by Shay Lynch). See also You Won't Remember This (8-23-07, featuring Buster from birth through toddlerhood--music by Sam Bisbee), and You Won't Remember This Either (1-6-09, about younger son Oscar's toddler years). Says Scher: "All three films are about memory, which I like to think of as single grains of sand culled from the steady flow in the hourglass of our life and turned to pearls, to be strung and locked away where they wait, slowly fading. Buster might actually remember some of the moments depicted in this film; some he might remember because of this film. I will remember them all, having now engraved them in memory with crayon, paint and pencil."
You’re in the Navy now! Pat McNees's profile of Arlin Close, an ordinary guy who would rather not have served in the military, but it served him well in the end.

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Capturing Family History, Family Stories, and Family Voices and Feelings


How to Capture Family Stories and Voices
Becoming the Family Storycatcher

"There's power in allowing yourself to be known and 

heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice."

~ Michelle Obama, Becoming

"This packrat has learned that what the next generation will value most is

not what we owned but the evidence of who we were and the tales of how we loved.

In the end, it's the family stories that are worth the storage."

~ Ellen Goodman, (Boston Globe via Deseret News, 4-12-02)


Get those stories now, before memories fade and while people are still alive.



'Inside Out 2' and how we think about our feelings (Jorgelina Manna-Rea, radio interview on 1a, WAMU, 6-20-23, plus transcript) As children become adolescents, anxiety, envy, embarrassment and ennui get added to the mix of feelings. "Fear is about things you know and anxiety is about things you don't know." A wise and excellent segment on emotions and how we talk about them.

‘Is it a betrayal?’ Claire Messud on writing her family into fiction (Claire Messud, The Guardian, 5-25-24) For her new novel, the author drew from her parents’ letters and grandfather’s memoir. She describes the fears and joys that come with writing about family. "I needed to see them not as my parents and grandparents but rather just as people, muddling through the way we all do."

Robert DeNiro, interviewed by Katie Couric (2014), was asked: "Did you ever feel guilt that your Dad didn’t get recognition for his work?" DeNiro’s response: “Not guilty; I just feel responsible for him, for his legacy. I expect all kids in the family to be responsible for it. It’s just your duty”
The Reluctant Witness (Mitch Albert's interview with Alan Berliner, who to create a documentary about his paternal family, goes home again to interview his father, who says his life is "Nobody's Business." A fascinating account of "the irresistible force versus the immovable object." See Terry Gross's interview with Alan Berliner. After making two documentaries about families, Alan Berliner decided to make a film about his father and their family tree. Did that make his father happy? Absolutely not. But Berliner's father, after seeing the documentary and being applauded, tells a family friend it was "the happiest day of his life." The documentary Nobody's Business (IMDb) is available on IMDb, Amazon video and Netflix Streaming.
Re:collection (The National Museum of American Jewish History, in collaboration with digital storytelling company Enwoven). An online and mobile experience on a digital platform that makes it possible for the public to collect, preserve, and share personal stories and family memories that illustrate Jewish life in America. Capturing family voices, in particular
So Many Snapshots, So Few Voices Saved (Verlyn Klinkenborg, NY Times Sunday Opinion page, 12-29-12). "I remember the regret I felt after my mom died, years ago, that we had no recording of her voice on tape. And yet when my dad died in 2008 — same thing....While capturing sound is now so easy, make sure you record the voices you will want to hear again. The sound alone will say everything someday."
The Power of Telling Family Stories (Mike Brozda, AgingCare.com). How reminiscing and remembering the past helps seniors. Draws on “Do You Know? The power of family history in adolescent identity and well-being (Robyn Fivush, Marshall Duke, and Jennifer G. Bohanek for Journal of Family Life ( (2-23-10). Bottom line: Children benefit from knowing about their relatives.
Stories Make a Family (Elizabeth Stone, NY Times Magazine, 1-24-88) "But literal truth was never the point. What all these stories did was give us something strong and important to hold onto for as long as we needed it - a sense of belonging in the world. When I was growing up, my sense of what the future might hold was shaped by the stories I'd heard about our past."
Family history as a public health intervention? (Jacob Hess, Deseret News, 3-4-24) The documented effects of genealogical discoveries on emotional well-being, resilience, sense of identity and belonging are taking on new relevance in America’s mental health crisis.
Family history in public health practice: a genomic tool for disease prevention and health promotion (Rodolfo Valdez, Paula W Yoon, Nadeem Qureshi, Ridgely Fisk Green, Muin J Khoury, PubMed, 2010) Includes links to related articles.

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The Secret Benefits of Retelling Family Stories (Sue Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal, 11-11-19) Children learn about family history and identity through stories told by older generations.kids absorb more information from family stories than most adults think. See also The Psychological Benefits to Hearing Family Stories This Thanksgiving (NPR's Ailsa Chang speaks with Shellenbarger on All Things Considered, NPR, 11-26-19) Why not take advantage this holiday season and tell and retell the classic family stories shared around the table?
Family stories aren’t fairy tales — but kids still need to hear them (Anna Nordberg, Parenting, Washington Post, 4-12-22) Stories are a way of preserving family history, but more importantly, they create a sense of continuity and resilience, and — this is the thing we often forget — they build a framework to understand painful experiences and celebrate joyful ones.
Family Dishes by Karen Stabiner (New York Times, 5-4-18) " I’ve known my plates longer than I’ve known anyone who is still on the planet. We’ve had good times together.. . .these dishes are like a stack of notebooks. All I have to do is look at them and my own celebrations come wafting back . . . A dinner plate says, 'Sit down next to me and let’s talk,' and each one has its own family stories to tell."
Stories from the Holocaust (top left column) A section of its own.
On Memoir, Permission, and the Thorny Terrain of Writing About Family (Jane Wong, LitHub, 5-6-24) How do you seek permission? What do you do when someone in your family protests your storytelling? Do you write it anyway?
Family History by WH 'Johnny' Johnson, about Published as "flash fiction" on Morgen Bailey's writing blog, but this is personal history, with a Geordie accent.
More than a Medical Record: Storytelling Helps Fill the Gaps Between Patients and Hospital Staff (Bram Sable-Smith, Morning Edition, NPR, Wisconsin Public Radio, 6-3-19) VA hospitals are pioneering the use of storytelling to strengthen the relationships patients have with doctors and nurses. Knowing a person's story helps caregivers relate to a patient. As part of a project called My Life, My Story, volunteers write up a patient's life story, a thousand-word biography, and attach it to the patient's medical record so any doctor or nurse can read it. Some research suggests that when caregivers know their patients better, those patients have improved health outcomes. A 2008 study "looked at what happened when radiologists were simply given a photo of the patients whose scans they were reading." The accuracy of their radiology read improved, with fewer misspelled words and a better, more detailed report. See also The Right to Write About Patients (Benjamin Oldfield and Lauren Small, Hopkins Medicine, Winter 2017)

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A convert to family history (BBC News, A Point of View 12-2-11). The discovery of a tape recording shed light on a puzzling family photograph which was taken in 1906 - and changed historian Lisa Jardine's views about the genealogy boom. "What a thrill, then, to encounter the miracle of oral history - of having a person in front of you who was actually there."
My family’s story, starting with an African girl on a slave ship, was almost lost (Zachary Hocher, LA Times, 6-19-22) "The incredible history my Aunt Annette shared with me in the final year of her life was almost lost. Because of one intriguing photo on the wall at my family home, I called my aunt. Because of one phone call, I ended up acquiring two centuries of family history. And knowing that story, I can only marvel at the lives built by Jermame’s descendants."
My Father's Voice. Taylor Plimpton, New Yorker, 6-17-12, writing with moving honesty about his father, George Plimpton.
Life Story Links: May 21, 2024 (Dawn Roode, Modern Heirloom Books) The next five entries are from Dawn Roode's curated roundup. If you like this section of my website, you might want also to sign up for Dawn's roundup.
Character Development: Lessons from Amy Tan (Beth Kephart, Brevity Blog, 5-14-24) "My father had a way of telling—few adjectives, few adverbs, as few words, indeed, as possible—and I can only remember a handful of times when he was the star of his own story. What, then, were the lessons that he taught? Humility, I’d log into my spreadsheet."
Studs Terkel Talks to Babe Secoli About Her Work as a Supermarket Checker (Studs Terkel, from Working, in LitHub, 5-15-24) Studs Terkel's selections from his interviews read like memoirs of the people he interviews.
Why forgetting is beneficial ( David Robson, BBC, 5-14-24) "Memory," writes neuroscientist Charan Ranganath in his new book Why We Remember, "is much, much more than an archive of the past; it is the prism through which we see ourselves, others, and the world."
What Pearl S. Buck’s Memoir Can Teach Parents of Disabled Children (Emily C. Bloom, LitHub, 5-20-24) "We are all of us products of our time and parents of children with disabilities might feel this more perniciously than others. I wrote because I felt that the stigma of privacy and shame was worse than the risk of saying the wrong thing."
My Father and the Hunt for Nazi Plunder (Susan Fisher Sullam, Wash Post Magazine, 6-19-14) Monuments Men: Only after her father died did the Baltimore writer piece together her father's role in recovering Nazi plunder. Great story; amazing photographs.
My Grandfather’s Memory Book (Colin Levy, NY Times, 3-6-18) When he died, Byron Levy left behind a vast inheritance — of drawings. Son and grandson ended up flipping through the pages for over an hour, and story after story rushed out.His grandson made a documentary of them.



How to Capture Family Stories and Voices

Turkey Talk: Record Your Family’s History this Thanksgiving (Debbie Brodsky, DMB Pictures) Examples of Debbie's advice on not only how to do it, but how not to do it (down-to-earth advice from a pro):
     Plan ahead. Know what equipment you’re going to use and make sure it works well. Liz purchased an audio recorder and microphone. Unfortunately, she didn’t understand some things about the equipment and the sound didn’t turn out well.
     Check your recording levels. Too loud is not good. In Liz’s case, the audio was over-modulated and distorted. We hired a sound editor to fix the sound, but there’s only so much you can do when sound is over-modulated. It’s best to record around -12 to -8db, and make sure recording levels don’t go into the red. Go here for the rest of her tips.
Can We Tape? A Practical Guide to Taping Phone Calls and In-Person Conversations in the 50 States and D.C. (with a state-by-state guide). (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Fall 2008)
How the Pop-Up Radio Archive Is Saving Culture (UC Berkeley School of Information, 4-2-12). Three School of Information master’s students are working with the Kitchen Sisters, a pair of independent radio producers, to solve a longstanding information-management and archival problem. The Pop-Up Radio Archive, will support long-term online archiving of multimedia materials; a sensible, accessible, standardized system of organization, labeling, and tagging (the metadata system); and optional online publishing to make the resources available to the world.
Hey, at Least You Can Be Virtually Immortal (J. Peder Zane, NY Times, 3-12-13). Digital devices and online services and service providers can help you leave a record of your life for younger and future generations, once you sort through it all.
Home Movie Day (an annual celebration of amateur films and filmmaking)
"I'm so glad you did this. So glad." (Susan A. Kitchens, Family Oral History, on how a casual recording of a conversation was transformed, by death, "into something of unspeakable value")
Life Savers: Capturing your family history is a phone call away. Mary Helen Tibbs (Memphis magazine, 4-07, PDF) hears about the "legacy videos" produced by husband-wife team Verissima Productions (Rob Cooper and Pam Pacelli).

Audio and video recording equipment, software, and editing tools -- reviews, tutorials, and explanations
Audio Life Stories, Part 1 Personal historian Gloria Nussbaum captures clients' voices and stories on audio recordings. She tells Amy Butler (The Life Story Coach) and us why it's important and how she does it. Audio Life Stories, Part 1 and Part 2 Gloria's business: Real to Reel Recordings. Gloria is one of the few personal historians in the late Association of Personal Historians who did audio only.
A comparison of print and video legacy memoirs (personal historian Andrea Gross explains their suitability for different purposes)
• Personal History Productions. On the Aging Boomers Radio Show (Sonoma County), listen to personal historians Susan Milstein and Andi Reese Brady tell how they developed a business interviewing people about their lives and presenting what the captured as audio CDs or beautiful bound books

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Radio spots tell stories of forgotten New Mexicans, UFO-spotting (Kathaleen Roberts, Columbus, Indiana Republic 2-8-12). State folklorist Claude Stephenson trimmed 261 oral portraits down to 240 words timed at 1.58 minutes each, snippets of New Mexico history about everyone from Ham the astrochimp to a UFO-spotting Socorro sheriff.
Seniors record stories to preserve personal history. With notebooks, tape recorders, and video cameras, families are coaxing a lifetime of memories from beloved relatives. (Marilyn Gardner, Christian Science Monitor, 5-27-08)
Sound Portraits (radio documentaries, predecessor to StoryCorps). No longer active but you can listen to stories from the archives.
Story Corps audio interviews. Host Michael Krasny, Forum, hosts hour-long show with David Isay, featuring ten compelling true stories told by ordinary people — history from the bottom up, as collected in Listening Is an Act of Love. Modeled on the Federal Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration (under FDR), StoryCorps engages Americans locally in oral history, archiving interviwes at the American Folklife Center (Library of Congress). See its list of focused initiatives, such as the National Teachers Initiative, the StoryCorps Griot (preserving the voices, experiences, and life stories of African Americans), and the Memory Loss Initiative.
StoryCorps Do-It-Yourself Guide to Interviewing (PDF). Storycorps recording equipment is available for interviews done at home (see Rent a Storykit), but there is a waiting list.
Elisabeth Pozzi-Thanner's excellent piece about StoryCorps whetting the appetite for oral history (a review for Oral History Review, well worth reading)
Videos capture memories to last beyond a lifetime (Peter Schworm, Boston Globe, 8-23-10, with video of dying Auburn mother spending time with her 4- and 6-year-old)
When a life story can be part of cancer treatment (Southern Reporter, 4-26-12). Watch the moving video, Helen Morton's digital story about her husband Forbes's life and final weeks, when he died at home, with his family around him.
Your Home on a Coffee Table (GERALDINE FABRIKANT Geraldine Fabrikant, NY Times, 12-17-14). It’s the ultimate family album: an elegant book of photographs of your home, produced just for your family and friends.... The latest luxury for the fraction of the 1 percent who can afford their own planes, art collections and (multiple) homes is a personal keepsake that provides a lasting impression of those homes — one that requires putting down a serious amount of money."

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(Liz Massey's excellent series, Listen Closely Productions -- Audio storytelling for radio, podcasting and personal history)
Step 1: Getting Permission (how to invite your family member to tell his or her story (3-15-14)
Step 2: Selecting a Format (9-13-14)
Step 3: Getting the story (doing the interview 11-23-14)
Step 4: Gathering Stories at a Distance (when your narrator doesn’t live close to you. 1-14-15)
Step 5a: Getting It Ready – Finding the Storyline (3-29-15)
Step 5b: Editing Tips (5-16-15) Two main approaches: Chop Till You Drop or Build a Story Blueprint
Step 6: Getting It Done (7-30-15)
The Whole Series (7-15)

Go back to Capturing Family Voices and Stories (the section above this one)

See also


The path of awakening is not about becoming who you are. Rather it is about unbecoming who you are not. ~Albert Einstein

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       Valerie Metzler, archivist/historian, observes: 'I’m shocked that the Smithsonian article includes the phrase “protective plastic sleeve.” Please don’t ever put your historically valuable documents or photographs in plastic. Use polyester or polypropylene and use folders, not sleeves. Especially, do not put items that have more than two surfaces containing writing in a sleeve-- i.e. if you have to take it out to read the whole thing, do not put it in a sleeve.'

The Unprecedented Effort to Preserve a Million Letters Written by U.S. Soldiers During Wartime (April White, Smithsonian, Nov. 2019) A tragedy at home led one intrepid historian to find and catalog precious correspondence for future generations to study.

The Center for American War Letters (Chapman University)
Brothers in Arms (Dan Lamothe, Washington Post, 12-6-17) Four siblings wrote hundreds of letters to each other during World War II. The story they tell of service, sacrifice and trauma was hidden away in an abandoned storage unit — until now. The mostly handwritten letters, on tissue-thin paper, dated to World War II and were penned mostly by the members of a single family — the Eydes of Rockford, Ill. Three brothers were in the military: one in the Marine Corps, one in the Army and one in the Army Air Forces--fighting Germany and Japan, and using pejorative terms to describe the enemy. Long-form story, supplemental materials and a podcast.
What I Was Looking For A poem (Kathy Fagan, Poets.org) “After my mother died, I stashed the few things I’d salvaged from her apartment in a closet until I had time to look through them. Then I forgot where I’d put them. Six years later, I wrote this poem.”~Kathy Fagan
They found a stack of WWII love letters for sale. Then they began to unravel the mystery of who wrote them. (Caitlin Huson, Washington Post, 10-14-19) Two friends, Lindsy Wolke and Megan Grant, stumbled upon 21 handwritten letters from World War II and bought them at $4 apiece, then read about the love story of Elias Maxwell and Ilaine Murray. But the end of the story was missing, so they did research, sent letters (ignored as spam), and posted a note about their findings on Weird Secondhand Finds (a Facebook page). That worked.

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Letters reveal the struggles of Jewish refugees in Peru (Janice Arnold, Canadian Jewish News, 6-25-18) Interesting in itself and also a review of Walter's Welcome: The Intimate Story of a German-Jewish Family's Flight from the Nazis to Peru by Eva Neisser Echenberg and Judy Sklar Rasminsky.  See review: Neisser family letters bring history and heroism to life (Allison Hanes, Montreal Gazette, 5-2-18) "What makes Echenberg’s book so interesting, is that the letters form the backbone of the narrative....It is positively remarkable that this entire body of intercontinental correspondence has been preserved, first for many decades by those getting the letters on both sides of the ocean, then again by those same recipients departing Europe for South America. Those letters were considered so important, they were among the few items that those fleeing brought along on their journeys. Afterwards, the precious papers were kept by the descendants of the long-since deceased writers."...“I thought the letters gave the story an authenticity,” Echenberg said. “It was written in that time… You really hear the voice of the person writing it.” The book: Walter's Welcome: The Intimate Story of a German-Jewish Family's Flight from the Nazis to Peru by Eva Neisser Echenberg with Judy Sklar Rasminsky
Dad’s Love Letter to Mom on her 70th Birthday (on Julie Barton's website, 1-19-14). Mini-memoir as love letter.
Dear Kids (John Dickerson, Slate, 5-8-14). This Mother’s Day, write a letter to your children. "I know about her grit not because I witnessed it (I was too young) and not because I asked about it (I was too self-obsessed) but because I discovered it in the personal papers she left me after she died."
In Search of E.J. Phillips (Marjorie Turner Hollman, 11-17-23) We had the letters, written by our great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Jane (E.J.) Phillips. The carefully preserved sheets of paper, still in their original envelopes, along with multiple publicity photos from her decades on the stage, made up the whole of what we knew of a long ago grandmother. Another part of her story, a quilt she began, and an essay about the quilt, was lodged with our more distant cousins.
I wrote about one family’s history in World War II. Now I wonder more about my own roots. (Dan Lamothe, WaPo, 12-6-17)
Christmas letters, 10 writing tips (ChristmasLettersTips.com)
Fathers - invest in your past for your kids (Bob Brody, San Francisco Chronicle 6-18-11). Keep a journal about your kids' lives, suggests Brody, who is doing so. "In the process, you'll leave your children (or grandchildren) a keepsake even more precious than your wedding ring, an heirloom as valuable in its own right as your house, a tangible, heartfelt legacy for the next generation vastly better than any insurance policy." Brody blogs at Letters to My Kids.
Frida Kahlo's Love Letters Give Glimpse Into The Guarded Artist's Private Life (Katherine Brooks, HuffPost, 4-2-15) A cache of love letters written by Frida Kahlo to Catalan artist Jose Bartoli, while she was married to Diego Rivera, including images of some letters (in Spanish) and photos. Amazing woman, fascinating life.

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From Philadelphia to the Battle of the Bulge: The Brief LIfe of Pvt. John "Lefty" Zagarella, As Told In Letters, 1941-1945 by John Zagarella
A Future Without Personal History (Michael Moore-Jones, Read-Write, 1-19-11). A sixteen-year-old who has never sent a letter, wonders what it will be like to have no letters documenting his life -- as his digital records disappear.
Harry Lamin's letters from World War I, a blog on which letters from an English soldier are posted by his grandson exactly 90 years after they were written; now the son has died and the grandson has taken over, but there are also links to new blogs that this one inspired. Maybe it will be a model for someone you know!
I Found My Grandparents’ Sorrow Buried in a Trove of Forgotten Letters (Rachael Rifkin, Narrative.ly, 11-21-16) They rarely talked about the tragic loss of their first child. Sixty years later, sifting through my grandfather’s old letters helped me see their lives in a whole new light.
Inside the Battle for Arthur Miller’s Archive (Jennifer Schuessler, NY Times, 1-9-18) "Now, the Ransom Center has bought the entire archive for $2.7 million, following a discreet tug-of-war with the Miller estate, which tried to place the papers at Yale University despite the playwright’s apparent wishes that they rest in Texas. That battle pitted two of the nation’s most prestigious, and deep-pocketed, archival institutions against each other, in a mini-drama mixing Milleresque high principle with more bare-knuckled competition. And it cracks a window onto the rarefied trade in writers’ papers, and the delicate calibrations of money, emotion and concern for posterity that determine where they ultimately come to rest." In the same rarefied atmosphere: The Papers Chase (Rachel Donadio, NY Times, 3-25-07). “In the ’60s, you could buy Elizabeth Barrett Browning notebooks for $10,000 to $15,000,” said Isaac Gewirtz, the librarian of the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection. “Now you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single notebook. In the past, my predecessor could buy 7 to 10 stellar items in a fiscal year.” Today, “I couldn’t do that more than a couple of times.” ...An archive sale is essentially a long-term investment in a writer’s reputation, an assessment of his or her place in the larger cultural landscape. As such, it ranks high among the brutal ways writers measure themselves in the literary pecking order." We're talking big bucks here, the not-so-admirable side of literary bragging rights and legacies.
Legacy letters (ethical wills)

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A Letter from Sendai (Anne Thomas, Ode, 3-14-11, on experiencing unexpected kindnesses and grace after (and between) earthquakes and aftershocks in Japan, 2011.
The Letters of Others (Sofia E. Groopman, Harvard Crimson, 7-6-11). She's writing about researchers and famous people but what she says applies to personal projects as well.

• To Johnnie with Love by Pearl Collis Kochan with Kevin Quirk (letters written during World War II when they were a quarter mile apart, assembled fifty years later)
Love Letters from 1912 (posted on Kirsten Transcribes website). Disarming love letters between two men and a woman. Here's the archive if you want to follow the series of letters (built-in human drama)

Organizing and Preserving Your Heirloom Documents by Katherine Scott Sturdevant (how to safely collect, preserve, and publish diaries, memoirs, letters, papers, or memorabilia from your relatives and ancestors)
Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children ed. by Dorie McCullough Lawson
Postcards from Yo Momma (a repository of modern-day maternal correspondence, sure to make you smile)

• POW Letters (Jamie Salen shares letters from his grandfather, Harry, the son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, which tell the story of his being kept alive in a POW camp because he refused to shoot a German he had captured who, when Harry in turn was captured, refused to have Harry shot. Part of YOUR STORY, OUR STORY, The Tenement Museum.
Protect photos, documents, and other papers from natural destruction over time (Scrapbook.com)
Shopping for Antiques, Finding My Mother (Healther Sellers, Opinionator, NY Times, 5-14-15) About the power of objects to help us hold on...."The whole time I’d grown up with her, and long after, she’d desperately worried that people were trying to take her things....She scattered photographs, destroyed my father’s 1950s love letters to her, gave away her lovely kitchen things and then called me, wondering where they had gone. Alzheimer’s took her memory, and she lost everything...."

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Through a Long Absence: Words from My Father's Wars by Joy Passanante. A love story, an honest look into one man's life, and a daughter's moving quest to rediscover her father years later through his letters from that time.
Trapped on the Wrong Side of History (Soundprint radio, Richard Paul, producer, 3-21-11) In 1939, California farm girl Mary Kimoto Tomita traveled to Japan to learn Japanese and connect with the culture of her ancestors--and because of Pearl Harbor was trapped there. Her story -- told through interviews and letters from the time -- is a rare glimpse at a piece of the World War II experience.
Thanks(giving) for the memories—a preservation family project (Smithsonian Institution Archives). Gather together a couple of people from separate generations and branches of the family tree and do some photo identification and preservation. Set aside an hour between or after the meal to pull out a photo album, scrapbook, slides, family film and video, or those love letters in shoeboxes tied-up with string.
Veterans History Project (capturing personal accounts of American war veterans and U.S. citizen civilians involved in war efforts, such as USO workers, flight instructors, medical volunteers). You can download the VHP field kit and forms online. See Newt Minow's letter, at 20, after returning home from service in World War II. (There's a page turner so you can see all nine pages.)
Words of Obama’s Father Still Waiting to Be Read by His Son (Rachel S. Swarns, NY Times, 6-18-16) Letters written long ago by Barack Obama Sr. shed new light on a young Kenyan whose ambitions helped change the course of U.S. history. But for the president, they may also revive old pain.
World War I: Experiences of an English soldier (a blog made from transcripts of Harry Lamin's letters from the first World War, posted exactly 90 years after they were written)
YOUR LOVING SON, Philip: Letters From an American Soldier in World War II May 1944-June 1946 by Sgt. Philip R. Herzig

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The Art and Craft of Interviewing

"Interviews: Silence is the weapon, silence and people's need to fill it—as long as the person isn't you, the interviewer. Two of fiction's greatest interviewers—Georges Simenon's Inspector Maigret and John le Carre's George Smiley—have little devices they use to keep themselves from talking, and let silence do its work. Maigret cleans his ever-present pipe, tapping it gently on his desk and then scraping it out until the witness breaks down and talks. Smiley takes off his eyeglasses and polishes them with the thick end of his necktie. As for myself, I have less class. When I'm waiting for the person I'm interviewing to break a silence by giving me a piece of information I want, I write "SU" (for Shut Up!) in my notebook. If anyone were ever to look through my notebooks, he would find a lot of "SUs" there."

                ~ from Robert Caro's book Working, p. 147


The Art of the Interview (Marc Pachter's excellent Ted Talk, January 2008 . Marc, editor of Telling Lives: The Biographer's Art , offers excellent advice and examples for those doing public interviews, as Marc did brilliantly for the National Portrait Gallery, of which he was director. Marc, who is profiled here , has spent his career curating and creating intimate portraits of the lives of others. Everyone, in their lives, is waiting for someone to ask them questions, so they can be truthful, he says, in explaining the blunt question he asked one famous person. There's also a C-SPAN Q&A here .
Elizabeth Arnold on Interviewing (The Transom Review, 2008). "I learned the importance of letting the tape roll through the silences." These notes from Transom are for broadcasting interviews. See also
---Chris Lydon’s “Letterman List” of Interviewing Tips (2013) Broadcasting, as audio ad genius Tony Schwartz told me insistently, is “not a medium of information; it’s a medium of (emotional) effects.” It’s not those facts and figures that sink deep so much as the excitement and passion, boredom or hypocrisy they’re pitched with. Be “a great empty cup of attention.”
---Alex Blumberg, 'On Interviewing' (2010) "Never ever, ever, ever, ever let them hold the microphone. It does NOT make them feel more comfortable. And it just insures that you’ll get mic noise."

     "They’ll talk all formal, like they think you want them to talk. You don’t have to let them. Get them to tell it again. Rephrase the question."
---Before the First Question (Rob Rosenthal, 2012) Type out your questions, bring them with you, and read them just before the interview, but don't have them in front of you as you do the interview. You want the information "to feel like a conversation." At some point it's okay to pull them out and see if you forgot anything.
---Jay Allison, The Basics (2013) Consider taking on the role of Citizen Storyteller, and working on a grassroots level to make public radio more truly “public.” Become comfortable with your equipment. (Read all of his comments and instructions on the physical and technical set-up for an interview.)

      Don’t be afraid to ask the same thing in different ways until you get an answer you like. Remember you can edit the beginning and ending of two answers together, but be sure to get the ingredients. If a noise interferes with a good bit of tape, try to get it again...or wrap the conversation back to the same place so you don’t get the quality of someone repeating himself.

    Remember the question: “Why?” especially following a yes or no response. Don’t forget the preface: “Tell me about…” Let people talk. Allow silence. Don’t always jump in with questions. Often, some truth will follow a silence. Let people know they can repeat things — that you’re not on the air — it’s okay to screw up. And remember to offer something of yourself. Don’t just take. Think of the listener’s innocence; ask the obvious, along with the subtle.

    "If you want to leave your production options open, don’t laugh out loud, or stick in “uh-huh” or other vocal affirmations. You must let your subjects know you’re with them, but use head nods, eye contact and develop a silent knee-slap and guffaw."

     "Don’t use the pause button. It uses up the batteries, and if you’re listening through headphones, it can fool you into thinking you’re recording when the tape isn’t moving."

Taking Good Notes: Tricks and Tools (Editors, The Open Notebook 12-6-2011) Science’s online news editor David Grimm offers a trove of advice on note-taking, which he assembled for students at Johns Hopkins University’s science writing master’s program, where he is on the faculty. Grimm polled colleagues about the best way to take notes during interviews and shares their advice.
How journalists decide whether to interview by phone, email or face-to-face , and why they are taking a blended approach (Mallory Jean Tenore, Poynter, 6-22-12)
Capturing Family Voices
What to ask in a life-story/family history/oral history interview (great interview questions and guides from various sources)
65 Interview Questions For Kids to Ask Their Parents (or Grandparents) (Katrina, Rule This Roost, Home Schooling, 4-22-17) Mostly fact-based questions that could be turned into more open-ended questions that would elicit more story telling.
Getting to Know You: A How-To Story for Kids on How to Interview Family Members (PDF, The Mini Page, Dec. 25-31, 2010) (c) 2010 Universal Uclick  (this has temporarily disappeared!)
Exam-Room Follies (Anne Whetzel, Pulse, 10-31-14) Lovely essay about a medical student learning the art of the patient interview.
Mediabistro GalleyCat: “How James Lipton Formulates Those Inside the Actors Studio Questions” (MediaBistro, GalleyCat)
Artful Journalistic Interviewing (Writers and Editors website)
• About job interviews and perhaps irrelevant, but maybe not: Top 10 Oddball Interview Questions (Glassdoor). See also Glassdoor's 50 Most Common Interview Questions. Some of these may be useful in interviews geared to life stories.

Practical considerations:
10 ways to get traumatized sources to share their stories (Mallary Jean Tenore, Poynter, 8-17-12)
How Prepared Are You to Interview Terminally Ill Clients? (Dan Curtis, 6-15-11)
Can We Tape? A journalist's guide to taping phone calls and in-person conversations in the 50 states and DC (with a state-by-state guide). (PDF, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Fall 2008) See handy chart: Tape-recording laws at a glance
Technical guide to doing telephone interviews (Sam Mallery, B&H)
Audio Recording and Editing Equipment, Software, and Tutorials (Telling Your Story, on Pat McNees's site)
Elizabeth Arnold on Interviewing How journalists can work well with interpreters during interviews (Laura Shin, Poynter, 11-12-12)
The interviewee's right to "edit" a transcript or story (Pat McNees, Writers and Editors 12-12-11)

From the website of Pat McNees


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(in video, as documentaries)

The Appalachians: The Scotch-Irish / Scots-Irish Forged in Ulster. (video, 31 minutes) From the documentary The Appalachians. The Presbyterian Scots-Irish from Ulster in the north of Ireland influenced this region of America with their music,religion, moonshine, independent spirit & love of freedom.
Appalachian People, Culture, and History (Robert Sepehr, video, 19 minutes, includes clogging) Robert Sepehr is an author, producer, and anthropologist. While the Appalachian Mountains stretch from parts of Canada to Alabama, the cultural region of Appalachia typically refers only to the central and southern portions ranging from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, southwesterly to the Great Smoky Mountains, and is called home by approximately 25 million people.
House as Home: Writing the Places That Raised Us (Beth Kephart, Brevity, 5-14-21) Childhood was place as much as it was people, geometry as much as conversation, material as much as mood. Books she mentions:
---Bettyville by George Hodgman
---The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
---Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
---Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
---All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf by Katharine Smyth
Mountain Talk (The Language and Life Project. A film by Neal Hutcheson, 56 minutes) Listen to those accents and expressions--reflecting the spoken dialects of Ireland and Scotland.
Leaving Amish Paradise (video, David Cornman) Filmed in Lancaster, PA, this film is a sequel to the BBC documentary, Trouble in Amish Paradise. The film follows 2 Amish families as they become ex-communicated from the Amish Church.
Former Hasidic Jews reveal hidden world. (video, Brooklyn)
Secret World of Hasidism (video) This documentary on the world of Hasidism, an Orthodox Jewish sect, explains what Hasidism is, and how it differs from contemporary Judaism.

Social Documentary Network (visual stories exploring global themes--investigating critical issues facing our world today)

•  Time Team Special 28 (2006) - Buried by the Blitz (Shoreditch, London) Video of an archaeological dig captures the stories of residents who lived near the area destroyed by the WWII blitz and survived it, to tell their tales)
---Time Team Special 52 (2012) - Rediscovering Ancient Britain
---More Time Team specials (Wikipedia links))

Children Full of Life (watch free on Top Documentary Films). In this award-winning documentary, children in a fourth-grade class in a primary school in Kanazawa, northwest of Tokyo, learn lessons about compassion from their homeroom teacher, Toshiro Kanamori. He instructs each to write their true inner feelings (happiness, irritation, gratitude, etc.) in a "notebook letter" ("whatever is real, because the other children will pick up what isn't") and read it aloud in front of the class. By sharing their lives, the children begin to realize the importance of caring for each other. Great idea, and a chance to see a teaching genius in action. Watch this moving sample part 1 of 5, here. And then part 2, part 3, part 4 , and part 5. Wonderful video.
A Revolutionary Trio: The Stories Behind Their Faces Maureen Taylor, The Photo Detective, and Pam Pacelli of Verissima Productions produced an interesting series of short documentary videos about "Revolutionary Voices." Based on Maureen's two-volume series, The Last Muster: Images of the Revolutionary War Generation,these 15-minute documentaries bring to life images of the people, places, and times of the American Revolution:
---Eleazar Blake, Witness to the Revolution
---Agrippa Hull, A Renaissande Freeman
---Molly Ferris Akin, Pacifist or Patriot?

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The power of voice, story, and moving images


Documentaries and video stories and tributes bring to life to a gathering, whether they're the story of an individual, a family, or a company. From a simple slide show set to music and narration or a well-crafted video or DVD with zooms, pans, titles, captions, and other professional touches, these creations are a wonderful way to celebrate major birthdays, bar mitzvahs, graduation parties, engagements, weddings, anniversaries, memorial services, funerals, or any social gathering or celebration at which shared memories will be valued.


• Video biographer Stefani Twyford's checklist of some things to consider when recording someone for a video biography:
---"Make sure to check in settings that dual audio is checked. It will give you two sound files that are separated which is easier for editing.
---You can Pin her video prior to recording so the recording doesn't switch back and forth if you ask a question. You basically right click on the client's video and pin is an option.
---Turn off any ceiling fans and air conditioner so that there's no background noise popping up during recording
---Make sure that the client has a light behind their monitor so that their face is well lit. You can buy these nice soft ring lights to provide good lighting. If the light is behind the person, their face will be shadowed. If they need to read anything, rather than have it sit on their desk, I have learned to have them use a Word doc that is on screen so that they are looking at the camera while they read. Most interviews it's not necessary but I just did one where we had to have the client give a speech and we wrote it out for her. It wasn't ideal but it's what we had to do."


• Renee Garrick adds: If possible, raise the camera to eve level and angle it slightly downward to avoid a view under the chin and inside the nostrils. This angle also points the camera toward the wall instead of the ceiling. My large two-volume dictionary makes a sturdy base to hold my laptop. Also, if the interviewee is using a phone, a myriad of phone holders is available--but remember to set it high enough. A slight downward angle works best.


""The window of opportunity to film peoples' stories is only open for so long, so I always schedule interviews at my earliest availability."~Clinton Haby

These are not in alphabetical order but mixed up to provide a variety of viewing experiences, with some of my favorites toward the top.

Your Story Is More Important Than You Think (video, RootsTech, Church of Latter Day Saints) In a world that often celebrates the extraordinary, watch as five individuals who've led seemingly ordinary lives through their own eyes, are reminded of the indelible mark they’ve left on the hearts of their loved ones. 
Lights, Camera, Interview: Getting the Most Out of a Video Interview (Madison Pobis, The Open Notebook, 4-21-20) Best practices for shooting an interview on camera and strategies to help interviewers come away with usable material regardless of tech setup.

How to film your loved one’s life story (Paige Sommer, LDS Living, 9-25-23)“I feel like the world is very loud and people tend to talk over one another, but if we were to just sit across from each other and listen to each other’s stories, I think there would be a lot more empathy, love, and compassion,” says Katie Cheesman, who teaches a course about how to film your loved one’s life story.

Rabble Rousers: Frances Goldin and the Fight for Cooper Square (Watch free on Kanopy) In 1959 New York City announced a “slum clearance plan” by Robert Moses that would displace 2,400 working class and immigrant families, and dozens of businesses, from the Cooper Square section of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Guided by the belief that urban renewal should benefit - not displace - residents, a working mother named Frances Goldin and her neighbors formed the Cooper Square Committee (CSC) and launched a campaign to save the neighborhood. The compelling story of how a diverse group of New Yorkers, led by housing organizer Frances Goldin, won a 50-year struggle to save a 12-block section of lower Manhattan from being destroyed. 


The River Oaks Courts and the History of Medina Clinton Haby put together this excellent 15-minute video-history of a long-time motor court (a superior version of a motel, you might say) Great job, Clinton. Interesting. Likeable.

My Garden of a Thousand Bees (PBS, 10-20-21) During the pandemic, wildlife filmmaker Martin Dohrn set out to record all the bees he could find in his tiny urban garden in Bristol, England, filming them with one-of-a-kind lenses he forged on his kitchen table. Delightful. He discovers the many diverse species and personalities that exist in this insect family.

Stories We Tell (available on Netflix), a biographical documentary, in which -- mixing interviews, Super 8 home-movie footage, and convincing reconstructions -- Sarah Polley slowly unveils secrets (she discovered) in her family, and family members' reactions thereto. (Try to see the movie without knowing what the secrets are, beforehand.) Listen to Polley on Fresh Air: A Polley Family Secret, Deftly Pieced Together (WHYY, NPR, 5-15-13). Polley's blog post about the film, and read this Kate Kellaway's story in the Observer (6-22-13)

1929: Interviews With Elderly People Throughout The US (YouTube, Wonderful old interviews with elders filmed in 1929)

Meet the kids who grew up in Chinese takeaways (YouTube video, 1-25-19) BBC Stories meets the children of Chinese immigrants who sacrificed their childhoods by working. From peeling shrimp to confronting racist customers, they grew up fast to help their immigrant parents.

Photographing Our Everyday (Dawn M. Roode, Modern Heirloom Books, 11-7-17) We all take pictures of the milestones, big and little: the first days of school, the first lost tooth, high school graduation, and of course, birthdays. But what of the everyday moments? The in-between that, really, is the essence of our lives?

Teacher had to tell this boy to be quiet. Stoic Living video about a teacher and a boy named Mark. Effective use of sentimental ending.

My Baby You'll Be (Barbara Diamond, Little Things) Filmmaker creates powerful film about his relationship with his mother, using previously ignored voicemail messages
TIP: When you do video captions,or subtitles for close-captioned videos, be sure that they are concise, appear on a contrasting background, and are large enough to be easily legible. Let them linger long enough to be easily read. (Advice from a pro.)

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• Hollywood life lessons (Marie Rowe, TEDXLeamingtonSpa, 2-14-18)
• One second every day Videomaker Cesar Kuriyama shoots one second of video every day of his life, and edits them together into a montage that prompts him to think how he approaches each day.
• Capturing memories in video art (Gabriel Barcia-Colombo). Using video mapping and projection, artist Gabriel Barcia-Colombo captures and shares his memories and friendships. At TED Fellow Talks, he shows his charming, thoughtful work -- which appears to preserve the people in his life in jars, suitcases, blenders ...
Capturing Essence (Lisa Joworski's short video, AWE Struck! Productions) Leaving family members and friends a glimpse of her and what she wants when and if she needs caregiving. See also One Little Video (how one little video from the earlier life of a woman in dementia caught the woman's attention, showed her her essential self, and brought a moment of awakening to the woman, a new light). And see Learning to Listen A personal story about the seasons of life.
• Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper, sorting through family hurt and history
(Hank Stuever, WaPo, 4-7-16) A review of the HBO documentary "Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper."
• Op-Docs (short, opinionated documentaries, produced by independent filmmakers and artists with wide creative latitude, covering current affairs, contemporary life and historical subjects). Submissions are welcome. Samples: Love and Stuff (Judith Helfand, waiting too long to hear her late mother's stories about her stuff) and Notes on Blindness. (After the writer and theologian John Hull became completely blind in 1983, he kept an audio diary of his experience. This film is a dramatization using those recordings.) Also, I Have a Message for You (excellent video storytelling, video by Matan Rochlitz). To live, she had to abandon her father on the train taking them from Belgium to Auschwitz. Decades later she got a message from him.
• Half a million secrets (Frank Warren, TED Conference) "Secrets can take many forms — they can be shocking, or silly, or soulful." Frank Warren, the founder of PostSecret.com, shares some of the half-million secrets that strangers have mailed him on postcards.

• Martin Elkort: An American Movie (Stefani Twyford's documentary about her father's life and photography--52 minutes). Stefani's brief and moving account of making the documentary: Creating My Father’s Legacy: Martin Elkort’s Photography (feminine.collective, 3-7-16). And when that has whet your appetite you can buy Martin Elkort's book of photographs: Children: Behind the Lens: Street Photography Capturing the Essence of Childhood.
• A visual history of inequality in industrial America (LaToya Ruby Frazier, TED Talk documentary, TED2015) For the last 12 years, LaToya Ruby Frazier has photographed friends, neighbors and family in Braddock, Pennsylvania. But though the steel town has lately been hailed as a posterchild of "rustbelt revitalization," Frazier's pictures tell a different story, of the real impact of inequality and environmental toxicity. In this short, powerful talk, the TED Fellow shares a deeply personal glimpse of an often-unseen world.

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• How to Preserve Your Family Legacy (Wall Street Journal video, 8-14-15) Iris Wagner talks about the process of creating a video personal history, saying it may take from a few months to a couple of years (including pre-production work in life review and ethical wills -- and THEN they bring in a crew) and that the video may be directed both to one's parents and to one's heirs.
Lost and Found (YouTube), a digital story by Susan Becker, made as a project for the Center for Digital Story Telling
• Michael Apted, Aging With The '7 Up' Crew (Fresh Air, 2-5-13) Every seven years since 1964, in what's known as the Up series, Granada Television has caught us up on the lives of 14 everyday people. The subjects of the documentary series were 7 years old when it began; in the latest installment, 56 Up, they are well into middle age. The original idea behind the series was to examine the realities of the British class system at a time when the culture was experiencing extraordinary upheaval. Available from third-party sellers on Amazon: Several discs: Seven, 7 Plus Seven, 21 Up, 28 Up, 35 Up, 42 Up, 49 Up, 56 Up, and you can rent from Netflix.
•  Shirley and Moe (Brandon Stanton's video, for Humans of New York, of a 100-year-old woman remembering her deceased husband). Video by Ben Poster, Maia Stern, and Stephanie Szerlip

• Video memorial tribute to Suzie, a dog (Our Living Tree). Using photos, audio, and background music, the Breakstones created a slideshow with sound that really tugs at the heart.
• Better Said Than Done blog (family storytelling videos). The Better Said Than Done storytellers shared true personal stories about their families in the live storytelling show “Mother, Daughter, Father, Son: Stories about family.” Watch or listen to some of them, such as Dustin Fisher on Daddy Issues.

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• Our American Family. Documenting our American family heritage, one family at a time, and inspiring viewers to capture their own family stories - before those voices are gone. Seeking families to add to the tapestry.
•  My Father Hiroshi Komai His Memories of Manzanar (Dale Komai's 15-minute video about his father's experience in the Manzanar War Relocation Center, one of ten camps where Japanese American citizens and resident Japanese aliens were interned during World War II)
• Dad's Message Recorded At War, A Gift Given Decades Later (NPR, 1-4-14). See also At 71, finally hearing her father's voice (Susan Reimer, Baltimore Sun, 12-27-13) and listen to the hour-long original show.
• Humans of New York (a photoblog and book featuring street portraits and interviews collected in New York City. Started in November 2010 by photographer Brandon Stanton)
• Ethical Will in the Workshop (Rebecca Robinson shows how to combine parts of an interview with B-roll--action shots, with voice in background)
• Jim Walsh's tribute to his father (where the poetry is in the narration)
• Lost in the Fifties--Another Time, Another Place (great slide-show to music about the 1950s, good and bad--this ought to bring up memories for those who were young then)

Remembering Renee Savigny (Peter Savigny, HeirloomBio, and you can see more of Peter's lovely video samples here

Grandparents send awesome and awkward wedding toast (this video gets franker and funnier toward the end, on Awkward Family Photos)

Point of Pride: The People's View of Bayview/Hunter's Point (documentary about a neighborhood in San Francisco). On the same topic, eleven-part series by journalism students, chronicling the legacy of pollution left by industry.

Memories to Light: Asian American Home Movies (Center for Asian American Media sponsor, posted on Internet Archive)

Rosalie Wahl: A Vision for a Better World (2008, winner of Minnesota Historical Society Greatest Generation Film Project). Traces the life of Rosalie Wahl from her humble beginnings in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Kansas to her groundbreaking appointment to the Minnesota Supreme Court and explores the evolution of her social consciousness.

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One Second Every Day (Cesar Kuriyama's TED talk on selecting one second of video from every day of his life, and editing them together into a montage that records his life, helps him remember the days, and motivates him to live interesting days.

Steve Pender's grandmother, whose personality video captures in ways print could not do (Family Legacy Video). Not that you can't do both video and a book! Watch these TV interviews (on KGUN9’s “The Morning Blend") in which Steve shows samples (hear one car dealer talking about the year sales on Edsels stopped cold) and talks about the benefits to families of capturing family stories on video.

Steve Trainor's video samples (Remember Your Life)

Maurice Sendak on Life and Death (view on wimp.com), a selection from an HBO documentary, Tell Them Anything You Want (with interviewer Lance Bangs--a long wait on Netflix, but you can buy the DVD. This is a perfect model of a great personal history video. See how the picture of his friend and caregiver is shown when he is talking about her--beautifully done,and illustrations from his works become the piece of his life that they were.

Arnon Goldfinger Discovers Family, History, and the Power of Denial in "The Flat" (Kristin McCracken, Editor, TribecaFilm.com, HuffPost, 10-22-12). In this gem of a documentary, an Israeli filmmaker gently dismantles the past, revealing a hidden link to layers and layers of heretofore unknown family history. Scroll down to watch the trailer.

The Father Michael Lapsley Story (inspiring YouTube video doc about the Anglican priest and social justice activist in Capetown, South Africa, who discovered the power of story to heal emotional wounds. He wrote about this in Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer

A teenager's account from World War II (Debbie Brodsky, DMB Pictures). See also Surviving Segregation in Birmingham, Alabama and How He Got the Girl

A Conversation with My 12-Year-Old Self: 20th Anniversary Edition (Jeremiah McDonald's clever conversation with a 20-year-old tape of himself, much watched on YouTube)

My Grandma's Tattoo (Miranda Harple and Anne Polsky, AARP Bulletin 11-8-11)

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Getting to Know You: A How-To Story for Kids on How to Interview Family Members (2.05 MB)

(PDF, The Mini Page, Dec. 25-31, 2010) (c) 2010 Universal Uclick

View from the Inside (a few video samples from Sandra Martin Productions)

Sixth-graders produce civil rights documentary (Rachel Lippman, St. Louis Public Radio, 2-23-11). See also (about same project) Black history documentary reflects mission of City Academy

Fracaswell "Cas" Hyman's pilot video. A beautiful explanation of why to capture "now" for later.

Dying San Jose woman leaving a video legacy for her three young children (Linda Goldston, San Jose MercuryNews, 4-4-11).
See samples of LifeChronicles videos here.

Danny & Annie (Vimeo). Danny Perasa and his wife, Annie, went to StoryCorps to recount their twenty-seven-year romance.

The Interview Project (film producer David Lynch's project--a new video interview every few days).

Susan's Garden: A Video Love Letter (on YouTube) and a story about its making: Client makes 'perfect gift' for SCORE advisor (Jan Norman, Orange County Register, 11-21-09)

102-year-old dancer sees herself on film for the first time (YouTube, 4-20-15) Alice Barker was a chorus line dancer during the Harlem Renaissance of the the 1930s and 40s. She danced at clubs such as The Apollo, Cotton Club, and Zanzibar Club, with legends including Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. Although she danced in numerous movies, commercials and TV shows, she had never seen any of them, and all of her photographs and memorabilia had been lost over the years.

I Will Survive: Dancing Auschwitz (YouTube), an interesting, controversial video of Jane Korman, her grandfather, Auschwitz survivor Adolek Kohn, and other grandchildren revisiting a site from which he never expected to escape or survive. Here's a BBC interview with Korman and Kohn about reactions to the video.

Human Happiness Brian Fawcett on how he learned who his parents really were

The Life and Lessons of George M. Leader (video from David Adelman's firm, Reel Tributes). I like their firm promo:Reel Tributes: The Document of a Lifetime (David Adelman)

Samples of video biography and video memoir (Jane Lehmann-Shafron and Peter Shafron, Your Story Here)

The Smooch Project (about the power of reconciliation)

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If you are making professional productions for sale and for profit, you may end up paying a lot for music and images. If you are doing a family production to share only with friends and family, you are probably working on a slimmer budget. Luckily a fair number of sources exist for free or lower-cost images and music, of particular use if you are trying to do a Ken-Burns-style combination of voiced narration, music, and images. Do your homework first on rights. Click on Clearing rights and finding rightsholders on the Writers and Editors website.

Finding photographs and other images

Remember: Finding a image on the Internet does not mean it's copyright-free. The images you find through Yahoo and Google have rarely been posted there by the copyright owners. Do your homework on copyright and other rights issues. Remember also: "royalty-free" does not mean "free." See in particular Clearing rights in the visual arts. Meanwhile, here are some good sources of photos (with links to stories about sources of photos at end of list). Some of them are reviewed here: Stock Agencies Reviews (Stock Photo Adviser). Popular sources of mostly "free images" include Canva, Pexels, Pixabay, and Unsplash.
Adobe Stock Huge selection.
American Heritage photos (via Shutterstock)
American Memory (a Library of Congress project, with many public domain images). See especially Digital Collections
Animation and Cartoons (Digital Archive)
AP Images(for professional image buyers)
• Apples Photos app.
Artbeats (stock footage you can use)
Art History Archive
Art Images for College Teaching
Art Resource (fine art images from museums around the world, and if their search engine doesn’t find what you want, talk to their real person: 212 505 8700 or requests@artres.com)
Art UK ("Uncovering the nation's art collection"--photographs of all of the UK's publicly owned art, including railway posters and over 210,000 oil paintings, the stories behind the paintings, and where to see them for real--inviting the public to tag the photos)
Astronomy Picture of the Day (fabulous NASA images of the cosmos, such as Moon Behind Lava Mountain)

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Barewalls (posters and prints from famous photographers and artists)
BBD Motion Gallery (Getty Images)
BFI Film Forever (British Film Institute Archive, online--sharing the BFI’s knowledge of British film and television)
BFI YouTube channel
Bigstock Photo
The British Library (images on Flickr). See The British Library offers over a million free vintage images for download (Neil Bennett, DigitalArtsOnline, UK, 7-31-17) These centuries-old copyright-free images include everything from from book illustrations to photos (on a wide range of subjects).

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CanStockPhoto (stock photos)
CanStockPhoto: Medical stock photos and images
Canva (free and premium photos)
Cartoons, comics, anime, manga, panel stories, graphic novels, and animation (Writers and Editors links)
Cepolina Photo (free photo archive of travel and nature photos)
CIA maps (world, regional, country, ocean, and time zone maps, from World Factbook)
CIA World Factbook (aerial photos, from around the world)
Clipart.com (21 million+ free and royalty-free clipart images, vector illustrations, stock photos and fonts)
Compfight (a public photo sharing service)
Corbis (absorbed by Getty Images, a major, expensive photo site, for professional productions)
CreateHERstock (authentic stock photos featuring melanated women)
Creative Commons search (aggregates CC searches for open-license images and other content on several sites, including Europeana Pro, Flickr, Google Images, Open Clip Art Library, Pexels, Pixabay (free images & royalty free stock),SpinXpress (libraries of video, art and audio files), Unsplash, Wikipedia Commons), YouTube video repository.
Creative Market (a paid service, with graphics, fonts, themes, photos and more, from independent creators)
Critical Past (vintage stock footage and stock photo images from 1940s). See FAQs page: How to Buy Video Clips and Still Photos

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Digital Public Library of America (a consortium that offers one-stop access to digitized holdings from more than 1,300 institutions). Check out its interesting exhibitions (by theme), such as "Children in Progressive-Era America" and "Prisoners at Home (Everyday Life in Japanese Internment Camps)"
Digital Archives Collections (NARA) (National Archives and Records Administration) Superb links to historical photo collections, such as photos from the 1939 World's Fair from the Library of Virginia's Prints and Photographs collectio and the US Geological Survey Photographic Library (with its over 400,000 photographs taken from 1868 to the present--searchable by categories such as Earthquakes and Pioneer Photographers).
Dreamstime (royalty-free images)
Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900 by Joan L. Severa

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Fashionable Folks Hairstyles 1840-1900
Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats, 1840-1900
Flickr Commons (help describe Library of Congress photos by adding comments, tags)
Flickr Creative Commons search
Flickr: The Library of Congress photostream (Flickr makes available 3,000 photos from two of the Library of Congress's most popular collections). At Flickr Commons you can help ID what's in photos by adding comments, tags)
Fold3. Collections of original military records, including the stories, photos, and personal documents of the men and women who served in the military. Many come from the U.S. National archives, The National Archives of the U.K., and other international records.
Foodie's Feed (free images of food in high-res)
Forgotten Treasures: NYPD Unearths Over 100 Years Of Photos Documenting NYC’s History (CBS New York) “You won’t see these images anywhere else. They’ve just been down here and recently unearthed,” NYPD senior photographer Kristina Fetkovich said. CBS2 went down to the basement of police headquarters, where the NYPD photo unit has rooms of boxes and file cabinets – filled with departmental photos from the 1800s to today.
Footage.net culls stock photage from other sources, including lots of newscasts and historical footage.
Fotolia (now Adobe Stock).
Fotosearch (large selection of stock photos and footage, "with extended legal rights")
Free and commercial stock photography sites (Jourdan Wilkerson very helpfully describes and compares many sites, indicating price range or if free)
Free Art (not free, but not expensive, and millions of choices)
FreeDigitalPhotos (easy search, well-organized)
Free Historical Stock Photos
FreeImages (previously, Stock.XCHNG; now owned by Getty Images) free stock images, but with stricter requirements now, so check each image for rights.
Freepik (free vector graphics, PSD, icons and photos)
Free Range
FreeStockPhotos.com (check out excellent links to free photo sites along right side)
Free to Use and Reuse Sets (content from the Library of Congress that content that is free to use and reuse)

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Gallery of Graphic Design (check out the categories!)
Gender Spectrum Collection (Vice) A stock photo library featuring images of trans and non-binary models that go beyond the clichés.
Getty Open Content (stock footage from archival film to contemporary HD video, including daily entertainment video; royalty-free stock footage as well as better selections, by subscription)
Giphy (This 'animated search engine' lets you download movie GIFs, memes, and short movies)
GoGraph (royalty-free stock photos and web graphics)
Google advanced search (you can search by CC license across all file types)


Holyland photos
Image*After (free images and textures)
Image Base (images free, under Creative Commons License)
Indiana State Archives photos (one of the best of many state photo archives)
Internet Archive Book Images (Flickr, a fabulous collection of images)
iPhoto (Wikipedia's entry: iPhoto is a discontinued digital photograph manipulation software application developed by Apple Inc. It was included with every Macintosh personal computer from 2002 to 2015, when it was replaced with Apple's Photos app.
iStockphoto (Getty Images)

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Kave Wall (professional-quality closeups and macro-photography --images in categories such as fire, food, holiday, money (household), toys, tattoos)
Kobal Collection (now part of Getty Images) images from earliest days of the cinema to latest releases)
Larry Edmunds bookshop (movie books, movie posters, lobby cards, photographs and scripts in Hollywood California)
• ***Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (huge, wonderful collection of historical prints and photographs; some images downloadable immediately, others for a small fee)
Library of Congress webcasts
LibreStock (a free search engine that scans and indexes stock photos from more than 40 websites)
Life Magazine Photo Archive (hosted by Google--no information about clearing permissions for use in various media)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. See Los Angeles County Museum makes 20,000 artistic images available for free download (Open Culture, the best free cultural & educational media on the web)
Luminous-Lint ( “... probably the finest free resource for the history or photography that exists anywhere in the world")

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Maps and mapmakers (Writers and Editors)
Maps.com (royalty-free maps)
Map Resources (royalty-free vector maps)
Medical and scientific images and illustrations (Writers and Editors)
Metropolitan Museum of Art Puts 375,000 Public-Domain Images in Creative Commons (ArtNews, 2-7-17)
Molly Maps (custom hand-drawn maps and views)
MorgueFile (public image archives for creatives by creatives)
Moving Image Archives (cousin of Internet Archives)
Moving Image Gateway (UK, over 1,900 websites relating to moving image and sound materials, subdivided in 40 subject areas)
Moving Pictures Archives (and while you're there, check out other Internet Archives)

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Nappy (beautiful photos of Black and Brown people, free)
NASA Image Galleries
NASA Space Launch images
National Archives (including wonderful wartime photos)
New York City buildings in 1930s "Every Building on Every Block: A Time Capsule of 1930s New York" (James Barron, NY Times, 12-28-18). See NYC Municipal Archives Collections (NYC Department of Records & Information Services), which also has photos from 1940s, etc. National Gallery of Art Images (NGA Images) Open access policy for digital images of works of art that the Gallery believes to be in the public domain.
New Old Stock (vintage photos from public archives, free of KNOWN copyright restrictions)
New York City Municipal Archives (over 870,000 images). Gothamist reports nearly 1 million old NYC images released

New York Public Library Digital Gallery (672,153 images digitized from the library collections, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, etc.--yours for a small fee)
New York Public Library Public Domain Collections, yours to use for free. Creative librarians have put together some creative remixes, such as Navigating the Green Book (a travel guide published between 1936 and 1966 that listed hotels, restaurants, bars, gas stations, etc. where black travelers would be welcome) and Fifth Avenue, Then and Now.. See also New York City street views from the late 1800s and the 1900s .

New York Public Library Invites a Deep Digital Dive (Jennifer Schuessler, NY Times, 1-6-16)
NIH Images and B-roll (National Institutes of Health)
Noun Project (icons)

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Ohio History Connection (one of the best of many state photo archives)
Old Magazine Articles
Open Photo (images grouped by category-- images, vectors, and video )
Open Video Project (shared digital video collection)
Pexels (free stock photos, searchable collection) See, for example, stock photos of animals
Photogrammar , a web-based platform for organizing, searching, and visualizing the 170,000 photographs from 1935 to 1945 created by the United States Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information (FSA-OWI). Click on the interactive map to find photos from a particular area in the United States.
Photos Apple's app, replacing iPhoto.
Photos of the Great Depression and New Deal (FDR Library and Museum)
Photos from the Great Depression (roughly 1600 color photos taken during 1939-1944 in U.S., P.R., and Virgin Islands, focusing mostly on rural areas, farm labor, and aspects of World War II mobilization, including factories, railroads, aviation training, and women working)
PicMonkey (lots of stock photos from iStock by Getty, Unsplash, and Pixabay—included in your Pro or Basic subscription)
Pixabay (mostly free photos, illustrations, vector graphics, film footage and music)
Pixel Perfect Digital
Pond 5 (big collection of royalty-free archival and historical footage--"of vintage lifestyle, historical classics, wartime imagery, and more." See review on Stock Photo Adviser.
• Postcards, online archives:
---Curt Teich Postcard Archives)
---CardCow (vintage postcards)
Prelinger Archives (over 2,000 films, of which How to Use the Dial Phone (1947) is only one example!
Prints and Photographs Reading Room (invaluable collection at the Library of Congress). Check out various collections, organized alphabetically and by subject/format overviews. Looking for something but you don't know where to start? Ask a librarian.
• Prison photos. Search for that phrase or photos of penitentiaries and you'll find a wide range of photos.
Project Gutenberg (public domain ebooks--search the illustrated books)
Public Domain Archive

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Remembering the Fifties (links to 50s sites)
Rijks Studio (an innovative digital application that makes a large part of a collection of 150,000 masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum, in the Netherlands, available to all, free of charge)
Shorpy (great historical images of America)
Shutterstock (a leading agency, with royalty-free stock photos, videos, subscription model)

A Space of Their Own (My Modern Met story about forthcoming database of female painters, printmakers, sculptors, etc., active in the United States and Europe between the 15th and 19th centuries.
• State photo archives are excellent sources of images.
StockSnap.io (free high-resolution stock photos)
Stockvault (searchable)

Timelines and timeline tools, designs
TinEye (reverse image search engine)
TONL (culturally diverse stock photos)
TWENTY20 (Envato) Authentic real world photos
Universal newsreels (from before television)
Unprofound (images grouped by color)
Unsplash Freely usable images (but photographers welcome checks)
USGS Multimedia Gallery Explore our planet through photography and imagery, including climate change and water all the way back to the 1800s when the USGS was surveying the country by horse and buggy.

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Veer.com (stock art and interesting fonts, reasonable prices)
Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive (Michael John Goodman)
VideoBlocks.com (subscription-based resource for downloading royalty-free stock footage, motion backgrounds, production music, sound effects, etc. Create an account to get unlimited downloads to everything on the site.)
VideoHive (stock footage)
Vintage Music Album Covers
Visual Connections (formerly Picturehouse; directory of suppliers of stock photography, illustrations and footage, photographers, and font foundries
Visual Hunt. Good for finding free or inexpensive images for blog posts--search for those that are "permissions free" (Creative Commons) advises Jane Friedman.
Visual resources online (American Library Association, links to great sites, historical societies, etc.)

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Washington Area Spark (2000 historic photos of DC activism now online)
The Watercolour World (a visual history of the world through documentary watercolours painted before 1900)
Woofie pictures and images
Wikipedia Commons (the free media repository) (what's useful about this page is that links to resources are organized by category (e.g., automobiles, animals, extinct animals)
Wikipedia Commons public domain images (click on subjects such as extinct animals, Life Magazine photos--great link searches)
Wikimedia Commons (almost 25 million freely usable media files, but read Reuse guide for licensing requirements)
William Williams collection of immigrants to United States (part of the New York Public Library Digital Collections)
WordPlay (Free clip art for your blog)
WorldImages (this database provides access to the California State University IMAGE Project)

Yale Digital Content, explained in this press release: Digital Images of Yale’s Vast Cultural Collections Now Available for Free (with slideshow). Yale has adopted an open access policy--which means you are free to view the images but you need permission to reproduce them. Yale's digital collections include images from the Peabody Museum, Center for British Art, University Art Gallery, Library Map Collection, and Walpole Library Prints and Drawings.
YouTube videos. New York in the mid 1930's in Color! (YouTube video, 41 minutes, shot between 1935 and 1939) and The Thirties in Colour (YouTube video, Docs&Stuff, BBC, 58 minutes) You'll find many such compilations of video footage online--and it's up to you to learn/figure out who owns the rights and how to clear permission to use parts of it.

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22 Online Historical Photo Databases (Family Tree Magazine) Excellent addition to above list.
10 Best Sites for Free Vintage Photos and Artworks (Digital Arts Online) Images that fall under the Creative Commons Zero license or similar terms, which "means you can copy, modify and use any photo you find, even for commercial purposes, without having to ask permission or provide attribution"). But read the terms of engagement on each site.
Beauty amidst the horrors of battle (Ekin Karasin, Daily Mail, 4-7-17). Talented US soldier, Victor Alfred Lundy of New York, now 94, reveals the sketches he made during the carnage of the Second World War. Some of these photos are at the Library of Congress.
Frank Niemeir's Photography list (1316 sources of stock photos and images)
The absolute best free stock photos (all in one place) (Daily Tekk, 1-6-16). (Stock Up; Pexels; and StockSnap)
22 Awesome Websites with Stunning Free Stock Images (Tucker Schreiber, Shopify, 3-1-15)
Where to Find Free Images Online (Stacey Roberts, ProBlogger, 3-20-15)
14 Fantastically Free Sources For Stock Video Footage (Veedme, Medium)
25 Places to Find Awesome Stock Photos -- Free and Cheap! (TutorialBlog)
24 Websites to Find Affordable or Free B-Roll Footage (Studio Binder) In film and television production, B-roll, B roll, B-reel or B reel is supplemental or alternative footage intercut with the main shot.

Antique Photographs: What Stories Do They Tell? (YouTube video, Keith Dotson Photography, 8-28-21) Types of clues to help date a photo.


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The joys and perils of genealogical research

A Teenager Was Bullied. His Ancestors Saved Him. (John Leland, NY Times, 2-26-21) Dennis Richmond Jr. was a middle-schooler who took refuge in his family history, some of it very surprising. After watching "Roots," he delved into his genealogy and found meaning and identity there.
The Genealogy Show (Lorna Moloney, on Raidió Corca Baiscinn, talks and does interviews about Irish genealogy). Like me, you may listen partly to enjoy the Irish storytelling and Irish accents.
Using wildcards to find misspelled names (Amy Johnson Crow, YouTube) With * and ? as wild cards on Ancestry.com.
An Unexpected Family Reunion, Seven Decades After the Holocaust (Jennifer Mendelsohn, Tablet, a new read on Jewish life, 8-8-13) "My husband’s grandmother’s family was decimated by the Nazis. But at 95, she discovered relatives she never knew."
Historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. On DNA Testing and Finding His Own Roots (transcript of Terry Gross's interview on Fresh Air, aired 1-21-19 but recorded in May 2018). The very pricey outfit he got DNA tested through was Illumina.
Cold-Case Cure: Inside New Era of Hunting Serial Killers (Brenna Ehrlich, Rolling Stone, 8-22-18) New advances in DNA technology — and new databases allowing law-enforcement searches — means more unsolved murder cases are being closed.
DNA testing kits: What are the privacy risks? (Victoria McIntosh, Comparitech, 1-17-20) "There’s a huge difference between a stolen list of passwords and a database of DNA sequences. For starters, your DNA cannot be reset or changed: once out in the dark web, it’s out for good."
Opting out (Judy G. Russell, The Legal Genealogist, 5-26-15) The announcement came in just about a week ago, that AncestryDNA had finally begun to do what The Legal Genealogist and many others have long expected it would do: monetize its huge and fast-growing DNA database.
Connecting with Your Biological Family through DNA Testing (Amie Tennant, Family Search blog, 2-22-19) If you are looking for support after not having an ideal reunion, learning that your birth family doesn’t want to connect, or discovering an unknown parent, many community groups can help (and some are listed).
Searching for our roots (Tracy Smith, CBS News, video and print, 6-19-16)
The secret buried under a family tree (Ellen Goodman, NY Times, Opinion, 4-18-08)
DNA Tests Are Uncovering the True Prevalence of Incest (Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic, 3-18-24) People are discovering the truth about their biological parents with DNA—and learning that incest is far more common than many think.
Reclaim the Records: Getting Access to Public Records (Amy Johnson Crow interviews Brooke Schreier Ganz about Reclaim the Records (6-14-18). They can help you get access to public records to which a records custodian is denying you access. (Some records offices aren't following the open records laws in their state; those laws vary by state.)
Finding Your Roots (YouTube). Henry Louis Gates, Jr. delves into the genealogy and genetics of famous Americans (WLRN, episode 13, featuring Barbara Walters and Geoffrey Canada). See also episodes featuring Samuel L Jackson, Condoleezza Rice & Ruth Simmons; Robert Downey Jr & Maggie Gyllenhaal; Adrian Grenier, Michelle Rodriguez & Linda Chavez . There are many more, of course.
Three Keys to Involving the Younger Generations in Genealogy (Scott Phillips, HuffPost, 7-14-13) Bottom line: call it "family history," emphasize stories, make your family tree electronically.
Researching your ancestry is time-consuming yet addictive (Elise G. McIntosh, Staten Island Advance, 2-22-01). How genealogist Debra Farina dug up gems of historical information about Elise's family)
When a DNA Test Shatters Your Identity (Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic,7-17-18) Her brother wasn’t showing up right in her family tree. In fact, she didn’t match any family members on her father’s side.
Long-lost siblings unite (Elise G. McIntosh, Staten Island Advance, 2-22-11). The long-ago abandoned search for a sibling, separated early in childhood, is successful once the Internet makes searches easier.
When a Genealogy Hobby Digs Up Unwanted Secrets (Sue Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal, 1-15-12). Some One in Five Find Unsavory Ancestors; How 'Sausage King' Got Rid of Wife
New York genealogy tips from D. Joshua Taylor and Susan R. Miller (Vol. 1, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, 6-15-17) and Vol. 2, 8-7-17). Also available on YouTube Live Q&A, Vol. 3.
Strangled by Roots: The Genealogy Craze in America (pdf, Steve Tinker, originally published in The New Republic, 7-30-07). "The news that Barack Obama's ancestors owned slaves was a bit more surprising than the news that Strom Thurmond's did, but it was more surprising still to be told that among the Thurmond family's slaves were the ancestors of Al Sharpton. And Henry Louis Gates Jr., the host of the fascinating PBS series African American Lives , which explored the family trees of six prominent African Americans, was astounded to learn that half of his own ancestry was European, including Irish kinsmen on his father's side and two Jewish women on his mother's."
My adoptee family tree is actually an orchard (Lost Daughters, 9-20-12)
A genealogical wish list (gift ideas for the genealogist in your family, from Reel Tributes)

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Genealogy-related TV shows

Finding Your Roots (PBS, with Henry Louis Gates Jr.) Adapted from the Irish program featuring celebrities' family trees)
Genealogy Roadshow (PBS, hosted by a trio of genealogy experts)
Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC, although for a while it was on TLC, and the original version of the show was British.) On each episode a celebrity journeys to archives and ancestral hometowns.
History Detectives-- Special Investigations (PBS)
Long Lost Family An American documentary TV series based on the Dutch series Spoorloos. The show, hosted by Chris Jacobs and Lisa Joyner, helps individuals looking to be reunited with long-lost biological family members.
African American Lives (host Henry Louis Gates Jr.) Watch on tv.com.
Relative Race (BYUtv) Read Family Tree's story about this lively competition: "Relative Race" (echoes of The Amazing Race) equips four two-person teams 'with a car, a paper map and a flip phone. No smartphones allowed. Then it sends them to a new city each day to compete a challenge and find the home of a previously unknown relative. (Producers identify the relatives ahead of time with DNA testing and genealogy research.)'
The Generations Project (BYUtv) Everyday people research their family trees to solve family mysteries. Watch all 38 episodes for free on the BYUtv website.
9 Must-See Genealogy TV Shows That Will Inspire You (Sunny Jane Morton, Family Tree)

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Genetic genealogy (DNA testing)

How DNA Testing Botched My Family's Heritage, and Probably Yours, Too (Kristen V. Brown, Gizmodo Australia, 1-18-18) If we weren't who we thought we were, well, then, who were we?" They're not telling you where your DNA comes from in the past. They're telling you where on Earth your DNA is from today." "A big problem is that many of us have a basic misunderstanding of what exactly we're reading when Ancestry or 23andMe or National Geographic sends us colourful infographics about how British or Irish or Scandinavian we are. It isn't that the science is bad. It's that it's inherently imperfect, an estimation based on how much our DNA matches up with people in other places around the world..." Scroll down for links to more articles about the general strengths and weaknesses of DNA testing. Meanwhile, a few pieces on the relative merits of various tests:
Guide to Finding the Best DNA Ancestry Test (InnerBody) Explores the differences between the six main providers of tests (see "Summary of our findings" and explains the differences between the three types of tests you can get directly from providers: autosomal tests, yDNA tests, and mtDNA tests. (H/T to STEMfans).
Your DNA Test Could Send a Relative to Jail (Rafil Kroll-Zaidi, NY Times, 12-27-21) Thanks to “genetic genealogy,” solving crimes with genomic databases is becoming mainstream — with some uncomfortable implications for the future of privacy.
Discarded bottle at Dulles helped lead to suspect in Montgomery Co. cold-case killing, documents say (Abigail Constantino,WTOP News, 6-24) Forensic genetic genealogy testing, a 20-year-old tip buried in police files and a discarded water bottle at Dulles International Airport culminated in a break in the cold-case killing of a Montgomery County, Maryland, woman, police say.
---23 years after mysterious killing of Chevy Chase woman, police say DNA has led to arrest of suspect (Kate Corliss, WTOP News, 6-23-24)
How an Unlikely Family History Website Transformed Cold Case Investigations (Heather Murphy, NY Times, 10-15-18) Fifteen murder and sexual assault cases have been solved since April with a single genealogy website. This is how GEDmatch went from a casual side project to a revolutionary tool. Investigators converted the assailant’s DNA to the kind of profile that family history websites such as 23andMe are built on, and uploaded it to GEDmatch.com, a free site open to all and beloved by genealogical researchers seeking to find biological relatives or to construct elaborate family trees. And no one has been more surprised than the two creators of GEDmatch.
Genetic sleuthing again IDs a murder suspect in a cold case (Tina Hesman Saey, Science News, 5-23-18) Crime-scene DNA let investigators find distant cousins and fill in the family tree. Another 30 of the 100 cases may be solvable with a combination of genetic genealogy and additional police work, says genetic genealogist CeCe Moore, founder of The DNA Detectives, a genetic-genealogy group with nearly 89,000 members on Facebook.
How Genetic Sleuthing Helped a Kidnapped Girl Recover Her Identity (Jonathan Corum and Heather Murphy, NY Times Interactive, 10-15-18) A complex case involving an abandoned child and a serial killer inspired a new way of solving crimes through cousins’ DNA and family tree data. A similar technique was later used to identify a suspect in the Golden State Killer case, and has led to arrests in more than 10 other murder and sexual assault cases in the past five months.
MyHeritage vs 23andMe vs AncestryDNA - Battle of the Titans 2020 (Moss Stern, DNA Weekly, Three of the world’s top ancestry tests: How do they compare? Lengthy, illustrated, and useful.
Best Ancestry DNA Tests (DNA Weekly). More explanations and ratings of DNA tests on the market.
Best DNA Test for Ancestry (Honest Product Reviews, 12-2018) Prices, shopping guide, selection criteria, what's in a DNA kit, and more, on AncestryDNA, FamilyTree DNA, MyHeritage DNA, 23andMe, and Living DNA.
Trying to choose between AncestryDNA, 23AndMe, or other at-home DNA testing kits? This guide will help. (Leah Stodart, Mashable, 2-2-18) She looks at AncestryDNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage, Living DNA, and Family Tree DNA, telling us the good, the downside, and the price for each.
The Best DNA Ancestry Testing Kit (Amadou Diallo, Wirecutter, 8-30-17) "After more than 80 hours of research and reporting, and evaluating results from a panel of testers representing every major population group, we think Ancestry.com is the best DNA testing service for most people who are curious about their ethnic roots or are searching for contemporary relatives. All five DNA services we tested involve compromises, and you should keep in mind that the TV ads for these companies suggest a level of certainty that is well beyond the science upon which current tests are based."
Best DNA Testing Kits for Ancestry (DNA Testing Guide) A fuller explanation of the differences between tests. The same group posts The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy
Who Was She? A DNA Test Only Opened New Mysteries. (Libby Copeland, WashPost, 7-27-17) Nearly 8 million people worldwide, but mostly in the United States, have tested their DNA through kits, typically costing $99 or less, from such companies as 23andMe, Ancestry.com and Family Tree DNA. But DNA testing can also yield uncomfortable surprises (including "extramarital affairs, out-of-wedlock births and decades-old secrets"). How Alice Collins Plebuch's foray into “recreational genomics” upended a family tree. Excellent story.
---Ancestry DNA
DNA Detectives (a closed Facebook group)
Your Genetic Genealogist (CeCe Moore, an expert on ancestral DNA--this links to her resource page) .
"I Recommend" DNA testing companies CeCe Moore recommends and describes. Read the comments, also. (Thanks, Linda Coffin, for the lede.)
Telling Stories with Mitochondrial DNA (Cece Moore, PBS, 10/21/14) in connection with DNA-Themed Episode of "Finding Your Roots with Louis Gates"
 • Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro. “It turns out it is possible to live an entire life—even an examined life, to the degree that I had relentlessly examined mine—and still not know the truth of oneself,” Dani Shapiro writes in her fifth and latest memoir (as reviewed by the Washington Post (Nora Krug). You can also listen to her talk to Diane Rehm about how a DNA test uncovered a life-altering secret
Reconnecting Lost Family Tree Branches with DNA (CeCe Moore, PBS, 10-28-14, in connection with "Finding Your Roots"
When DNA Confirms the Paper Trail (Cece Moore, PBS, Finding Your Roots, 11-18-14)
Ashkenazi Jewish DNA and the Potential to Piece Together Shattered Family Branches (Cece Moore, PBS, Finding Your Roots, 11-12-14)
My Grandmother Was Italian. Why Aren't My Genes Italian? (Gisele Grayson, Shots, Health Inc., NPR, 1-22-18) The science for analyzing one's genome is good, Chakravarti says. But the ways the companies analyze the genes leave lots of room for interpretation. So, he says, these tests "would be most accurate at the level of continental origins, and as you go to higher and higher resolution, they would become less and less accurate."... "Resolving a difference between, say, an African genome and an East Asian genome would be easy," he says. "But resolving that same difference between one part of east Asia and another part of east Asia is much more difficult."...The ancestry tests also have to take into account the fact that humans have been migrating for millennia, mixing DNA along the way."
Switched at Birth: Unraveling a Century-Old Mystery with DNA (Alice Plebuch, guest post on Your Genetic Genealogist, 2-27-15)

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The Photo Managers (formerly the Association of Personal Photo Organizers, or APPO), as described in Digital Organizers: The Next New Service Industry (The Atlantic, 4-14-11)

Billboard's #1 song on any given date in history, from 19th century on

British Pathé Spanning the years from 1896 to 1976, this archive of 85,000 historical films is now available on YouTube. It includes footage – not only from Britain, but from around the globe – of major events, famous faces, fashion trends, travel, sport and culture. Particularly strong in coverage of the First and Second World Wars.

Digital Storytelling. Using computer technology to tell the stories of your life.
Center for Digital Storytelling, which publishes a Digital Storytelling Cookbook to get you started (scroll to bottom of page and you can download a 40-page PDF sample from the book). Many excellent resources on this site.
Digital Storytelling: A Tutorial in 10 Easy Steps (J.D. Lasica, TechSoup, The Technology Place for Nonprofits, 2006)
The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling
A Guide to Digital Storytelling (BBC)

The Art of the American Snapshot, 1888-1978, by Sarah Greenough, Diane Waggoner, Sarah Kennel, and Matthew S. Witkovsky

Clearing rights and finding rightsholders (Copyright and rights page, Writers and Editors website)
Clearing rights in the visual arts
Clearing rights for music and sound (through ASCAP,BMI, SASAC, Harry Fox, etc.)
Clearing rights for books, scripts, screenplays, etc.
Permissions and releases
Frequently asked questions about music rights (Public Domain Information Project, PD Info)

Converting old LPs and tapes to digital: Bias SoundSaver (easily convert and restore your old LPs and tapes to digital--on a Mac) is similar to Roxio Spin Doctor (If your computer can “hear” it, you can record it with CD Spin Doctor).

Critical Past (searchable archive of historical footage: 57,000 videos and 7 million images--searchable for free, with what seem reasonable prices and easy sourcing of footage and photos useful for producing documentaries)

Finding vintage music from a particular year or place

The Web is wonderful for tracking down music from a certain place or period, and often you can listen to the music. Here are some good sites and CDs for finding vintage music (play it as background music as you write your memoirs or scan old photos for that photohistory). Remember: Just because it's on the Web doesn't mean it's out of copyright. You must verify that you have the right to reproduce sounds or images you find on the Web. Songs that are on CDs (particularly from more recent periods, such as World Wars I and II) are likely to need permissions clearance. See Clearing Rights and Finding Rights Holders (Writers and Editors site)
Watch this feel-good Paul McCartney video (a wonderful stroll down memory lane)
Billboard’s #1 Song on Any Given Date in History (Josh Hosler’s site)
Dismuke's popular songs from the 1920s and 1930s (audio files)
Fifties Web (material from 1950s and 1960s)
Free Play Music
Folk Music of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Canada and Australia
G.I. Jukebox: Songs from World WWII (various artists)
The Great War: An American Musical Fantasy (Archeophone, songs from World War I, 2 CDs--read the reviews)
Great American Songbook (listen online to G.A.S. Station, maintained by the The Society for the Preservation of the Great American Songbook
The History of the Music Video Is Much Longer—and Weirder—Than You Know (Carl Wilson, Slate, 8-2-23) Before the Beatles, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and MTV, there were the Soundies—some 1,880 clips of big bands, crooners, R&B combos, country acts, and others, produced specifically to play on refrigerator-size visual jukeboxes called Panorams.
Music for funerals, wakes, and memorial services
National Jukebox (Historical Recordings from the Library of Congress)
1950s American Style
Old Forty-Fives.com ((music and other nostalgic items from the 1950s and 1960s, good for bringing back old memories--but NOT public domain; you must clear rights)
Perfessor Bill Edwards (Ragtime and other old-time piano music, 1910-1919)
Popular hymns
Popular Song Recordings from the Victrola (1913-1919), Besmark
Popular Songs in American History
Rags to Riches: The Essential Hits of Scott Joplin (Compendia CD)
Real Ragtime: Disc Recordings From Its Heyday (Archeophone, CD
Songs That Got Us Through WWII (Rhino CD, various artists)
The Year in Music (Wikipedia’s Timeline of Musical Events—Google a year date and “in music”)
Upchucky Jukebox, popular radio and junkbox songs from 1940s through 1990s
Take Me Back to the Sixties (Moreoldfortyfives.com, search engine links)
Top 10 Archive (play online free -- monthly hits, 1950-1989, 45rpm recordings)
We Didn't Start the Fire (Ye Li's clever illustration of Billy Joel's song, a fast romp through 50 years of U.S. history)
Vintage Japanese music (Komaid YouTube playlist, with more than 40 pieces, Dale Komai's father's vintage record collection)

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Finding Sound Effects
Free Sound Effects (article on Videomaker, which has links to resources also)
FreeSound (a sound-effect site described in the Videomaker article as the "granddaddy of free sound effects site")
Sound-Effects-Library.com ("the world's largest auditionable sound effects, music samples, & music tracks library")
(more to come -- this is not my specialty area so I rely on recommendations from colleagues)

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Scanning photos, documents, and other images

"Will the documents and photographs be donated to a public repository, too? A website is not a permanent means of preservation. Access, yes. Preservation, no."

      ~ Valerie A. Metzler, archivist, historian


"Digitization is not preservation. Always save the original element."
~Taylor Whitney, Preserving the Past


"Never dump originals - they may be all that is left after the computer age."
~Peter Amsden, via Taylor Whitney


See also section on Archiving, preservation, and conservation.


 • Scanning Basics 101. Wayne Fulton's useful site) includes useful pages such as Scanning and Printing Resolution Calculator. Read up a little on how to do it (or hire someone who knows what they're doing and has time to do it (and can do it for a fee that fits your budget)
12 Great Tips to Scan Your Family Pictures (PC Magazine)
Scanning Tips (CJ Madigan, Shoebox Stories) Clear and succinct instructions from a personal historian whose work involves scanning. Examples:

---"What resolution? Everyone says 300 dpi, but that's only half the answer. There are two factors involved here: the resolution of the scan and the resolution of the output. Many old photos are 1×1.5″ or smaller, so if you scan at 300 dpi, and then print it as a 5×7″, its output resolution would be only 60 dpi. So you should scan at a resolution that will yield approximately 300 dpi at output."

--- "Scan in color even for black and white photos. You'll notice that the tonal value of b&w prints changes depending upon the paper and processing and deterioration over time. This will also keep you from making a mistake and forgetting to change back to color when you have color photos. A color file can always be converted to b&w but color can only be added back into a grayscale image by digitally painting it."
DPI and PPI Explained (Andrew Dacey, photographer) "DPI refers only to the printer. Every pixel output is made up of different coloured inks (usually 4-6 colours, although many printers use more now). Because of the small number of colours, the printer needs to be able to mix these inks to make up all the colours of the image. So each pixel of the image is created by a series of tiny dots (you could think of them as sub-pixels)."
Dots per inch (Wikipedia, illustrated)
Pixels and mega-pixels (Wikipedia, illustrated)
Photo Scanning and the 300 vs 600 DPI Myth (Scan My Photos) A digital image’s resolution is expressed as its pixel dimensions, either as pixels by pixels or the often heard keyword, megapixels. So why do people get hung up on DPI (dots per inch)? Because when it comes to printing, DPI actually IS the measure of quality. Whatever size your images are, they should be scanned at the selected resolution for that size. This is why scanning companies tout resolutions, not pixel dimensions or megapixels: because a 4×6 scanned at 600 dpi is different than a 5×7 scanned at 600 dpi. Different size photos will result in different size digital images.
How to Check the DPI of an Image (Ben Stockton, Groovy Post, 8-16-20) Digital images aren’t created equally. If you’ve ever tried to open a digital photo on a modern PC, but created using an older digital camera, you’ll see exactly what we mean—the quality is probably poor and you won’t be able to zoom in without pixelation. If you’re unsure about the quality of an image, you may want to check the DPI value. Here’s how.
Storybook Perfect Scanning (Joan Hitchens, Navigating Grief site, good general instructions on scanning for beginners)
Everything you wanted to know about file size and formats (Proshooter.com). Read the section on File Formats--Compression, to learn how in compressing a file you somewhat damage it, which is why professional photographers prefer TIFF files to JPG files. JPG is a lossy format.  If you edit a TIFF the image will not lose data, whereas in editing a JPG the quality will worsen with each save. Another way of putting it: JPG images are more compressed, and lose some of the image quality each time you save the image.

Scanner Resolution: Image quality is more than a number (Epson, PDF). It sez here:

For printing purposes, to reproduce a photo in 1:1 scale, a resolution of 300-360 dpi/ppi is enough resolution. This 300-360 dpi/ppi range is also good to know for enlargements because it can help determine the resolution needed to get enough pixels from the scan. If your image does not have enough pixels at the printing size you are trying to enlarge it to, the image will be blocky and pixilated instead of smooth. The larger or finer resolution the image you are scanning, the better the scan.

You can use this simple formula for determining enlargement pixels needed:
Short side of output size ÷ Short side of original image x 300 (or 360) dpi/ppi

Thus, to get an 8” x 10” print from a 4” x 6” original, you would need to scan at 600 or 720 dpi/ppi.
8 ÷ 4 = 2, 2 x 300 (or 2 x 360) = 600 or 720 dpi/ppi

The formula also works for very small items, like 35mm slides. Given that the average 35mm image area is 0.94” x 1.42”, to make a 16” x 20” print your formula would read:
16 ÷ 0.94 = 17.02, 17 x 300 (or 17 x 360) = 5,100 or 6,120 dpi/ppi

Here are two sets of links to give you a fuller understanding of scanning--including specific problems or situations:
Scanning, repairing, and organizing photos
Guides to scanning, digitizing, and editing for video and multimedia

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Preserving Your Family and National Treasures:
Archiving, Conservation, and Preservation

Archiving and preservation resources
Books about preservation

Digitizing media
Adding metadata to photos
Suppliers of archival materials

Digital technology is great for sharing, but not for preservation. For one thing, technologies keep changing, so the content stored has to be "migrated" to new technologies. (Think VCR, CD, DVD, cloud.) Whatever you do, save the original document or photo in its paper form. "Digital documents last forever - or five years, whichever comes first." ~~Jeff Rothenberg

Archiving and preservation resources

How to Preserve Your Family Memories, Letters and Trinkets (Kelsey McKinney, NY Times, 2-8-18) Advice on several fronts: Storing love letters, photographs and other important papers ("So remember: No tape (it sticks). No paper clips or staples (they can rust). Definitely no lamination. And absolutely no plastic bins that can fill up with water.""just as important as knowing what to do is knowing what not to do.") Other strange heirlooms (wedding dresses, record collections and more), Digitizing those love letters and printed photos ("Just as with paper archives, the most important part of archiving digital files is storage."), Digitizing audio, video and everything else ("often neglected by family archivists because they are more technical than common sense, but they are no less important.")
Book Conservation versus Preservation (versus Restoration) (Kristin Masters, Books Tell You Why, 9-21-11) "When a book is preserved, it is simply protected from further damage. When someone wants a book preserved, I'll often build a box to protect the book from the sun, air, and other environmental factors that can cause deterioration....Conservation, however, requires a little more on chemistry to stabilize a book's condition. A conservationist might, for instance, work on deacidifying a rare book, or use pigment dyes instead of chemical dyes to color materials used in repair...."Restoring a book means using original materials and historic techniques to make the book look like it did when it was new--even if that was 200 years ago. Not all restorationists are familiar with conservation or preservation, so it's important to choose someone who is not only familiar with period binding methods, but also understands how to protect your investment in the future."

Archive Grid ArchiveGrid connects you with archives around the world to find historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. Described as "the ultimate destination for searching through family histories, political papers, and historical records held in archives around the world." See How to search Archive Grid. and How to contribute your MARC records.
Tips on Archiving Family History, Part 1: Audio (Bertram Lyons , NY Times, 5-29-13). First in a series. This one covers Converting Analog to Digital, Fragile Home Records, Converting Cassettes and LPs to Digital, Do Music CDs Last Forever? Part 2: Film and Photos : Those old 8mm (and 16mm and 35mm) films, Finding trustworthy vendors to preserve or digitize old film; Strategy for digital photo library' Preserving slides and photos; How to preserve old uncut, rolled-up negatives of photos from WW II; Photo albums vs photobooks (preserve the original images as well as the scans), Old Mac, TIFFS, JPEGS, cellphones; Extracting image files from old cellphones and dead disc drives. Good lists of specialist organizations.
Archiving your family's voting history ((Pam Pacelli Cooper, Verissima)
Preserving original documents (Taylor Whitney, Preserving the Past, on Writers and Editors website)
Advice from Donia (ALCTS, American Library Association) Preservation specialist Donia Conn provides tips on how to take care of our special photographs, letters, books, and more in her advice column (see topics along left side).

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (202-452-9545). Blog: Conservators-Converse, plus many other resources. Use them to find a conservator to help repair or restore old letters, etc.
The Archival Advisor (guide for photo collectors, genealogists, scrapbookers, from RIT's Image Permanence Institute) and Archival Advisor newsletter archives (Image Permanence Institute)
Archival Internet Resources (Ready, 'Net, Go! an archival "meta index," or index of archival indexes)
Articles about image archiving (Wilhelm Imaging Research)
Association for Recorded ound (ARSC)
Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) (members range from those who work solely with moving images to organizations where moving images are only a small part of their collection to individuals who want to protect their personal collection).
---list of active vendors
---Conservation Online's clearinghouse of information about motion picture film preservation
---Home Film Preservation Guide (AMIA, Film Forever)
---National Film Preservation Foundation and National Film Preservation Board (support film preservation and research)
---Motion picture film labs (list posted by AMIA Film Advocacy Task Force)

Hard-core data preservation: The best media and methods for archiving your data (Jon L. Jacobi, PC World, 2-29-16) Daily backup isn’t archiving. If you want your data to survive the decades, you need to use the right tools.
Home Movie Day (lists film transfer services for home movies)
Italy’s Book Doctor (Craftsmanship Quarterly, Summer 2021) In the city of Bologna, home to the world's oldest university, Pietro Livi developed an unusual machine shop—part artisanal and part high-tech—built to restore damaged ancient texts to their former glory. And then came Venice’s historic floods of 2019.
The Digital Dilemma: Strategic Issues in Archiving and Accessing Digital Motion Picture Materials (Oscars.org)
What is it you do, again? (Abbey Bender, Literary Hub, 2-26-18) The film ‘Golden Exits’ attempts to bring the archival assistant out of the stacks. Nobody knows how to portray archivists and librarians on-screen.
Preserving Family History (listen online to experts Bert Lyons, Bergis Jules, and George Blood, on Kojo Nnamdi Tech Tueday radio program, NPR, rebroadcast 12-24-13). Photo albums, home movies, handwritten letters, an unused old computer with important family documents still stored on it: as precious as these items may be, they'll last only as long as the paper, videotape or hard drive they're on. To make matters worse, they're often stored in attics and basements -- the worst possible environments for preservation. We explore high and low tech ways to protect and store family memorabilia, and the smartest way to migrate different materials to digital formats.
Find a Conservator (American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, lists professional conservators who do independent work, listed by specialty and geographic area)
Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO), as described in Digital Organizers: The Next New Service Industry (The Atlantic, 4-14-11)
Bit by Electronic Bit, a Cantor’s Voice Is Restored. Joseph Berger (NYTimes 7-20-10) on how a 52-year-old non-techie Hasidic Jew who runs a record shop in Brooklyn, with advice from some experts, used advanced audio restoration programs on a regular computer to get rid of the crackles and hisses in old recordings of a "Jewish Caruso," a "Cantor for the Ages."
Care and Handling of CDs and DVDs: A Guide for Librarians and Archivists by Fred R. Byers (PDF, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Council on Library and Information Resources, 2003)
Caring for Family Treasures: A Basic How-To from Storage to Donation (PDF, Anne A. Salter, technical leaflet, American Association for State and Local History)
Caring for Your Family Archives with answers to common questions from preservation and archives professionals -- on such topics as preserving family papers, mounting things safely in albums, attaching photos to album pages, removing photos from old albums, captioning photos, framing and displaying photos, converting home movies to video tape (good for viewing but not for preservation), getting documents repaired, digitizing photo collections.
Caring for Your Treasures (tips from the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (by category, such as photos, home videotape, documents and works of art on paper, metal objects)
Conservation services, and how to select a conservator (American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works, or AIC)
Conservation OnLine Resources for Conservation Professionals (COoL) "a full text library of conservation information . . . [concerning] library, archives and museum materials."
A Consumer Guide to Materials for Preservation Framing and the Display of Photographic Images (Image Permanence Institute)
Digital Preservation (Library of Congress)
Digital Preservation Tutorials (Digital Preservation Education for NC State Government Employees) -- for example, Saving your Facebook data (and photos) and File-naming tutorial
Family Archives (tips for preserving family treasures--click through to more specific topics)
Family Treasures and Resources (Library of Congress Preservation Directorate)
Google boss warns of 'forgotten century' with email and photos at risk (Ian Sample, The Guardian, 2-13-15) Digital material including key historical documents could be lost forever because programs to view them will become defunct, says Vint Cerf.
Graphics Atlas (Image Permanence Institute's new online resource brings sophisticated print identification and exploration tools to archivists, curators, historians, collectors, conservators, educators, and the general public). Learn about the distinguishing characteristics of various print processes.
Graphics Atlas Tutorials (Image Permanence Institute tutorials on process groups, imaging techniques, identification)
A Guide to Donating Your Personal or Family Papers to a Repository (Society of American Archivists, part of its free online services.
Home Film Preservation Guide (Film Forever, Association of Moving Image Archivists, AMIA)
Taking Care of Your Family Heirlooms (Katie Smith handout, Virtual Genealogy Fair 2017, National Archives)
Collections Care Online Community (archives of webinars and useful handouts from webinars)
Image Permanence Institute papers, articles, reports plus special pages such as the Dew Point Calculator (and risk of mold)
Inside the Smithsonian’s Book Conservation Lab (Donna Peterson, Washington Post blog, 11-5-12)
Conservators Converse (blog of the American Institute for Conservation)
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation (JAIC) online (Volume 16, 1977 - Volume 44, 2005), hosted by COOL
Kodak Introduces Cost-Effective Asset Protection Film (Sue Smith, Cinematography.com, 8-23-12). "The new KODAK Color Asset Protection Film 2332 is optimized for content owners who originate or finish their productions on digital formats and want to protect their valuable media for the future. The stock offers over a century of dye stability when stored in recommended environments..."
Kodak addresses digital problem with film solution (Annlee Ellingson, L.A. Biz, 9-9-12) "“Content owners have now an option using their postproduction service providers to put their finished edited content onto film at a lower price point than they’ve been able to do in the past."
Maintaining Memories: How to Save Old Photographs (Jennifer Holder, Wise Bread, 7-31-12). An amateur's advice to fellow amateurs.
Motion Picture Film Preservation
NARA Technical Guidelines for Digitizing Archival Materials for Electronic Access: Creation of Production Master Files - Raster Images (National Archives and Records Administration)
Never trust a corporation to do a librarian's job As Google abandons its past, Internet archivists step in to save our collective memory.
Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC, excellent and extensive links to online leaflets on conservation and preservation)
Notes on Photographs (George Eastman House)
• Photographic Activity Test (PAT) -- Just What Is the Photographic Activity Test? (Daniel M. Burge, Picture Framing Magazine, 2-96). The PAT is "currently the only method available for predicting reactions (photographic activity) between display materials and photographs over the long term."
Practical Archivist, Sally Jacobs on preserving family heirlooms. Sign up for her newsletter and get her free booklet 8 Blunders People Make When They Scan Photos and How To Avoid Them All.
Preservation Calculator for Photo Storage (Archival Advisor, Image Permanence Institute)
Preservation (National Archives, gateway to a LOT of useful information about preservation, including the preservation of public or organizational papers)
Preservation, information about (Library of Congress)
Preservation and conservation, information about (U.S. National Archives)
Preservation Resources (American Library Association links)
Preserving Family Papers and Photos (National Archives, Preservation Division)
Preserving Your Wartime Letters (Chapman University)
Preserving Your Family Photographs: How to Organize, Present, and Restore Your Precious Family Images by Maureen A. Taylor, author of Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photograph. Watch Maureen solve cases on Photo Detective. Sign up for her free e-mail newsletter, The Photo Detective with tips and articles.
Preserving Memories: Caring for Your Heritage (Clarke Historical Library in Michigan on how to care for, copy, and store letters, diaries, books, and other paper items; photographs; VCR tape, etc.)
Preserving Photographs & Documents (FamilySearch wiki)
Recommended Reading (Archival Advisor)
Society of American Archivists (SAA) provides a directory, National Archival Organizations in the United States, with links to societies of medical archivists, religious archivists, regional history archivists, business archivists, and state organizations of archivists. See also Associated Professional Organizations and So You Want to Be an Archivists: An Overview of the Archives Profession.
Tools for Archivists (Special Collections Division, Tulane University)
Why the Library of Congress cares about archiving our tweets (Nate Anderson, Ars Technica, 8-18-10) The US government is paying good money to archive "top tweets" in the Library of Congress. Why?

Digitizing media

Digital technology is great for sharing, but not for preservation. For one thing, technologies keep changing, so the content stored has to be "migrated" to new technologies. (Think VCR, CD, DVD, cloud.) Whatever you do, save the original document or photo in its paper form. "Digital documents last forever - or five years, whichever comes first." ~~Jeff Rothenberg
How to keep your old videos, music, and photos safe forever (David Nield, Popular Science, 10-12-17). How to digitize your media (VSH tapes, cassette tapes, vinyl records, and print photos)
Archives, Center for Home Movies. See also information on film preservation and various tips on transfering film, caring for originals, find a film transfer facility.
Unhappy Medium: The Challenges With Archiving Digital Video (Vicky Gan, Washingtonian, 9-10-14) As Hollywood goes digital, the Library of Congress and other local repositories are scrambling to find byte-based alternatives.

Books about preservation

Caring for Your Family Treasures: Heritage Preservation by Jane Long and Richard Long (the care and handling of precious family heirlooms such as old silver, wedding gowns, scrapbooks, photos, books, and dolls)
How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia and Genealogy Records by Denise May Levenick
How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally by Denise May Levenick

Saving Stuff: How to Care for and Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms, and Other Prized Possessions by Don Williams and Louisa Jaggar (senior conservators of the Smithsonian Institution)
Keeping Your Past: A Basic Guide to Preserving Your Family Papers and Photographs ($8 for 22-page guide, from Kansas City Area Archivists)

Adding metadata to photo

Please tell me about other helpful online resources

How to Add Copyright Management Information to Your Photos (Carolyn E. Wright, Photo Attorney, 6-22-11)
Why You Should Add Metadata To Your Photos (Carolyn E. Wright, Photo Attorney, 10-7-08)
Watermarking Slideshow PDF Files (Sean McCormack, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 8-2-07)
Why metalog (Controlled Vocabulary)
Mind Your Phraseology (Christina Wodtke explains "controlled vocabulary," Digital Web Magazine 8-13-02)
Examples of photo indexing for an electronic archive (Visual Edge '98)

Suppliers of archival materials

I have not personally used all of the following vendors of archival supplies and equipment, but I've put this list together for myself from recommendations of experts and colleagues.

Archival Methods (Henrietta, NY 14467)
1-866-877-7050. One colleague uses their binder slip case sets to organize documents.

Archival Products (PO Box 1413, Des Moines, IA 50306-1413)
(800) 526-5640

Conservation Resources (5532 Port Royal Rd. Springfield, VA 22151)

Gaylord Archival (PO Box 4901, Syracuse, NY 13221-49011)
1 (800) 448-6160

Hollinger Metal Edge (6340 Bandini Blvd., Commerce, CA 90040)
1-800-862-2228 (CA)
(9401 Northeast Dr., Fredericksburg, VA 22408)

Light Impressions
(PO Box 787, Brea, CA 92822-0787)
1 (800) 828-6216
Several colleagues told me this firm is no longer reliable at filling orders.

Print File
1 (800) 827-0673

(30 Morgan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211)


University Products (PO Box 101, 517 Main Street, Holyoke, MA 01040)

• Here is a lovely Portfolio Box, for elegant presentation.
See the New York State Archives for a fuller list (with addresses) of these and other vendors of archival supplies.
Some also use Bindertek, especially for binders.

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"Digitization is not preservation. Always save the original element."
~Taylor Whitney, Preserving the Past

"Never dump originals - they may be all that is left after the computer age."
~Peter Amsden, via Taylor Whitney

Finding background music and sound effects for video biographies, podcasts, presentations, blogs, etc.

Creating a video biography for your family or a client? You may commission a score or you may want to use "buy-out" music: royalty-free music that you pay a small fee for up front, for use in a video production, film score, podcast, and so on. (An example of not-royalty-free music: Frank Sinatra singing "My Way.")
The only "COPYRIGHT-free" music you're likely find is is music that is in the public domain, which generally means music that is very old. There is plenty of ROYALTY-free music (meaning you don't pay a royalty for every copy sold or played or performed etc.). But that's not generally free, in the sense of no payment: generally you will pay an amount up front. Read Why use royalty-free music? (an iStockphoto article).

Here are sites some personal historians in video use (with thanks to members of the Association of Personal Historians for the recommendations):
How to Find Free Music for Videos (Jason McCoy). Jason explains the difference between public domain, royalty free, and Creative Commons music and types of Creative Commons licenses; understanding whether your work is commercial or noncommercial; how to give proper attribution for music; and lists 31 amazing sites with free Creative Commons music. Excellent, helpful site.
Audio Jungle (440,140 tracks and sounds from our community of musicians and sound engineers)
Audio Network (pre-licensed production music from various genres available to purchase for re-use)
BBC Sound Effects--and MusicRadar's story about it (4-19-18). BBC is releasing the sound effects under the RemArc licence, which means that they can be used for “personal, educational or research purposes.”
Creative Commons-licensed music (links to several CC-license music sites). Can I use any song with a CC license on it? Almost — you need to make sure that what you want to do with the music is OK under the terms of the particular Creative Commons license it’s under. CC-licensed music isn’t free for all uses, only some.
Custom Songs by Erik (Erik Balkey, and here's his song Crazy in Love)
Davenport Music Library (buy a CD containing royalty-free music for audio and video production and to play for telephones on hold)
DeWolfe Music
Freeplay Music
Fresh Music
Incompetech (owner/composer/musician Kevin MacLeod offers a wide selection of his own work)
Internet Archives Live Music Archives
Live Music Archive (Internet Archive's archive of live concerts in a lossless, downloadable format--strictly noncommercial, both for access and for further distribution)
MobyGratis (free music for nonprofit filmmakers)
Music Bakery
MusOpen (royalty free music. See also Sheet music (alphabetical by composer)
Music 2 Hues
National Jukebox (historical recordings from the Library of Congress)
Omnimusic: Production Music Library (top production music library for film, television, and multimedia content)
Open Music Archive (artists Eileen Simpson and Ben White, UK, source, digitize and distribute out-of-copyright sound recordings)
PBTM Library, instanddownloadmusic.com (royalty-free pro background music)
PD Info (list of public domain songs, buyout production music, public domain sheet music, from Haven Sound at www.pdinfo.com
Perfect Choice Music Library (composer Andy Mitran's online music library caters to video producers; you can license his original compositions for a one-time fee)
Premium Beat
Powerful Presentation Music (for training presentations, Bob Pike Group)
Royalty Free Music Library
Rumblefish Music Licensing Store
Shockwave-Sound.com (a library of online royalty-free music, stock music, and downloadable sound effects)
615 Music
SmartSound , easy-to-use royalty-free music, stock music, customize to any length. See pricing for
SonicFire Pro 6, used by one of my favorite documentary makers.
Sound Ideas
Sound Snap
StockMusic.com (royalty-free music, sound effects, and production elements)
2B Royalty Free
Videvo.net Free Stock Video Footage
Vimeo Music Store
Zoom License (music licensing for videography & digital imaging--for montages, professional wedding and event videography, etc.)
26 Places to Find Free Multimedia for Your Blog includes:
Internet archive community audio (formerly open source audio)

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See links about archiving and preservation in section just above this one.
The big picture
Family trees (genograms)
Genealogy gateway sites
The joys and perils of genealogical research
Genealogy-related TV shows
Books about organizing and preserving family history materials
(a booklist)
Genetic genealogy (testing DNA)
Searchable genealogy and family history databases, sites
Online newspaper archives (historic newspapers)
U.S. immigration, ports of entry
U.S. land and residential data
U.S. and Canadian census records and genealogy resources
Finding maiden names and female ancestors
African American genealogy and history resources
Irish and UK genealogy resources
European genealogy
Jewish genealogy resources
Resources on the Holocaust
Adoption issues and resources
More family history resources
Books about genealogy
Military records, history, and archives
Organizations focused on genealogy and family histories
Popular history (books)
Popular history (online)
History timelines
Genealogy and history, miscellaneous

The big picture

• Check out Finding Your Roots, the hugely popular, fascinating series Henry Louis Gates Jr. produces for PBS, viewable online.
Ancestors (companion site to the PBS family history and genealogy television series)
Cracking the Code (Jesmyn Ward, New Yorker, 5-14-15) My parents’ results gave them the concrete proof of their ancestry that they’d always been denied. Yet I found my own results both surprising and troubling. I had always understood my ancestry to be a tangle of African slaves free men of color French and Spanish immigrants...
Advice on How to Research Family History, Part 1 (New York Times, Ask an Expert, 11-6-13) Elizabeth Shown Mills, a genealogist and historical writer, answers readers’ questions about how to research family history using online sources, physical public records and the stories and DNA of living family members. See also Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4, with their interesting questions and answers.
Who Do You Think You Are? Family history research gets a little overhyped on this celebrity-focused show (originally on NBC, now The Learning Channel) but it does make people think about their heritage. "Someone dead 300 years -- if you're willing to listen -- can teach you things about what you're doing now. " A quote from segment with Tom Bergeron (YouTube, where you can watch many past episodes).
Make a Genealogy Coloring Book With Ancestral Photos (Lisa A. Alzo, Family Tree Magazine)
National Genealogical Society American Genealogy Home-Study Course (for learning how to research in a wide variety of original records and repositories). NGS also has a popular and well-attended national Family History Conference
A Genealogist's Guide to Tracing People from Our Past (TruePeopleSearch), which Ava Brown recommended.
A Teenager Was Bullied. His Ancestors Saved Him (John Leland, NY Times, 2-26-21) Dennis Richmond Jr. was a middle-schooler who took refuge in his family history, some of it very surprising. "The search was not just for ancestors, but also for the stories they chose not to pass down because they were so traumatic. Genealogy, after all, is a study of forgetting — sometimes forced by circumstance, sometimes protective."
The Genealogy Radio Show (Lorna Moloney). Listen to delightful archived interviews and talks.
The Hunt for Black Family History (Mandisa Routheni, Alternet, 2-24-17) Simple genealogy searches don't work for people whose ancestors were treated like property. But some new tools could help.
The Mormon Church Is Building a Family Tree of the Entire Human Race (Christine Kenneally, New Republic, 10-14-14). "Mormons think as hard as, probably harder than, anyone else in the world about what it means to keep facts alive, or at least to keep them accessible to the living, and the phenomenon they have built out of granite, microfilm, machines, and software is as mind-bogglingly ambitious for our century as the flying buttresses and gargoyles of Notre Dame were in the twelfth century." But there have been some omissions (such as LGBT marriages) and some unappreciated gestures (such as posthumous baptism of Jews). Excerpt from Kenneally's book The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures
History in Context: The American vision of Bernard Bailyn (Gordon S. Wood, The Weekly Standard, 2-23-15) Powerful essay on the necessity of telling the whole story (of America's founding) and not overemphasizing the stories of the oppressed and dispossessed at the expense of how the main narrative, of how things got done. Could well apply to family stories, too: don't let the tail wag the dog.
Grandma's Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes (Dan Hurley, Discovery, May 2013) Your ancestors' lousy childhoods or excellent adventures might change your personality, bequeathing anxiety or resilience by altering the epigenetic expressions of genes in the brain.
The ProGen Study Group. Each month group members study one or two chapters of Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians by Elizabeth Shown Mills and complete a practical assignment relating to the material. Fee of $95 to offset costs of website and Basecamp project management website. See also FAQ and lesson samples.
History at Home: A Guide to Genealogy (hat tip to Bailey; includes links to excellent resources).
• Crista Cowan, The Barefoot Genealogist, gives a series of Ancestry.com webinars, which I hope are still free online. Listen and watch, for example, to:
~Write It Down: Tips for Recording Family History
~Back to the Basics: Genealogy 101
~How to Search Ancestry.com Like a Detective
~Genealogy: Part History, Part Mystery
~Spelling Doesn't Count: Tips for Finding Your Ancestors (why names of our ancestors got misspelled)
~Telling Your Story (guest Ryan Littrell, author of Reunion: A Search for Ancestors, talks about how a search for family, a genealogy hunt that becomes addictive and compulsive, can be turned into a compelling narrative. The secret: don't bog them down in the details.
Genealogy: The Family Business (Independent UK, 2-23-11)
Do I Still Need a Desktop Genealogy Program or is Family Tree Enough? (Renee Zamora, Renee's Genealogy blog, 5-15-13). On the very strong advantages of a desktop program over a website.
Traveling to Find Your Roots: A Guide to Genealogy Research in Europe (Fat Tire Tours)
Guide to Genealogical Writing by Penelope L. Stratton and Henry B. Hoff
Genealogy Cruises vs. Convention Centers (2-16-15) on Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter. See also Eastman's free onlineEncyclopedia of Genealogy.
Genealogy and the Law: A Layman's Guide to Legalese (JustGreatLawyers.com)with links to other glossaries, for when you wonder what a word is, or means.
Linkpendium, "the largest curated list of genealogy links anywhere" and "a really cool search engine." H/T to Amy Johnson Crow: A Surprising Source to Find Millions of Genealogy Websites.

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Family trees (genograms)

Why You Should Dig Up Your Family’s History — and How to Do It (Jaya Saxena, NY Times, 2-3-19) Learning your history is forced reckoning, asking you to consider whose stories you carry with you and which ones you want to carry forward. Whatever you do, be prepared to fall down a rabbit hole, Ms. Koch-Bostic said. “I think it appeals to people who love an intellectual pursuit, because that’s really what it is,” she said. “It’s solving a puzzle at the highest level, and the benefit is that you get to find out about your family.”
Introduction to the Genogram (GenoPro)
Genogram examples (GenoPro)
Rules to Build Genograms (GenoPro) Basic genogram symbols and layouts (right and wrong), resolving genogram ambiguity, complex genograms (illustrated).
Indicating Family Relationships in Genograms (GenoPro) Symbols for marriage, divorce (in fact and legal), various types of cohabitation and separation, committed and casual relationships, love affairs, rape, etc.
Genealogical numbering systems, explained (Wikipedia) Among the most popular numbering systems are: Ahnentafel (also known as the Eytzinger Method, Sosa Method, and Sosa-Stradonitz Method), and the Register, NGSQ, Henry, d'Aboville, Meurgey de Tupigny, and de Villiers/Pama Systems, illustrated in this entry. The Ahnentafel system allows one to derive an ancestor's number without compiling the list and allows one to derive an ancestor's relationship based on their number.
"Second Cousin, Once Removed" and More Explained in Chart Form (Dave Greenbaum's helpful chart, Lifehacker, 11-22-14)
Family tree of black family (video, Facebook Reels) In new Treasures Gallery at Library of Congress, which will display striking papers and artifacts that span 4,000 years.
How to Build a Family Tree: Tracing Your Ancestors (National Genealogical Society)
The Best Family Tree Makers (TopTenReviews.com)
Your Family Tree, Explained (C.G.P. Grey, YouTube) . See also Parallel and cross cousins explained and Cousin calculator.
• Finding the right genealogy software. Kind of hard to trust this stuff since Ancestry.com announced it would no longer support Family Tree Maker. Here are links to a few discussions and reviews:
1) Software reviewed by users on GenSoftReviews (sort ratings by various categories)
2) Choosing the right family history software: Our expert guide (InsideHistory.com, 12-10-14)
3) The Weekly Genealogist survey(results posted on Geneamusings.com, 3-25-15). Read the comments.
Free family tree templates Dozens of free printable blank family trees of various types from Obituarieshelp.org, to help children and adults with the first steps of creating a family tree.
Deleting the Family Tree (Jon Christian, Slate, 4-23-15) "When Ancestry.com shuttered its social network for relatives, it erased 10 years’ worth of my family’s correspondence and memories." "It’s natural to assume that service providers like Ancestry will be good custodians of our data, but toward the end of a product’s life, that understanding can be thrown out the window." (Keep paper copies of EVERYTHING important.) With that caveat in mind, see Building Your Family Tree Online: A Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy (RetailMeNot), How to best use Ancestry.com and similar genealogy sites.
Genealogy: How to Get Started on Your Family Tree (Claire Walter, UK)
Family Chartmasters (a page of testimonials with photos of VERY long charts)

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Back to top of Genealogy and Timelines

Genealogy gateway sites

leading you where you need to go

Cyndi's List (superb, encyclopedic portal to links to genealogy-related websites, categorized and cross-referenced in 180 categories--'a "card catalog" to the genealogical collection in the immense library that is the Internet.'
**Ancestry.com (links to many U.S. public records, including census and military records)
Genealogy.com. The membership activities have ended, but there are important links here to archives of genealogy resources in various U.S. states; a source for family history buffs to find genealogical research originally posted in GenForum as well as Genealogy.com's most popular genealogy articles.
25 Best Genealogy Sites (iReviews)
Association of Professional Genealogists (APG)
Academic Genealogy (a wiki: Family Genealogy and History Internet Education Directory). Megadirectory to genealogy and family history records, well worth exploring.
One-Stop Webpages of Stephen P. Morse (excellent portal site, explained here, especially good for New York City area)
Not Your Grandmother's Genealogy Hobby (Alina Dizik, WSJ 12-1-11). Wikis, social-networking sites, search engines and online courses are changing genealogy from a loner's hobby to a social butterfly's field day. New tools and expansive digital archives, including many with images of original documents, are helping genealogy newbies do research. Some are behind paywalls
Great genealogy links (National Archives, Archives Library Information Center (ALIC)
Resources for Genealogists (National Archives, US). Most requested: Military service records, immigration records, naturalization records, passport applications, land records, bankruptcy records.
The Great Migration Study Project The aim of the Great Migration Study Project is to compile comprehensive genealogical and biographical accounts of every person who settled in New England between 1620 and 1640. Between these years about twenty thousand English men, women, and children crossed the Atlantic to settle New England. For a century and a half genealogists have been studying these families, and thousands of books and articles have been published as a result. A project of the New England Historic Genealogical Society .
Climbing My Family Tree (Connie Shipley's blog has links to resources for the U.S., Canada, Ireland, and Germany, and other genealogy-related topics)
Native American History and Genealogy and Black Genealogy, two strong suits on the Access Genealogy site. Along the right side, click on state names for resources within a particular U.S. state.
Genealogy: a guide to resources for researchers (British Library)
Top 100 Genealogy Websites of 2016 (GenealogyInTime Magazine)

(as recommended by Claire Mitchell, UK, on Get Started with Genealogy))
London Metropolitan Archives (start here for "parish records, tax and education records as well as poorhouse records")
National Archives (UK) "the best place for military records, wills, tax records, immigration documents and general government records"
City of Westminster Archives Centre (books, directories, maps, newspapers, images, local government records, electoral and parish registers, census returns and more relating to family, local and business history)
Paris Archives (Paris, "census records going back nearly 100 years and military records dating back to the revolution")
Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive, "court documents, wills, military records and official government records going back hundreds of years")

"It is certainly desirable to be well descended, but the glory belongs to our ancestors." ~ Plutarch

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Searchable genealogy and family history databases, sites

Some databases are free, some behind paywalls (marked $, often with a free trial). Some are licensed only to institutions, but may be accessible through a public or university library or a Family History Center.)

Ancestry.com ($), a subscription site that links to many U.S. public records, including census and military records, and in 186 categories, including countries (and localities), record types, repositories, research techniques, clothing styles, histories of buildings, early medical technologies, occupations -- and much more. Top ranking family history site in this review of top-ranking genealogy search sites. But.... see:
Deleting the Family Tree (Jon Christian, Slate, 4-23-15). When Ancestry.com shuttered its social network for relatives, it erased 10 years’ worth of my family’s correspondence and memories. DO NOT TRUST ONLINE FIRMS FOR LONG-TERM PRESERVATION. For sharing, yes. But make digital copies of your own and keep at least one print copy of everything). Organizations do not always endure.
Heritage Quest Online, available free through subscribing libraries, Heritage Quest Online has an intuitive interface, clear census images from 1790 to 1930, information about people and places in the PERiodic Source (PERSI) of the Fort Wayne Public Library, a digital version of the microfilm collections of University Microfilm, Lexis-Nexis U.S. Serials, some records from Revolutionary War pension and bounty-land warrant application files; individuals in Freedman's Bank (1986-1874), founded to serve African Americans; memorials, petitions, and relief actions of the U.S. Congress. No individual subscriptions, but you may be able to use in a library.
UUGenWeb Project (free, volunteer-run, with rich information for some counties)
Family Search (free). Family tree and genealogy records, including the International Genealogical Index, which contains records from early 1500s to early 1900s, collected by the Mormon Church, noted for its emphasis on genealogy -- with 4,500 Family History Centers worldwide (click here to find one near you ), branch facilities of the Mormons' well-known Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah
Archives.com ($), a fairly new subscription site, reviewed here (see comments)
World Vital Records ($, U.S. or World) Marriage, birth, death, court, and military records, plus passenger lists, yearbooks, manuscripts, parish and land records and more.
Fold3, formerly Footnote: large military history database. (See Military Records, History, and Archives below.)
RootsWeb (oldest, largest free genealogy site, an Ancestry.com community -- many helpful links). Check out indexes to RootsWeb contents: by subject and by issue number.
Ancestor Search (free--includes Questions for family interviews.
Social Security Death Index (SSDI --U.S.) Find birth and death dates in this database of info on U.S. citizens who have died since 1962. SSDI, explains Linda Coffin, of History Crafters, is an index to only one kind of record, in one kind of repository. It's not a primary source the way a death certificate or a death record would be, so you might get discrepancies between it and official documents or other databases. Another place to search: the Social Security Death Master File, but the Social Security Administration does not have death records for everyone and doesn't guarantee the veracity of these records. (Which, as Linda observes, is what makes genealogy research so interesting.)
Why You Can’t Find a Death Record (and Some Things That Might Help) (Amy Johnson Crow, Genealogy Made Easy). Get a copy of her "5 Online Search Strategies Every Genealogist Should Know.")
The “Secret” Codes on Death Certificates That Can Tell You How Your Ancestors Died (Melanie Mayo, Family History Daily)
• And the secret code (it varies from one period to the next) can be found here: International Classification of Diseases (compliments of Wolfbane Cybernetic Ltd, Scotland)
GenUKI, portal to genealogical information for UK and Ireland (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Isle of Man, Channel Islands). See "Irish and UK Genealogy" below for more links.

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Online newspaper archives (historic newspapers)

Order is random!
Wikipedia's list of online newspaper archives, by country and by state
California Digital Newspaper Collection (a freely accessible repository of digitized California newspapers, 1846 to present)
Genealogy Bank
JDC Archive (institutional repository for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization--one of the most significant collections in the world for the study of modern Jewish history)
Jewish Telegraphic Agency Archives (JTA, credible and compelling reporting about Jews around the world)
Newspapers.com (3,500 newspapers from the 1700s–2000s)
Newspaper Archive
Internet Public Library
Wikipedia's list of online newspaper archives, worldwide and by state
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (Library of Congress & National Endowment for the Humanities). Search America's historic newspapers' pages (1836-1922) or use the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present.
SmallTownPapers (over 250 small-town newspapers you can read free every week; browse and search scanned newspaper archive from 1865 on)
Online newspapers and other news resources (Writers and Editors site)
GenealogyBank (search for genealogy records in 7000 U.S. newspapers from 1690 to today--find names, births, marriages and engagement notices, hometown news, obituaries)
Fulton History (good for old New York newspaper stories and memorabilia)
NewsBank (searchable at libraries--see if you can have remote access through your local or university library)
Newspaper Archive (access used to be through a library; browse by location, date, title, surname; subscriptions for individuals now available but a fellow biographer who asked to stop subscription is having trouble getting them to stop collecting the monthly $$).
ObitsArchive (large searchable database of obituaries)
GenealogyBank's Historical Newspaper Archives (over 320 years of obituaries, birth, marriages and newspaper articles about other key life events)
America's Historical Newspapers (Readex's online database, from 1690 to recent past)
One Hundred Years Ago in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania
fold3 (newspaper section)
Old News Search thousands of historical newspaper titles.
--- MyHeritage debuts OldNews.com, offering access to millions of historical newspaper pages (Aisha Malik, TechCrunch, 3-1-24)


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Organizing and preserving photos, making personal photohistories

Every picture tells your story: How to organize photos (Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press, 1-31-16) "Google Vice President Vint Cerf warned last year that a generation's worth of data, historical documents and photos could be lost in a pending digital dark age because of "bit rot," which happens as old programs used to view the digital documents become obsolete — think floppy discs, eight-track tapes, VHS tapes, photo negatives and slides, and even DVD formats. "When you think about the quantity of documentation from our daily lives that is captured in digital form, like our interactions by e-mail, people's tweets, and all of the World Wide Web, it's clear that we stand to lose an awful lot of our history," said Cerf at a conference.
"The classics survived the Dark Ages because of the monasteries and monks and because there was replication," he said. "They weren’t in just one place. So when that abbey burned down, it wasn’t gone. I think it’s a good idea for the ordinary person to sort of look carefully at what their long-term arrangements are for their pictures, and have a couple different ones." And save the stories and names that go with the photos!
After a Death: How to Make the Process of Going Through Your Parents’ Photos Easier (The Photo Organizers, 8-7-17) When cleaning out your parent’s home after a death, don’t let all those boxes of family photos be a burden; instead, follow the advice of professional photo organizer Dawn Roode of Modern Heirloom Books and allow them to help you heal.
A Tendency Toward Nostalgia (Dawn M. Roode, Modern Heirloom Books, 1-14-18)
How To Use Photographs As Prompts for Writing Life Stories (Dawn M. Roode, Modern Heirloom Books, 5-12-16)
When a Bad Photograph Is the Perfect Picture (Dawn Roode, 7-18-16)
The Secret Art of the Family Photo (Michael Johnston, New Yorker, 7-14-22) They’re the pictures that mean the most to us. What makes them good?
Blurry Is Beautiful (Yan Palmer, Artifact Uprising). Don't toss that blurry photo if it makes you feel something. "A blurry photo communicates feeling in a language that perfection never will."
Google’s New App: Great Way to Preserve Your Old Photos Before They Fade Away (Dawn Roode, 11-17-16)
The Photo Legacy You Leave Your Kids (Dawn Roode, Modern Heirloom Books, 7-28-17) Don’t leave behind three obsolete devices filled with thousands of digital photos for your children to find when you’re gone. Prepare your pictures so they provide comfort—not a burden—to your children: It’s one of the most meaningful things you can do for your kids.

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From Digital Audio Recording to Audio CD: Part 1 - Audio into Audacity (Susan Kitchens, Family Oral History Using Digital Tools)
From Digital Audio Recording to Audio CD: Part 2 - Basic Audio Edits (also Susan Kitchens)

Going Digital with Home Movies (Ilana DeBare, SF Gate, 8-20-06 The Business of Memory: Companies take different approaches when going digital with home movies,

Imperial War Museum (IWM, Great Britain -- Collections of photos, sound, and film-- stretching from the everyday to the exceptional, on all aspects of twentieth and twenty-first century conflict)

Internet Archive (a nonprofit digital library offering free universal access to books, movies & music, as well as 368 billion archived web pages). Featured in this story: Never trust a corporation to do a library's job.
Check out
Wayback Machine (web pages captured at various moments in the past)
Moving Images Archive
Audio (books and poetry)
Old feature films (in order of popularity)

Library of Congress resources (digital collections, prints and photographs, historic newspapers, performing arts, veterans history, sound recordings, film, maps, manuscripts, and more)
Public Domain Music and Lyrics (PD Info. searchable and alphabetical info)
Memory Miner (vimeo, John Fox explains on video his software for annotating photos and linking photos of various people by people, place, and time, to provide a multigenerational look at our private and shared culture).
MemoryMiner software
Molly Maps (custom hand-drawn maps and views)
Most popular U.S. song on any given date since 1890s (Josh Hosler's site)
Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC)
News & Public Affairs Archives An analysis of news and public affairs independent from traditional corporate media is available from this diverse video library.
National Recording Preservation Board (Library of Congress). Wide variety of treasures. Check out, for example, recording essays.
The Great Depression and America's 20th Century Economy (How to Trade Stocks)

PhotoBook Press (for heirloom-quality photobooks, made with archival paper and Smyth-sewn-signature bindings, which, unlike glued bindings from most POD presses, won't fall apart)
The Photo Detective, blog of Maureen Taylor, who solves historical photo mysteries based on visual clues. "Nation's foremost historical photo detective."~Wall Street Journal. You can purchase audio mp3s of her free Ask Maureen teleseminars (and preview the questions asked and answered first).

The Photo Detective, blog of Maureen Taylor, who solves historical photo mysteries based on visual clues. "Nation's foremost historical photo detective."~Wall Street Journal. You can purchase audio mp3s of her free Ask Maureen teleseminars (and preview the questions asked and answered first).
ProGenealogists (where you can find professional genealogists)
PD Info (Public Domain Information Project) Helps you identify public domain music, royalty-free music recordings you can license, and public domain sheet music reprints)
Universal News Reels (an archive)
News & Public Affairs (an archive)
Visual resources online (College & Research Libraries)

Immigration, ports of entry

Passenger Search, Ellis Island. The Statue of Libery-Ellis Island Foundation has passenger lists of almost 65 million immigrants, passengers, and crew members who came through Ellis Island or one of the New York Harbor immigration stations that preceded it from 1820 to 1957 (with name, date of arrival, age on arrival, ship manifests and other information). The period from 1892 to 1924 at Ellis Island was the largest human migration in modern history. The Castle Garden site contains and makes available eleven million records of immigrants who arrived at the Port of New York from 1820 to 1892.
American Family Immigration History Center, Ellis Island (search free to find your immigrant ancestors entering American through New York)
New York City History: Ellis Island (Parker Waichman) A wonderful set of links, covering the island's history and significance and how to study genealogy through Ellis Island records. H/T Michelle Bass and her Brownie Scouts
Researching Your Family's History from Ships' Passenger Lists (HMY Yachts) A wonderful long set of links! H/T Amanda, in Anita Gianakas 'Genealogy Research' workshop.
Immigrants Landing at Ellis Island (Thomas A. Edison, 1903) Video, 2.5 minutes.
Angel Island (history and links, U.S. immigration station of the West). The actual immigration records are at the National Archives.
Castle Garden (database of info on 10 million U.S. immigrants from 1830 through 1892, the year Ellis Island opened)
They Came in Ships: Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor's Arrival Record, 3d edition, by John Philip Colletta
They Became Americans: Finding Naturalization Records and Ethnic Origins by Loretto Dennis Szucs
Steven Morse's one-stop webpage, with links to search forms for passenger lists, ship lists, manifests for Ellis Island, Castle Garden, and other ports (including Baltimore, Boston, Galveston, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Canada) -- plus Germans, Italians, and Russians to America and much more. Bookmark this site!
Cyndi's List links to ethnic associations
Australian National Immigration Collection (1788-1923) now online. News release about Ancestry.com's searchable database of over 14 million historical immigration records

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Land and residential data

Bureau of Land Management records (U.S. Dept of Interior) U.S. land records from 1810 to 1960 -- learn where your family had land; get certified copies of land patents.
House History and Genealogy (Amber Martinez, RealEstateAgents.com) Another great set of links, thanks to Amanda, in Anita Gianakas 'Genealogy Research' workshop.
Researching Your House: City Directories (YouTube video) City directories were typically searchable by the name of the head of the household but also by address, making them a valuable tool when researching a property.
Guide to Kit Houses & Homes
Urban Genealogy (Anthony W. Robins on the history of New York City buildings--a blog, tours, articles, books and forthcoming books, etc.)
Historic Map Works ($, residential genealogy). See also Google Earth, for how things look now.
City-Data.com (rankings in hundreds of categories, such as income, crime, most gay couples, most cars, shortest commute, biggest houses, best educated residents, and many more)
Why You Can’t Find Land Records (Amy Johnson Crow, 7-19-18) Some reasons why, and ways around them.
Determine the age of a building (Inspectapedia)
Using Written Archives to Discover the History of your House (Nick Barratt, BBC/UK)
Atlas of Historical County Boundaries (interactive maps and chronologies of county history, helpful for tracking changes in county names and boundaries)

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U.S. and Canadian Census Records

and related records

• At the National Archives, you can find a huge amount of information (but if you need to do it online, it may be easier to go to and through ancestry.com or HeritageQuestOnline).
Online census data (U.S., on Ancestry.com)
Online census data (U.S. on HeritageQuest) (find ancestors in complete set of U.S. census images, 1790-1930)
Census Records, U.S. National Archives, where you can go to find a huge amount of information (but if you need to do it online, go to ancestry.com or HeritageQuestOnline).
How can I search the Census Records? (National Archives how-to page)
1940s Census, U.S. (most recent decade released)(National Archives how-to page)
8 Sources to Fill the 1890 Census Gap (Amy Johnson Crow)
How to get the most out of Census.gov (BackgroundChecks.org)
The 1940 Census: 72-Year-Old Secrets Revealed (Linton Weeks, NPR, 4-2-12). See also Welcome to the 1940 census.
Search Ancestry.com's state and other location pages
Frequently asked questions (National Archives)
How to Access the 1940 Census (Steven Morse)
Application for search of U.S. census records (for $65, you can request specific Federal Census Records from years that have not been released yet, as long as you provide the correct information--such as names and addresses). Not sure how much you can get beyond information about your own family.
Selective Service Records (WWI, WWII, and WWII through Vietnam era, and for military personnel born 1960 and later.
County Clerks U.S. county clerk court records -- of marriage (licenses), divorce, arrest, public, jail, judicial, probate, criminal, and court proceedings.
101 most state-of-the-art state state archives (David A. Fryxell, Family Tree Magazine 6-14-11). Best state archives and historical societies in the United States, including Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin
Godfrey Memorial Library Online (A Library of Genealogy, History and Biography--covers world, but strong on New England)
Census of Canada
Canadian census (Ancestry.com)
Héritage, a 10-year initiative to digitize and make accessible online some of Canada’s most popular archival collections encompassing roughly 60 million pages of primary-source documents.
Censuses, databases, digitized microforms, research aids (Library and Archives Canada)
Library and Archives Canada (in French and/or in English)
15 Great Websites for Genealogy Research (Judi Hasson, AARP, 5-16-11)
The Ultimate Guide To Census Records (OurPublicRecords)

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Books about organizing and preserving family history materials

Organizing & Preserving Your Heirloom Documents by Kathleen Scott Sturdevant
Organizing Your Family History Search: Efficient & Effective Ways to Gather & Protect Your Genealogical Research by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack
Secrets of the Asylum: Norwich State Hospital and My Family by Julianne Mangin, whose interesting series of blog posts in The Intergenerational Self includes Norwich State Hospital During World War II (1-1-18, War causes a staffing crisis at the hospital), Not Your Typical Grandparents (an understatement, 12-8-17), and Architecture of Norwich State Hospital (because form reflects function, 11-30-17). She writes: "I started out, during my transformation from reluctant genealogist to ardent family historian, just wanting a narrative of my mother's family history that made sense. I hoped that knowing what had really happened to Mom and Grandma would help me understand why they sometimes behaved in ways that were emotionally hurtful: Grandma toward Mom, and Mom toward me."

How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia and Genealogy Records by Denise May Levenick
Saving Stuff: How to Care for and Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms, and Other Prized Possessions by Don Williams and Louisa Jaggar.
Preserving Your Family Photographs: How to Organize, Present, and Restore Your Precious Family Images by Maureen Taylor
LINECO - Unbuffered Acid-Free Tissue Paper, 30x40", Pack of 12

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Finding maiden names and female ancestors

(with a hat tip to Anne Toohey, who provided many links at the Library of Congress)

Your Guide to Finding Female Ancestors (Barb Snow)
Finding a maiden name online (Genealogy.com)
Top 9 Places to Find Maiden Names (Kimberly Powell, About.com Guide). See also Powell's Invisible Women Ancestors: How to Research the Women in Your Family Tree
Genealogy: Tips for finding females that matter to you (Jule Miller, Bloomfield Enterprise, 10-17-09)
Finding Female Ancestors and Maiden Names: The Hidden Half of History (Donna Przecha, Genealogy.com)
Reading the Lives of Women through Their Obituaries: With Tips for Searching in Historical Newspapers (Michele Harper, Readex)
Do you ever cry over the lost ladies on your pedigree like some genealogists do? (Arlene Eakle's Genealogy Blog)
Tracing Women in Military Records (Arlene Eakle)

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African American genealogy and history

The Freedmen's Bureau Project. Emancipation freed nearly 4 million U.S. slaves. The Freedmen’s Bureau was established to help them transition from slavery to citizenship, providing food, housing, education, and medical care. For the first time in U.S. history, the names of those individuals were systematically recorded and preserved for future generations. (Watch the video.) more. See 1.5 Million Slavery Era Documents Will Be Digitized, Helping African Americans to Learn About Their Lost Ancestors (Open Culture, 6-24-15) The Freedmen’s Bureau Project (an initiative spearheaded by the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) will make available online 1.5 million historical documents, finally allowing descendants of former African-American slaves to learn more about their family roots.
African American history records (Ancestry.com). Slave narratives, troop records for U.S. colored troops in the Civil War, Freedman's Bank and Bureau records, World War I draft cards, etc.
African Ancestry (a DC-based genetic genealogy company that helps people of African descent "trace their ancestry back to their present-day African country of origin by analyzing their DNA")
Digital Library on American Slavery
National Visionary Leadership Project (interviews with African American elders)
AfriQuest (user-submitted records)

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Irish and UK genealogy

BBC's excellent Family History resources, including timelines of British history, ancient history, Irish history (e.g., "The Troubles, 1963-85")
Irish Surnames and Sources (Dr. Paul MacCotter, Episode 11, The Genealogy Show, Raidió Corca Baiscinn, hosted by Lorna Moloney)

The National Archives, UK (official govt archives, from Domesday Book to various websites. Here's Getting Started overview
Find My Past ($, UK genealogy site with huge records collection; project with British Library to digitize archives of India Office; Find My Past, the TV show
GenUKI (UK & Ireland genealogy)
Irish Genealogy (scroll down for links to online resources)
Origins.net ($, subscribe to British Origins, Irish Origins, or both)
Ancestry.com's new Irish historical records
Irish Genealogical Society International (Irish genealogical researchers looking for Irish and Scots-Irish ancestors in Ireland and around the world--based in Minneapolis)
Irish Genealogy (based in Ireland)
Scotlands People ($, the official Scottish genealogy resource). Scottish census and parish records, statutory registers, coats of arms, wills and testaments

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Jewish genealogy

Understandably, Jews often don't trust other genealogy sources


Jewish Gen (affiliated with the Museum of Jewish Heritage; among other resources, the Yizkor Book Master Name Index.
Frequently asked questions (JewishGen)
Ancestry.com ($, Jewish Family History Collection, in partnership with JewishGen®, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the American Jewish Historical Society and The Miriam Weiner Routes to Roots Foundation, Inc.)
Jewish Genealogy, Surnames, and Family History (excellent links)
SephardicGen.com (Jeffrey Malka's Sephardic links)
Sephardic Forum
Jewish Web Index
Southern Africa Jewish Genealogy Special Interest Group (SA-SIG)
Jewish genealogy sites (Hareshima.com)
JewishGen KehilaLinks (formerly "ShtetLinks"), commemorating the places Jews have lived.
Miriam Weiner Routes to Roots Foundation
American Jewish Historical Society (resources for Family History Collections)
Avotaynu (publisher of products of interest to those researching Jewish genealogy, Jewish family trees, or Jewish roots)
Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog
Also possibly helpful:
JDC Archive (institutional repository for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization--one of the most significant collections in the world for the study of modern Jewish history)
Jewish Telegraphic Agency Archives (JTA, credible and compelling reporting about Jews around the world)

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Resources on the Holocaust

        See also

        Stories from the Holocaust (top left of page)


Learn about the Holocaust (links to resources, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum) Scroll down for a cluster of resources on the Holocaust from the Holocaust Museum.
Conducting an Interview (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, DC) Download (PDF) the museum's Oral History Interview Guidelines
Arolsen Archives (International Center on Nazi Persecution) The archive in the town of Bad Arolsen says with help from Israel’s Yad Vashem, documents with information on more than 2.2 million people are now available online. Work is still being done to improve searchability. See brief story here: German Holocaust archive puts over 13 million documents online (Times of Israel, 5-21-19) Arolsen Archives makes available details and artifacts of about 2.2 million people, including Nazi concentration camp prisoner cards and death notices.
Germany and the Holocaust: Informational and Primary Source Websites (University of Texas libraries)
Navigating the Holocaust-Era Looted Cultural Property (National Archives, USA)
Holocaust Historical Data Goes Digital (AP story: "Israel's Yad Vashem memorial, the world's largest collection of Holocaust documents, is teaming up with Google to make its photographs and documents interactive and searchable on the Internet."
Sample Questions for Interviewing Holocaust Survivors (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)
Yad Vashem collections. Google "Yad Vashem" and photos and you'll find many resources.
Yad Vashem Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names
Holocaust Oral History Projects
Holocaust Encyclopedia (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)
• "If you want to keep a memory as is, you carve it into a story. It’s not only keeping the content, it’s keeping the feeling alive. The best part is, you’re not the only one remembering it."— from neuroscientist Daniela Schiller's talk on "Keeping Memories Safe" (about Holocaust memories) on a Studio 360 radio program (NPR) featuring stories of neuroscience and memory
Stories from the Holocaust (top left on this page of the website)

Introduction to the Holocaust (Holocaust Encyclopedia, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)
---The Nazi Persecution of Black People in Germany
---African Americans in Nazi Germany
---The Nazi Olympics Berlin 1936: African American Voices and "Jim Crow" America
---What were some similarities between racism in Nazi Germany and in the United States, 1920s-1940s?
---The Reichstag Fire
---Nazi Party Platform
---Documenting Numbers of Victims of the Holocaust and Nazi Persecution
---The Nuremberg Race Laws
---Postwar Trials
---International Military Tribunal
---Subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings
Perseverance: One Holocaust Survivor's Journey from Poland to America by Melvin Goldman and Lee Goldman Kikel. Also available, two history units on the Lodz Ghetto for use in classrooms, available through Teachers Pay Teachers.

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European genealogy

Portals to the World (links to electronic resources from around the world)
Regional Genealogy and Local History Research (Academic-Genealogy.com, portal to links worldwide)
Geneanet (the largest genealogical website in continental Europe)
The Federation of East European Family History Societies (FEEFHS)
Map-based links to European data
Danish Demographic Database (Danish census and emigration records)
National Archives of Norway (now in English)
Genlias (Find your Dutch ancestors fast)
Polish Roots (Polish genealogy source)

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Adoption issues and resources

Adoption (Cyndi's List directory of information resources)
Adoption and Orphans Research, RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees. For adoptees searching for their birth families.
Adoptees Genealogy Research (Quick links)
Bastard Nation (Adoptee Rights Organization)
Who's on the Family Tree? Now It's Complicated (Laura M. Holson, NY Times, 7-4-11). Check out "Readers share their thoughts"
AMA's adult family (health) history forms, genetic and otherwise (American Medical Association)

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Military records, history, and archives

African American history records (Ancestry.com). Slave narratives, troop records for U.S. colored troops in the Civil War, Freedman's Bank and Bureau records, World War I draft cards, etc.
Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive, "court documents, wills, military records and official government records going back hundreds of years")
Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS)
Experiencing War Stories from the Veterans History Project (by theme: Forever a Soldier companion to the PBS series, The War; Voices of War, the first VHP collection; and other themes: courage, buddies, patriotism, sweethearts, family ties, on a mission, life-altering moments, hurry up and wait, military intel, woman at war, the art of war, Hispanic Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, Disabled Veterans, Buffalo Soldiers, American Indians, military medicine, D-Day, POWs, VJ-Day, VE-Day, China-Burma-India, Helicopters: the multimission aircraft, submarines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine. A Library of Congress project.

Fold3 (for the third fold of the flag) and the Fold3 blog. Original historical and military records from the National Archives, “most never before available on the Internet," from the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, and WWII. Formerly Footnote.

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Golden Arrow Research (hire them to search and compile someone's military records at the National Archives)
Iraq Veterans Memorial
Military Indexes and Records, Online (rosters, databases of soldiers, and listings of military and war casualties, for Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, U.S. Civil War, Spanish American War, World Wars I and II, Korean War, Vietnam War)
National Archives (UK) "the best place for military records, wills, tax records, immigration documents and general government records"
National Personnel Records Center (NPRC, St. Louis)
Paris Archives (Paris, "census records going back nearly 100 years and military records dating back to the revolution")
Pritzker Military Library (research library focused on the citizen soldier)
Reconstruct military records destroyed in NPRC fire U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)
Researching Your Civil War Ancestry Online (Kathleen Brandt, AARP 4-11-11)
Research in Military Records (National Archives)
Request your military service records (including DD214) (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) Submit a military records request to get your DD214 or other military service records through the milConnect website.
Resources for Genealogists (National Archives, US). Most requested: Military service records, immigration records, naturalization records, passport applications, land records, bankruptcy records.
Search Military Records (FindMyPast)

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Soldiers and Sailors Database (National Park Service and private and public partners) The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS) is a database containing information about the men who served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Also on the site are histories of Union and Confederate regiments, links to descriptions of significant battles, and selected lists of prisoner-of-war records and cemetery records, to be amended over time.
Sources of U.S. Military Images: Major Repositories (Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress)
The Ultimate Guide To World War 2 Records
U.S. Army Heritage Collections Online
U.S. Army Military Institute, a branch of the Army Heritage and Education Center (located in Ridgway Hall near the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania)
Using Revolutionary War Pension Files to Find Family Information (Jean Nudd, National Archives, Summer 2015)
U.S. military service records, how to get copies (U.S. National Archives)
Veterans’ Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) (U.S. National Archives)
Veterans’ Service Records (National Archives)
Virtual Wall, Vietnam Veterans Memorial
War of 1812 Pension Files Digitization Moves Forward! (Jenny Ashcraft, fold3, 5-25-23) Ancestry® and the National Genealogical Society® have recently finalized a contract with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to resume digitization of the War of 1812 Pension Files. Work was suspended during the Covid pandemic.

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More family history resources

Family History Books Family Search, with material formerly at BYU Family History Archives and elsewhere
15 Great Websites for Genealogy Research (Judi Hasson, AARP, 5-16-11)
12 top-rated family tree makers (software rated by personal historian Dan Curtis)
Ancestry.com (easy to navigate genealogical database, widely used by genealogists, but you have to pay for every record you access, so budget accordingly).
BackUpMyTree, a free online backup service for your genealogy files, described by Diane Haddad, Genealogy Insider 9-13-10
Geni.com(create your own family tree)
Cousins Chart (Los Quatro Ojos)
Family Group Record sheet (PDF, Ancestry.com)
Find a grave
GenForum (find the forum for one of your family surnames, find people doing research on same lines, and ask questions, which you may find distant relatives answering)
Genealogy Gems News (Lisa Louise Cook, host of Genealogy Gems Podcast
The Genealogy Guys Podcast
GenealogyWise (genealogy social network)
Geneabloggers (blogs in genealogy community)
* The Genographic Project (National Geographic -- with a single cheek swab, learn about your deep ancestry)
Geni.com(create your own family tree)
Genealogy CDs
The Gene Pool (resources helpful for family histories)

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History Matters (excellent U.S. history survey course online)
How to Get Started Building Your Family Tree (Ancestor Search, Ancestry.com)
The Life-Changing Guide to Genealogy for Beginner’s in 2022 (mycomforthaven) Once over lightly.
Making Sense of Letters and Diaries (Steven Stowe, History Matters, PDF)
Making Sense of Oral History (online course, Linda Shopes, History Matters)
The ProGen Study Group. Each month group members study one or two chapters of Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians by Elizabeth Shown Mills and complete a practical assignment relating to the material.
NGS American Genealogy Home-Study Course (for learning how to research in a wide variety of original records and repositories)
Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (Facebook page explaining the temporary suspension of this site, which connects visitors with volunteers around the world who search for local historical records, church documents, headstones)
Relatively Curious about Genealogy blog
Rootsweb Guide to Tracing Family Trees
Genealogy Gems News (Lisa Louise Cook, host of Genealogy Gems Podcast
The Genealogy Guys Podcast
15 Great Websites for Genealogy Research (Judi Hasson, AARP, 5-16-11)
WikiTree (a "free family tree system that encourages collaboration")
Find A Grave (useful and free)

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Books About Genealogy

Serious genealogists follow standards for genealogical reporting, so you may want to check out these books on how to present material, how to number
individuals and generations, and how to format, capitalize, and indent what you write. (If you purchase anything after linking to Amazon through one of these links, I get a small commission, which helps support the cost of maintaining this site. You may also order most of them through the National Genealogical Society at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/publications/ngs_special_publications/current_publications )

Genealogy 101: How to Trace Your Family's History and Heritage by Barbara Renick (National Genealogical Society)
How to Do Everything: Genealogy by George M. Morgan
The Family Tree Problem Solver: Tried-and-True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors by Marsha Hoffman Rising
Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries by Maureen A. Taylor
How to Use Evernote for Genealogy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize Your Research and Boost Your Genealogy Productivity by Kerry Scott
The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger
The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, ed. by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking
Bringing Your Family History to Life Through Social History by Katherine Scott Sturdevant (out of print, but many used copies are available)
Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian (Elizabeth Shown Mills)
Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Molls. Preview some content on her website, such as QuickLesson 8: What Constitutes Proof? (which starts: "Proof is not a document. It’s a body of evidence.").
Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families, and International Kin (by by Curran, Coen, and Wray, updated by E.S. Mills)
Quicksheet Citing Ancestry.com Databases & Images (Elizabeth Shown Mills)
Quicksheet: Genealogical Problem Analysis: A Strategic Plan (Evidence, Style) (Elizabeth Shown Mills, templates and examples for writing source list Entries, reference notes, etc.)
The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual. This official manual from the Board of Certification for Genealogists provides a standard by which all genealogists can pattern their work.
Family History Books (a collection of more than 350,000 digitized genealogy and family history publications from the archives of some of the most important family history libraries in the world. The collection includes family histories, county and local histories, genealogy magazines and how-to books, gazetteers, and medieval histories and pedigrees. Partner institutions listed.
Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques by George G. Morgan and Drew Smith. (H/T to Claire Mitchell, UK,How to Get Started on Your Family Tree
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Genealogy by Christine Rose and Kay Germain Ingalls

Consider these if you want to do genealogy professionally:
Becoming an Accredited Genealogist: Plus 100 Tips to Ensure Your Success by Karen Clifford (to prepare you for taking the accreditation examination offered by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City)
Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians by Elizabeth Shown Mills
The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (Board for Certification of Genealogists, published by Ancestry.com)


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"Most men would rather have you hear their story than grant their wish." ~Old saying
An oral history may be different from a video interview (for one thing, an oral history is typically archived for access by historians -- its aim is to capture history in the words of history's participants -- often around the theme of a particular oral history collection), but some of the same practical information may be helpful for video histories.

---Online guides to doing oral history
---Transcribing oral history interviews
---Books about doing oral history
---Oral history as social history
---Stories about oral history
---Further reading about oral history
---Oral history collections online
---Oral history organizations


Online guides to doing oral history

Principles and Best Practices for Oral History (Oral History Association, adopted October 2009).
Create Your Own Project (Louisiana State University's links to forms and tutorials)
Oral History in the Digital Age(Doug Boyd curates these webpages, rich in "new and precious information" (hat-tip: Elisabeth Pozzi-Thanner)
Hidden Histories, Hidden Historians (Manchester Histories). Two toolkits produced by this project are available free online: Toolkit 1: Doing your historical research project (by Dr. Ben Wilcock) and Doing your oral history project (by Dr Fiona Coss, both updated 8-8-17).
"Standards for the Manufacture of Reminiscences With a Recording Device," within the article "Oral History Can Be Worthwhile" by Vaughn Davis Bornet (The American Archivist: July 1955, 18:3, pp. 241-253) suggested how to improve and standardize oral history techniques and procedures. "The competent historian-interviewer avoids leading questions — those suggesting their own answers — and he tries very hard to be a friendly but an almost 'faceless' person."
Baylor Institute for Oral History offers, among other things, a Digital Oral History Workshop (do download the PDF of chapter 3 from Oral History for Texans (about interviewing).
Digital Toolbox (Center for Oral History and Digital Storytelling, Concordia University) Tools you may not even know existed.
Interviewing for Research. An excellent online guide to conducting one-to-one semi-structured or unstructured interviews, prepared by Colin Hyde of the East Midlands Oral History Archive (Centre for Urban History, University of Leicester, UK).
Who Owns Oral History? A Creative Commons Solution (Jack Dougherty and Candace Simpson, 4-12, as part of a public history web-book, On The Line: how schooling, housing, and civil rights shaped Hartford and its suburbs
Informed Consent form and Deed of Gift form, part of onlineOral History Techniques, Center for the Study of History and Memory (Indiana University, Bloomington)
Can We Tape? A Practical Guide to Taping Phone Calls and In-Person Conversations in the 50 States and D.C. (with a state-by-state guide). (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Fall 2008)
Making Sense of Oral History (Linda Shopes, History Matters)
Step-by-Step Guide to Oral History (Judith Moyer)
The Telling Lives Oral History Curriculum Guide (PDF, Gerry Albarelli and Amy Starecheski, Columbia University, April 2005, updated 2013)
Center for Oral History,
Trading Places: Interviewees and Interviewers (Meghan Vigeant, Stories to Tell, 10-6-17) Invited to speak to a class on Mapping Ocean Stories, she found herself answering and not just asking questions. What makes an oral history interview different from other kinds of interviews? How do you define it? How do you decide what information to share with the public? "By asking such questions they gave me the opportunity do some thinking out loud and also asking them what they think. I didn’t always have the answers…and that’s okay! Sometimes it’s not about knowing exactly what to say."
On Making Oral Histories More Accessible to Persons with Hearing Loss (Brad Rakerd, Oral History Review (2013) 40 (1): 67-74. doi: 10.1093/ohr/oht022)
A Quick Guide to Conducting an Oral History (Carol Hicke, Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, formerly A One-Minute Guide...)
Oral History Association Wiki (to find and share information resources about oral history)
Tips for Interviewers (UC Berkeley Library), from Willa K. Baum's Oral History for the Local Historical Society
Veterans History Project (guide to participation)
Art of the Oral Historian (UC, Santa Barbara)
Fundamentals of Oral History: Texas Preservation Guidelines (Texas Historical Commission)
Folklife and Fieldwork: An Introduction to Field Techniques (the American Folklife Center's online guide to documenting our diverse folk cultural heritage, Library of Congress). See, for example, model forms: fieldwork data sheet, audio and video recording log, still photography log, and release form. (Also available as a 46-page PDF file in English or in Spanish (La Tradición Popular y la Investicación de Campo).)
Smithsonian Folk Life and Oral History Guide by Marjorie Hunt (PDF file)
A Directory of Oral History in the National Park Service (PDF, National Park Service, Dept. of the Interior)
U.S. Army Guide to Oral History (Stephen J. Lofgren, U.S. Army Center of Military History)
U.S. Coast Guard--Oral History: A Guide for Conducting Naval Historical Interviews
In Our Own Voices: a guide to conducting life history interviews with American Jewish women by Jayne K. Guberman, Jewish Women's Archive. Click here to read the book free at Google Books.
How to do an oral history (Kate Cavett, Hand-in-Hand Productions)
Collecting Stories: The Oral Interview in Research (excellent Q&A on how to do an oral history interview, by Marsha MacDowell), The Spoken Word
Tutorials: Beginning an Oral History Project (Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, University of Florida) "The success of the interview depends to a great degree on the amount of trust and understanding the interviewer is able to create with the narrator. Courtesy and empathy are a part of this process." -Dr. Paul Ortiz
After the Interview: The Interpretive Challenges of Oral History Video Indexing (Steve High and David Sworn, Digital Studies/Le champ numérique Vol 1, No. 2, 2009). This is really about oral history databases. See Stories Matter (free open source software built by oral historians for oral historians, from the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling)
Who Owns Oral History? A Creative Commons Solution Jack Dougherty and Candace Simpson,, On the Line, 8-11-12). Read the comments, too. An important discussion: "When an oral history narrator shares her story in response to questions posed by an interviewer, and the recording and transcript are deposited in an archive, who holds the rights to these historical source materials? Who decides whether or not they may be shared with the public, quoted in a publication, or uploaded to the web? Who decides whether someone has the right to earn money from including an interview in a commercially distributed book, video, or website? Furthermore, does Creative Commons, a licensing tool developed by the open access movement to protect copyright while increasing public distribution, offer a better solution to these questions than existing oral history protocols?"
Best Practices, Oral History in the Digital Age (links in several categories: audio, video, audio and video, general digitization and digital projects, conducting oral history and transcription guidelines, metadata & searching, access & use, intellectual property.
The Voice of the Past: Oral History by Paul Thompson. "The first book to combine a theory of oral history, the technical processes involved, and a road map of where oral evidence fits into the landscape of western historiography." --American Historical Review

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Transcribing oral history interviews

Transcribing oral history interviews:
Indexing and Transcribing Your Interviews (Veterans History Project)
Transcribing Style Guide (Baylor Institute for Oral History, download PDF)
Transcribing, editing, and processing guidelines (PDF, Minnesota Historical Society). Note that transcripts are not all verbatim--that inessential elements may be omitted ("a judgment call").
Summaries and Transcriptions (East Midlands Oral History Archive guide to interviewing)
Transcribing tips and transcription software (Writers and Editors site)
How do I transcribe oral history recordings? Information Sheet #15, Transcribing and summarising oral history recordings, East Midlands Oral History Archive
Indexing and Transcribing Your Interviews (Library of Congress, Veterans History Project)
Transcription and Editing (U.S. Army Guide to Military History)
The interviewee's right to "edit" a transcript or story (Pat McNees, Writers & Editors -- whether interview sees transcript depends partly on whether you are a journalist, an oral historian, a personal historian, or a collaborator/ghostwriter)
Stories Matter (an alternative to transcription offered by Concordia University's Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling--an update to its Stories Matter database, capturing the "orality" of recorded stories in a way that allows one to clip, index and export audio and video recordings)

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Books about doing oral history

(If you buy anything on Amazon after clicking on one of these links,
we collect a small commission, which helps support this website.)

Curating Oral Histories: From Interview to Archive by Nancy McKay ("addresses the management, preservation, and access issues" most texts ignore)
Doing Oral History by Donald A. Ritchie
Voice of Witness: Illuminating human rights crises through oral history (summer intensive oral history training called Amplifying Unheard Voices, and Common Core aligned curriculum through our website and publication The Power of the Story: The Voice of Witness Guide to Oral History
A Guide to Oral History and the Law by John A. Neuenschwander (essential for any serious oral history project)
Oral History for the Local Historical Society, 3rd edition, by Willa K. Baum
The Oral History Workshop: Collect and Celebrate the Life Stories of Your Family and Friends by Cynthia Hart and Lisa Samson (a primer for those who want to supplement genealogy research with family stories -- with many pages of interview questions on various topics)
The Oxford Handbook of Oral History, a new book ed. by Donald A. Ritchie (40 authors on the evolution of oral history, the impact of digital technology, the most recent methodological and archival issues, and the application of oral history to both scholarly research and public presentations).
On Listening to Holocaust Survivors: Beyond Testimony by Henry Greenspan. Greenspan spent more than 20 years interviewing and re-interviewing the same small group of Holocaust survivors--listening to them "recount" their experiences, seeking a sustained conversation, not one-time "testimony." For survivors, healing comes through repetition, to sympathetic listeners, of the horrors of their experience. Listening is a gift, and repetition often yields new stories, the telling of which relieves a burden in the teller.
Recording Oral History: A Guide for the Humanities and Social Sciences by Valerie Raleigh Yow
Story Bridges: A Guide for Conducting Intergenerational Oral History Projects a new book by Angela Zusman. You can download an interesting excerpt (PDF) from the Left Coast Press site, clicking on "download excerpt" beneath book image.
The Tape-Recorded Interview: A Manual for Field Workers in Folklore and Oral History by Edward D. Ives (useful for folklorists and archivists)
Using Oral History in Community History Projects by Laurie Mercier and Madeline Buckendorf (a 61-page guide).
They Say in Harlan County: An Oral History, edited by Alessandro Portelli, drawing on 25 years of interviews (reviewed on H-Net by Jessie Wilkerson)

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Oral history as social history

In Twilight of Life, Civil Rights Activists Feel ‘Urgency to Tell Our History’ (Eduardo Medina, NY Times, 2-19-22) Young people who marched and organized during the civil rights movement are now in their 70s and 80s. With fewer and fewer remaining, oral historians rush to record their stories--among them, David Cline, a history professor at San Diego State University, one of the oral historians asked in 2013 to conduct interviews for the Civil Rights History Project, a joint initiative by the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Telling Their Stories Read, watch, and listen to student interviews of elders who witnessed key historic events of the 20th century: the Civil Rights era; urban changes resulting from redevelopment of San Francisco's historically African American Fillmore District; liberators and witnesses to genocide (Nazi, Rwandan, etc.); Japanese American internment; Holocaust survivors and refugees.
Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich (fascinating and essential reading) and Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War Read Svetlana Alexievich wins Nobel Prize in literature (Ron Charles, Washington Post, 10-8-15) "“For the past 30 or 40 years, [Alexievich] has been busy mapping the Soviet and post-Soviet individual,” the Nobel secretary said. "But it’s not really about a history of events. It’s a history of emotions. What she’s offering us is really an emotional world....these historical events that’s she’s sort of covering in her various [ways] — the Chernobyl disaster, the Soviet war in Afghanistan and so on — these are, in a way, just pretext for exploring the Soviet individual and the post-Soviet individual. She’s conducted thousands and thousands of interviews with children, with women and with men, and in this way she’s offering us a history of a human being about whom we don’t really know that much. . . . And at the same time, she’s offering us a history of emotions, a history of the soul.”

      Here's what oral historian Elisabeth Pozzi-Thanner says of Alexievich's work: “What makes oral history unique is the same thing that has drawn some criticism to the Nobel committee’s selection for the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature. Scientific researchers come in with pre-defined questions and then use the answers to create statistics. Journalists have very little time. Those who write fiction ask questions and draw on their own experiences but then tell an imagined story. What Sventlana Alexievich has done—what any oral historian does—is so powerful because she uses the voice of one person at a time to tell an incredibly diverse larger story. Her books are fireworks of inclusiveness. She listens deeply to hundreds of people of all ages—men, women, even children—and then uses her wonderful talent as a writer to weave it together, like a colorful rag-rug, telling the story through the experiences and emotions of each individual in his or her own voice. I am very happy that oral history as a discipline is being recognized this way. And I am in awe of what Svetlana Alexievich has succeeded to create.” (from From Fran Morley's piece on the late APH blog, after Svetlana Alexievich received a Nobel Prize for Literature, granting oral history status as literature.
Groundswell (Oral History for Social Change) See its archive of digital oral history projects and links to tools.
Engaging with history at #OHA2017 (Gabriale Payne, Oxford University Press blog, 11-24-17) Documenting activism: "When learning is a two-way street, oral history stories have the power to change the present."
On The Line: How Schooling, Housing, and Civil Rights Shaped Hartford and its Suburbs (Jack Dougherty and contributors) A digital-first, open-access, book-in-progress
Once Documenting The Holocaust, Now She Turns To Refugees Of Syria And Iraq (Weekend Edition, NPR, 2-12-17, listen or read). Zepporah Glass, an oral historian who has documented the experiences of Holocaust refugees, talks to NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro about interviewing two families of refugees from the Middle East. Zepporah's parents were Holocaust survivors. She says, "when my parents first arrived, there were very few projects that were interviewing them about their experience. And it wasn't until many, many years later that the Shoah Foundation started recording their interviews. So I thought maybe we should try interviewing these people just after they've had this experience... I think history should not only be written by the historians but by the people who have actually experienced those events."
The Case for Oral History Research (by Molly Graham and Keith Ludden). And The ADA At 25 Oral History and Folklife Research interviewed Maine residents who were involved in the disability rights movement or impacted by it.
Squatting History: The Power of Oral History as a History-Making Practice (Amy Starecheski, Oral History Review, 8-26-14) By comparing three case studies of oral history telling, the research presents instances in which history has been consciously used to try to pass on activist knowledge to a new generation through public discussions about the past and by making intimate conversations about the past into public documents.
Edie: American Girl . Jean Stein and George Plimpton's marvelous and now-classic oral history of the 1960s as lived by Edie Sedgwick, who exploded into the public eye as Andy Warhol’s aristocratic and glamorous, vivacious and young,superstar. Within a few years she flared out as quickly as she had appeared, and before she turned twenty-nine she was dead from a drug overdose. Wonderful book that shows how rich oral history can be.
• As a model for social history, check out Craig Taylor. Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now--As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It (an oral history of contemporary London as seen through the eyes of the city’s residents and former inhabitants, as reviewed by John Williams , Arts Beat, NYTimes, 3-2-12).
• Studs Terkel, whose excellent popular oral history books include
---Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
---Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do (for which teaching guide is available
--- The Good War: An Oral History of World War II
Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II by J. Todd Moye (Oxford Oral History Series), based on 800 interviews recorded for the National Park Service's Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project)
The power of oral history as a history-making practice (Andrew Shaffer, Oxford University Press blog, 10-3-14)
From Boat to Throat: How Oral Histories Immerse Students in Ecoliteracy and Community Building (Katie Kuszmar, Oral History Review, 8-26-14) High school students in the Monterey Bay area of California learned history through immersion in a long oral history project. "One of the beauties of student oral history projects is that their interviews are primarily investigative. Students learn essential knowledge from the interviews themselves, and their lack of expertise can set an authentic tone for the interviews. Because of their youth, they may be able to get answers to questions that many in the general public would also have but might hesitate to ask....This community building was an exchange of curiosity on both ends: teenagers interested in a very kid-less industry and fishermen, distributors, advocates, and scientists interested in having youth get involved in the industry." They explained: “The purpose of our trip is that we are collecting stories and honoring voices of people from the fishing industry; and tracing the fish from ocean to table, learning a little more about sustainability; and then [we will be] sharing that with the public.”
Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Couldn't Lose: An oral history of Friday Night Lights (Robert Mays, Grantland, and the cast of the fabulous TV series)
Friday Night Lights TV series, based on the book by H.G. Bissinger.

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston


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Popular history (books)

(plus, the forties, fifties, etc.)

(See also Timelines below)
Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s by Frederick Lewis Allen (originally published in the 1930s, it's a classic account of what happened in the U.S. from the end of World War II till the beginning of the Depression.
Since Yesterday:The 1930's in America (Frederick Lewis Allen on the period from Sept. 3, 1929 until Sept. 3, 1939)
The 1930s: Road from the Past, Portal to the Future by John Forlini (part of the Decade Series History of America)
The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America, 1932-1972 by William Manchester
Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1940: How Americans Lived Through the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression by David E. Kyvig
The 1940 Census: 72-Year-Old Secrets Revealed (NPR, 4-2-12)
The 1940s: The Decade of Transformation (Philip Gerard, The Decades Series, Our State, 12-7-17)
The War Years: A Timeline of the 1940s (Jennifer Rosenberg, ThoughtCo, 3-16-20)
A Century of Reading: The 10 Books That Defined the 1940s (Emily Temple, LitHub, 10-9-18)
The Fifties: An Underground History by James R. Gaines
The Fifties by David Halberstam, whose book about U.S. involvement in Vietnam, The Seventies: The Great Shift In American Culture, Society, And Politics by Bruce J. Schulman (the late 60s through the mid-80s) No index.
The Times of the Eighties: The Culture, Politics, and Personalities that Shaped the Decade by The New York Times and William Grimes
The Nineties: A Book by Chuck Klosterman
When We Were Young: A Baby-Boomer Yearbook by Rita Lang Kleinfelder. How the 176 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 have influenced and transformed popular culture and made America a baby boomer-dominated society.

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Popular history (online)

See also Timelines, below
The 1619 Project (audio podcasts) Four hundred years ago, a ship carrying enslaved Africans arrived in the British colony of Virginia. This audio series from The New York Times examines the long shadow of that fateful moment.1619 (an interactive New York Times series) In August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the British colony of irginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed. On the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is finally time to tell our story truthfully. A major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.
African American history records (Ancestry.com). Slave narratives, troop records for U.S. colored troops in the Civil War, Freedman's Bank and Bureau records, World War I draft cards, etc.
American Folklife Center Online Archive of Symposia and Related Events
America in the 1930s (timeline, images, radio broadcasts, etc., from University of Virginia American Studies)
American cultural history in the 20th century, decade by decade (Lone Star College, Kingwood Library, good for background)
American Heritage History Sites
American Life Histories (manuscripts from the Folklore Project, WPA Federal Writer's Project, 1936-1940)
America Writes Home (Letters from before 1920, National Old Time Letters Project)
Archive Grid. This fee-based service for locating archival materials, based on nearly one million collection descriptions from thousands of libraries and archives, will soon be freely available via an experimental interface developed by OCLC.
BBC's excellent Family History resources, including timelines of British history, ancient history, Irish history (e.g., "The Troubles, 1963-85")
British History Online (printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isle)
Canadian Archives (in English or French)
*Current value of old money (info from scholars around the world -- scroll down for comparisons of the purchasing power of money in the United States, or the colonies in North America, from 1665 to any other year up to the present)
Diaries In The Key Of Steinway: A Piano Builder's View Of 19th-Century New York, Thomas Huizenga's story, NPR Music, 12-17-10, about an online exhibit of William Steinway's diary, 1961-1896, courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
The Dirty Thirties (McCord Museum exhibit: Images of the Great Depression in Canada include breadlines, relief camps, protest marches and dust storms sweeping over the western plains)
Historical Atlas of the 20th Century
Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills (884 pages). Apparently an important guide to evaluating and citing sources in family (genealogical) research--including electronic resources. Described in one review as a "monumental improvement over earlier works," important for family researchers.
Experiencing War, Stories from the Veterans History Project (by theme: Forever a Soldier, companion to the PBS series, The War; Voices of War, the first VHP collection; and other themes: courage, buddies, patriotism, sweethearts, family ties, on a mission, life-altering moments, hurry up and wait, military intel, woman at war, the art of war, Hispanic Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, Disabled Veterans, Buffalo Soldiers, American Indians, military medicine, D-Day, POWs, VJ-Day, VE-Day, China-Burma-India, Helicopters: the multimission aircraft, submarines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine. A Library of Congress project.
EyeWitness to History (History through the eyes of those who lived it)
Fads over the decades (from Mahjongg to earth shoes to body piercing), from CrazyFads.com
Fifties Web (site devoted to popular history of 1950s and 1960s, including such items as Burma-Shave Slogans of the '50s
Free Speech Movement (Barbara Stack's bibliography and archives, 1965 on). See also HUAC Black Friday Riot
Gallery of Graphic Design (ads from popular magazines from '30s through '60s)
Global Gateway: World Culture & Resources (U.S. Library of Congress)
Historical Voices (spoken-word archives)
History Matters (U.S. History Course on the Web, American Social History Project)
Inflation Calculator (CPI) and West Egg's Inflation Calculator (how much was X worth in 19yy, in today's dollars? with links to other inflation-related sites)
Interactive Census Project (Fold3)
Internet Archive (Wayback Machine). Excellent site: spend time exploring its resources!
In the First Person (an index to letters, diaries, oral histories and personal narratives -- to more than 4,000 collections of personal narratives in English from around the world)
Land records (U.S. Bureau of Land Management database records, 1810-1960)
Making Sense of Evidence . This page is a gateway to several excellent History Matters online survey courses, including Making Sense of Oral History, Making Sense of Films, Making Sense of Numbers, Making Sense of Letters and Diaries, Making Sense of Advertisements, Making Sense of American Popular Song, Making Sense of Documentary Photography.
Making Sense of Oral History (Linda Shopes, History Matters--an excellent online survey course)
Memory Archive (a wiki-encyclopedia of memories)
Library of Congress Local History and Genealogy Reading Room. Check out the entire menu of invaluable Library of Congress Digital Collections (American history and culture, historic newspapers, international collections, legislative information, performing arts, prints & photographs, Veterans History, and website archives). Collection highlights and 25 most frequently asked questions by visitors.
Mr. Pop Culture (week by week, 1950s through 2000s)
National Archives (superb resources for genealogists, family historians, nonfiction research)
National Archives, UK (official government archives, from Domesday Book to websites). Here's a Getting Started overview.
New Jersey State Archives (NJDARM, good historical records)
OCLC Global Gateway. The world's libraries. Connected.
Presidential Timeline of the Twentieth Century ( a single point of access to an ever-growing selection of digitized assets from the collections of the thirteen Presidential Libraries of the National Archives)
Quakes' many stories to go on the record (Philip Matthews, The Press, New Zealand 6-8-11) and an earlier story about the 2011 Christchurch earthquake: How to remember our dark days (Christopher Moore 6-8-11).
September 11 Digital Archive (saving the histories of Sept. 11, 2001)
Take Me Back to the Sixties (great music-and-images stroll down Memory Lane, but don't use this music in your projects without clearing permissions)
The Tenement Museum (NYC)
The Wayback Machine/Internet Archive (digital archive of old Internet sites, including earlier versions of current sites)
Weather Warehouse, learn what the weather was like on a certain date at a certain location (for fee)
Weather History (Weather Underground, what the weather was like on a certain date and place) (free)
We Didn't Start the Fire (Ye Li's clever illustration of Billy Joel's song, a fast romp through 50 years of U.S. history)
The western front in the first world war and now – interactive (The Guardian, 7-25-14), part of its excellent Photography then and now series.
Worldhistory.com(interactive maps, timelines, artifacts, etc., and check out miscellany posted on their Twitter account)

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History timelines

AlternaTime (links to many excellent history timelines, worldwide)
Astonishing Century a book by the late Robert D. Joyce (a slimmer book than the Grun)
America's Best History (U.S. history timeline)
America in the 1930s
American Cultural History: The Twentieth Century (decade by decade) (Lone Star College). See similar timeline for the 19th Century
Best of History Sites (portal to annotated links to over 1200 history web sites and educational resources)
What happened in a particular month and year, in history (Scope Systems historic events and birth dates that occurred on a SELECTED month and year)
WorldHistory.com (interactive maps, timelines, artifacts, etc., and check out miscellany posted on their Twitter account)
On This Day: Today's Highlights in History (New York Times)
"This day in history" (dMarie time capsule--enter a date MM/DD/YYYY)
"This day in history" (Scopes--historic events for a particular month and day)
The Timetables of American History by Laurence Urdang (reference book, foreword by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.).
The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events by Bernard Grun (reference book)
History and timelines of history (many of them, Writers and Editors site)
TimeandDate.com (perpetual and make-your-own calendars -- various calendars, holiday and date calculators)
Our Timelines (helps you create family timelines in historical context)
What Happened to Dipity.com? Jesse at DropInBlog explains why Dipity went out of business (an interesting story) and provides links to a few alternative sources of timeline-building software: Sutori,Tiki-Toki, and Timeline Maker Pro.

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Writing your life story,
telling your family story
sharing lessons learned

Storycatching, life telling, life writing
(visually, orally, in print, audio, or video)
capturing a life story and leaving life lessons for future generations
Doing it yourself or hiring a
personal historian, a writer, or a memoir editor to help!



Organizations focused on genealogy and family histories

The American Society of Genealogists (founded in 1940) an independent honorary society of the leading published scholars in the field of American genealogy.
Association of Personal Historians. A short history of the organization: APH, The Life Story People, helped individuals, families, organizations, and communities preserve their valuable histories, memories, and life stories, in print, audio, and video. See also Is it still great to become a personal historian? and scroll toward the bottom for links to local PH groups.
Association of Professional Genealogists (APG)
Cyndi's list (genealogy sites on the Internet--a top site)
Cyndi's list of ethnic organizations
The Federation of East European Family History Societies
Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS, linking the genealogical community)
FGS links to local genealogical societies
International Society of Family History Writers and Editors (ISFHWE, encouraging excellence in writing and editorial standards in genealogical publishing)
List of Genealogical Societies (Ancestry.com's links to many national, state, regional, and ethnic genealogical societies and umbrella organizations in the United States)
National Genealogical Society.. Among other things, an excellent selection of materials including videos like this video of Janet Alpert on Getting Started--on how we first start doing genealogical because we're curious about our identity a generation or so back, then we discover how much information is available, get curious, then get hooked, and the research deepens. Check out their super collection of videos, of interest to anyone tracking down family history or curious about genealogy (as hobby or career).
RootsTech (this URL links to 19 video presentations from the 2014 RootsTech conference)
Society of American Archivists (SAA) provides a directory, National Archival Organizations in the United States, with links to societies of medical archivists, religious archivists, regional history archivists, business archivists, and state organizations of archivists. See also So You Want to Be an Archivists: An Overview of the Archives Profession.The USGenWeb Project. "Keeping Internet Genealogy Free." Volunteers provide free genealogy websites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States. Organized by county and state.

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Equipment, software, tools and tutorials for interviewing, creating and editing multimedia

Audio Tools (Transom Tools, a showcase and workshop for New Public Radio)
Remote Interviewing Resources (Oral History Association, 8-27-2020) Many many useful pages. Remarkable and very helpful. See, for example, among many pages: Advice on oral history interviewing during the Covid-19 pandemic , or this decision tree or Considerations for Choosing an In-Person vs. Remote Interview. With useful sections on equipment, such as Recording platforms.
One Simple Trick To Improve Credibility (Bill Andrews, Discover, 4-18-18) "In all cases, the listeners thought the speakers in the clips with better sound production were more credible, and their topics more interesting. As the paper’s abstract succinctly sums up, “Despite identical content, people evaluated the research and researcher less favorably when the audio quality was low, suggesting that audio quality can influence impressions of science.”
The Basics (Jay Allison on recording in audio for public radio, Transom Tools)
Teen Reporter Handbook (Radio Diaries)
The B&H Handheld Digital Audio Recorders Buyer's Guide (Sam Mallery). Some advise going to this website, calling B&H (The Professional's Source 800.606.6969 or 212.444.6615), and letting one of their knowledgeable sales people help you decide what to buy.
• Another good source of audio gear: BSW (800.426.8434).
How To Choose CD/DVD Archival Media and Longevity of Recordable CDs and DVDs . Thanks to Dave Morrison ("Nerd in a hurry") for those links. Dave recommends not buying the cheapest blank CDs available. For a few cents more per disc, you can buy a brand that is "made to a higher standard," such as JVC/Taiyo Yuden.
Oral History Tutorial (Matrix, Audio-Tech, somewhat technical -- to help researchers implement several important aspects of audio technology in the field, studio, and research lab).
Digital Oral History Workshop (Baylor University's online guide to principles in selecting and using digital equipment and software for recording, preserving, and disseminating oral history)
BBC Advanced Audio Tips(for radio, but with applications for personal history interviewing). NEW (for students): Hands on History: A Guide to Oral History (download free PDF). The Hands on History videos appear not to be accessible in U.S. but some of the how-to-build-a-castle type instructions are.
DIY Resource: How To Record High-Quality Sound With Your Phone (Theresa Chin, Innovation Lab, Youth Radio, 2-26-15)
The Easiest Way to Record Phone Interviews? Have the Subject Use an iPhone to Record Themselves (Neal Augenstein, MediaShift, December 10, 2012--he's talking to journalists, but for high-quality audio on public media)
Family Oral History Using Digital Tools. Technical whiz kid Susan Kitchens reviews equipment and, as a consultant, can help you with technical questions. Of particular use may be this series: From Digital Audio Recording to Audio CD: Part 1 - Audio into Audacity; Part 2: Making minor edits to increase sound level; Part 3: Exporting your recording to a file format that iTunes can use and creating an Audio CD and Part 4 (Dividing the audio into sections based on topics of discussion using Audacity’s Label Tracks, "to come").
Glossary of audio terms(Atlantic Technology -- check out their Learning Center)
Portable Digital Recorder Comparison (Transom.org, fall 2009)
How to Find an Audio Recorder That's Right for You, part 1 (Dan Curtis, personal historian). Here's part 2
DIY Toolkit: Fundamentals Of Field Recording (Rafael Johns and Teresa Chin, Innovation Lab, Youth Radio, 2-26-15)
Field Recording in the Digital Age and Guide to audio recording equipment (Andy Kolovos, Vermont Folklife Center). See also his list of retired equipment, mostly analog
Location Sound: The Basics and Beyond (Dan Brockett, on Ken Stone site, 10-21-02).
Mindy McAdams No-Fear Guide to Multimedia Skills (with links to equipment, resources) and Part 2 of the quick-and-easy guide to audio editing
Audio technology tutorial (Historical Voices, somewhat technical, not entirely up-to-date, but useful)
iPhone: The Missing Manual by David Pogue (see his many "missing manual" guides to technology)
Oral History Association on Technology
Recording Phone Calls (Jeff Towne, 2-26-09). The excellent Transom.org (for National Public Radio) offers advice non-NPR people can use. There are reviews and advice here on Analog Phone Couplers and Hybrids, Digital Hybrids, Cell Phone Taps, Skype and Computer-based Telephony, etc. Not Advice for Dummies! Someone recommended to me the Olympus TP-7 telephone recording device ($14.95) for use with my Olympus recorder. Search for "telephone recording device" at Amazon, B&H, or other vendor sites and you'll find many options.
How to Record Skype Conversations: Tools, Resources, Tips (Digital Inspiration 6-07-06)
Soundslides (a rapid production tool for still image and audio Web presentations)
Richard Hess's Media Formats and Resources (tape and magnetic media), Digital Audio resources), and his tips and notes -- pretty technical.
Acoustic primer (this one's for listening to music)
Capturing Analog Sound for Digital Preservation: Report of a Roundtable Discussion of Best Practices for Transferring Analog Discs and Tapes (PDF)
Setting Up a Small Recording Studio (Jeff Towne, Transom, 2018)
Remote Recording Survival Guide (Tom Lopez, Transom.org, 6-1-02, on the equipment you'll need if traveling to record at remote locations)
What Microphone Do I Get? (Jeff Towne, Transom, 2001)
The Transom Handheld Mic Shootout: The Key (Jeff Towne, Transom, 2006)
Lavalier Microphones (Jeff Towne, Transom, 2018)
Choosing the Right Microphone:An Overview of Popular Short Shotgun, Supercardioid, Hypercardiod and Cardioid Microphones (Dan Brockett, on Ken Stone's Final Cut Pro website, 1-7-08).
Audio In Close Up - Which Lavalier Should I Use? (Dan Brockett, Ken Stone's Final Cut Pro website, 4-7-08)
Superfast Guide to Audio Editing(Audacity) Download it and print it out.
Audacity: download for free here (it's a free cross-platform sound editor). (Have old cassette tapes you want to transfer to your computer? You may be able to do so through Audacity, with a line cord connected from a tape player.)
Your Inside Source . Order Larry Jordan's free monthly newsletter to learn about mastering Final Cut Studio and Digital Media. See his helpful Editing Resource Library.
Switch Audio File Converter Software (convert or compress sound files from one format to another within minutes of downloading)
All About Digital Audio, part 1 (Hugh Robjohns, Sound on Sound, May-Oct 1998).

---part 2 (quantising and oversampling),
---part 3 (digital audio error detection and correction),
---part 4 (digital tape recording formats),
---part 5 (techniques and technology of disk-based recording),
---part 6 (plugging it all together--clocking, digital mixers, master clocks, the jitter problem).

Fileinfo.com provides well-organized sections of information on such things as file types, software, quizzes, tutorials, and answers to file-related questions. It provides, among other things, an alphabetically organized (by extension)
---key to compressed and uncompressed audio formats. Here's another such list:
Mastering equipment, software, and other tools for interviewing, writing, editing, designing, and creating multimedia (Writers and Editors site)

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Genealogy and history (miscellaneous)

Date of birth search (dobsearch.com), people finder
Family Health History resources (the Genetic Alliance)
Family Health History (Order free booklet, Genetic Alliance)
U.S. Surgeon General's Family Health History Initiative (HHS)
Eastman's Online Genealogical Newsletter
Mayo Clinic's guide to compiling your family medical tree
CDC's podcast on how collecting family history information could save your child's life
Familysearch.org (family tree and genealogy records, including International Genealogical Index, which contains records from early 1500s to early 1900s, collected by Mormon Church)
Billion Graves, family history database of records and images from the world's cemeteries, all tagged with GPS locations. Volunteers around the world capture images of headstones in a cemetery and upload them to the site.
Cemetery Records Online (transcriptions of cemetery records and tombstone inscriptions from cemeteries in the USA, Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, and other countries)
Family Tree Chart. Leslie Wittman created this family tree chart with photographs using Microsoft Publisher. On her home page she shows the chart animated with narration running beneath.
GenealogyCDs (regional and by family)
Genealogy Gems News (on PBS's Faces of America series)
The Genealogy Guys Podcast
Genealogy 101: How to Trace Your Family's History and Heritage by Barbara Renick, of the National Genealogical Society
GenealogyWise (genealogy social network)
GenForum (find the forum for one of your family surnames, find people doing research on same lines, and ask questions, which you may find distant relatives answering)
Geni.com(create your own family tree)
* The Genographic Project (National Geographic -- with a single cheek swab, learn about your deep ancestry)
The Gene Pool (Rootsweb, Ancestry.com, more resources helpful for family histories)
HistoryWired ("a few of our favorite things" in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History)
My Life in Genealogy
by David Rencher, chief genealogical officer for FamilySearch, telling the story of how he got his start in genealogy, his personal research, and the legacy he hopes to leave his children. Interview filmed by Kate Geis and Allen Moore for National Genealogical Society.
National Archives (U.S.) (superb resources for genealogists, family historians, nonfiction research)
National Archives, UK (official government archives, from Domesday Book to websites). Here's a Getting Started overview.
New Jersey State Archives (NJDARM), good historical records)
Portals to the World (Global Gateway, Library of Congress, under review)
Regional Genealogy and Local History Research (portal to resources worldwide)
Strangled by Roots: The Genealogy Craze in America (pdf, Steve Tinker, originally published in The New Republic, 7-30-07). "The news that Barack Obama's ancestors owned slaves was a bit more surprising than the news that Strom Thurmond's did, but it was more surprising still to be told that among the Thurmond family's slaves were the ancestors of Al Sharpton. And Henry Louis Gates Jr., the host of the fascinating PBS series African American Lives , which explored the family trees of six prominent African Americans, was astounded to learn that half of his own ancestry was European, including Irish kinsmen on his father's side and two Jewish women on his mother's."
Top 25 Things Vanishing from America (Daily Finance). Pit toilets, yellow pages, movie rental stores, phone landlines, Chesapeake blue crabs. Can you guess the rest?
The USGenWeb Project (volunteers working together to provide free genealogy websites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States)
U.S. Vital Records (About.com on How & Where to Find Birth Certificates, Death Certificates, Marriage Certificates, Divorce Certificates & Adoption Records)
Wayback Machine, a digital archive of the World Wide Web and other information on the Internet created by the Internet Archive, a non-profit organization--providing links to older versions of a webpage.
What's New in Genealogy & Family History Resources? (Academic-Genealogy.com)
WorldGenWeb Project, The. (worldwide network of volunteer genealogists, some of whom may have digitized maps, birth records, cemetery records, etc., from the location you're searching)
World Vital Records (large database, including birth, death, military, census, and parish records, newspapers, and family histories)

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And a few audio recordings


Act Up ( interviews with surviving members of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, New York)
The ADA At 25 (Americans With Disabilities Act) Oral History and Folklife Research interviewed Maine residents who were involved in the disability rights movement or impacted by it.
American Life Histories. Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940, Library of Congress, American Memory. More than 300 writers collected 2,900 histories, in transcripts and images. These and some other collections listed here are described more fully on the History Matters website.
Archives of American Art, Oral History Collection, Smithsonian Institution -- an amazing collection, with transcripts of interviews with many artists
Archive of American Television (people involved in broadcast history, including TV legends.full list of interviewees.
Baltimore 68: Riots and Rebirth In the fall of 2006 undergraduate students in Dr. Elizabeth Nix's history class, "The New South and Civil Rights" began conducting interviews about the urban disturbances of April 1968....
Baylor University Institute for Oral History (oral histories and documentaries about Texas history)
Bellingham/Mendon Veteran’s Oral History Project (watch or listen on YouTube) Recorded at ABMI Cable 8 Studios, Bellingham, MA. Interviewer Marjorie Turner Hollman.
Born in Slavery (Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938)
Bringing Them Home Oral History Project (National Library of Australia, 1998-2002). A project to collect and preserve stories of indigenous people and others (such as missionaries, police, and administrators) involved in, or affected by, the removal of aboriginal and Strait Island children from their families. (Read overview.. Listen, for example to this this interview with Alice Adams.

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British Diplomatic Oral History Programme (BDOHP) (Churchill and Thatcher Papers, Churchill College, Cambridge)
British Library Archival Sound Records. These links to public collections include much music and such oral history items as the Millennium Memory Bank, the Opie collection of children's games and songs, interviews from the Common Cold Unit in Salisbury (1957-1990), the St Mary-le-Bow public debates, a survey of local British accents and dialects, and British Wildlife Recordings (oral history of an altogether different type). As for British Library oral history projects, not much is available for listening online, but you can track down what's available in the library or elsewhere, from their collection) and you can pay to have recordings transcribed, after you clear copyright permission.
Cache Valley Refugee Oral History Project Documenting the lives of Burmese Muslim, Karen, and Eritrean refugees in Cache Valley, Utah.
Chemical Heritage Foundation Oral History in Sciences (interviews with leading figures in chemistry and related fields)
Chicago Architects Oral History Project (Ryerson and Burnham Archives, Art Institute of Chicago)
Civil Rights in Black & Brown: Oral Histories of the Multiracial Freedom Struggles in Texas (includes digital video clips)
Civil Rights History Project (a joint initiative by the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture)
Civil Rights Mediation Oral History Project
Coney Island Oral History Project
Covering Trump: An oral history of an unforgettable campaign (Columbia Journalism Review and Guardian US, 11-22-16). This is journalism-style oral history, with quotations from Shelley Hepworth, Vanessa Gezari, Kyle Pope, Cory Schouten, Carlett Spike, David Uberti and Pete Vernon)
Dakota Memories Oral History Project: Germans from Russia Heritage Collection (what it was like growing up second- or third-generation German-Russian on the Northern Plains, with an emphasis on childhood memories and family relationships--with video clips, etc.)

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Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project. Over 500 visual histories (more than 1,000 hours of recorded video interviews) and over 10,800 historic photos, documents, and newspapers document the Japanese American experience from immigration in the early 1900s through redress in the 1980s with a strong focus on the World War II mass incarceration.
SNCC Digital Gateway The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC (pronounced “SNICK”), is gathering testimony from as many SNCC activists as possible.
Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement, Oral Histories Collection
Disability Voices (British Library)
East Midlands Oral History (several collections in the United Kingdom -- online exhibitions)
Experiencing War (Stories from the Veterans History Project)
Federal Writers' Project (Library of Congress, 1935-1942). Created in 1935 as part of the U.S. Work Progress Administration to provide employment for historians, teachers, writers, librarians, and other white-collar workers, this project includes American Life Histories, compiled and transcribed by the staff of the Folklore Project of the FWP.
Florida Voices (Florida oral history collections)
Frontline Diplomacy: The Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

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Generation on Fire: An Oral Histories of the 1960s and link on boingboing to PDF of chapter from Jeff Kisseloff's book on the Kent State Massacre.
Global Health Chronicles A collection of materials on public health efforts to prevent, control and eradicate global disease. A collaboration between the David J. Sencer CDC Museum at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, with sections on malaria, smallpox, guinea worm, polio, HIV/AIDS, ebola, covid-19.
Hidden Histories (oral histories documenting the lives of ordinary people from East London--organized by Working Lives--collected by Eastside Community Heritage, an independent charity).
The HistoryMakers (the nation's largest African American video oral history archive, a collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University Informedia Project). See Chip Reid, Remarkable video interviews keep history alive (Chip Reid, CBS News, 6-24-14). Library of Congress acquired the collection. Contains more than 3,000 videotaped interviews, all of which have been digitized. This represents nearly 10,000 hours of videotaped interviews. In addition, 80 special events have been recorded, and more than 3,000 online biographies are featured on the website.
Holocaust Museum, U.S. See U.S. Holocaust Museum, below.
Hurricane Digital Memory Bank (stories from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma)
IEEE Global History Network. Oral histories (for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.) about technologists who changed the world, and about changes in technological companies and institutions.
In Our Own Voices: A Guide to Conducting Life History Interviews with American Jewish Women edited by Jayne K. Guberman (Google Books and online)
In the First Person (an index to nearly 4,000 collections of personal narratives in English from around the world--letters, diaries, oral histories, and personal narratives)
In Their Own Words (NIH researchers recall the early years of AIDS)
The Interview Project (film producer David Lynch's project--a new video interview every few days).
In Their Words: AETN's WWII Oral History Project (testimony from Arkansas's WWII generation)

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Japanese American Oral History Project (University of California, Fullerton)
Japanese War Brides: An Oral History Archive Stories from across the United States as told to a daughter of a war bride. See From Hiroko to Susie: The untold stories of Japanese war brides (Kathryn Tolbert, Washington Post, 9-22-16) Bruce Hollywood searched for his Japanese birth mother. He found her — and the restaurant she had named after him (Bruce).
Hanashi Oral History Collection The Hanashi (“to talk” in Japanese) collection contains over 1,200 audiovisual interviews with Japanese Americans WWII veterans, along with their contemporaries of WWII and the Japanese American experience. Formerly "Go for Broke" collection.
JARDA: Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives (Calisphere, University of California). See more resources at Calisphere
The jobbing system of the London Stock Exchange (42 interviews, Institute of Historical Research, University of London’s School of Advanced Study)
Kentuckiana Digital Library. The Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, is a motherlode of oral histories on various subjects: African American political scientists, Bourbon in Kentucky, the Kentucky Family Farm project, From Combat to Kentucky, Frontier Nursing Service, Kentucky's Community Colleges, the Horse Industry, City Hall, the Kentucky Legislature, Kentucky Transportation Center, Peace Corps Volunteers, the Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Project, and various Kentuckian individuals of note.
Legacy Project (oral histories of long-time employees and executives of PNC Bank)
Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World (James Leloudis and Kathryn Walbert, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) Hundreds of interviews with working-class southerners conducted by the Southern Oral History Program Piedmont Industrialization Project of the late 1970s and early 1980s, combined with other resources.
Lives Connected (an oral history of our experiences during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath--and an experiment in data visualization)
Listening Is an Act of Love (StoryCorps' National Oral History Project)
The LISTEN Project: The Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library collection Oral recordings.
Locating Primary Sources on the Web (University of Idaho Library)

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The March on Milwaukee Civil Rights History Project (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries and the Wisconsin Historical Society)
Marin County (California) oral histories (Anne T. Kent California Room of the Marin County Free Library, over 400 oral histories of Marin County pioneers and residents from all walks of life, from dairy ranchers to philanthropists)
May 4 Collection (Kent State, documenting the May 1970 Kent State Shootings)
Mountain Voices (interviews with over 300 people who live in mountain and highland regions in Mexico, Peru, Lesotho, Kenya, Ethiopia, Poland, Pakistan, India, Nepal, and China)

NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project (JSC OHP) (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
National Home Front Project (Washington College, collecting memories of “home front heroes”: the men, women, and children who bought bonds, built planes, endured sacrifices, and kept families together while loved ones served on the front lines.
• National Park Service Oral History Collections See also Oral Histories of Park Rangers.
The National WWII Museum, digital collection online. Fascinating interviews, searchable by branch of service and theater of war, samples from a thousands of oral histories and hundreds of thousands of photographs. Click on "hear this story" to watch and listen to videotaped interviews--for example, James Smith on fighting on Edson's Ridge/Bloody Ridge, Guadalcanal. (If you see a Chinese, he'd be smiling. If you see a Jap, he wouldn't be smiling.)
New York City, Ellis Island Oral Histories, 1892-1976 (searchable database, along with things like ships' passenger lists, ship images in NY ports, petitions for naturalization, etc.

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Nevada Test Site Oral History Project
North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories provide a unique and personal view of what it meant to immigrate to America and Canada between 1800 and 1950 (Alexander Street, ProQuest)
The Oakwood Project (Raleigh, North Carolina). More than 80 residents and students have participated in this oral history project, designed to capture the story of the homes in this first neighborhood in the state of North Carolina to receive “historic” designation. See Storytellers preserving rich history of Raleigh's Oakwood neighborhood
Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff. “A riveting step-by-step account of the day . . . The technique of letting the witnesses tell the story does a remarkable job of bringing to life the horrific day in a way that a writer’s narrative would have a hard time matching. . . . It makes for a gripping read—and a reminder of the country at its best while under attack.” —Will Lester, Associated Press
On The Line: how schooling, housing, and civil rights shaped Hartford and its suburbs ((Jack Dougherty and colleagues, a public history web-book)
Oral Histories of the American South (Southern Oral History Program)
Oral History Centers and Collections Oral History Association's excellent links)
Oral History Interviews (Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training)

Oral History Project of the Social Security Administration (SSA)
Patient Voices digital stories from Pilgrim Projects (stories of patients, carers, healthcare practitioners and managers)

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Prototype Online: Inventive Voices (podcast series), Lemelson Center Video and Audio clips, and Computer Oral History Collection, resources available at the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention & Innovation, at the the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History)
Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) (Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley). Rotating offerings, include oral histories about the Free Speech movement, disability rights, the Earl Warren oral history project, the medical response to the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco (1981-84).
Repositories of Primary Sources (compiled by Terry Abraham, University of Idaho Library) A listing of over 5000 websites describing holdings of manuscripts, archives, rare books, historical photographs, and other primary sources for the research scholar.
RICHES of Central Florida (Regional Initiative for Collecting the History, Experiences and Stories of Central Florida)
Riptide: An oral history of the epic collision between journalism and digital technology, from 1980 to the present (Digital Riptide, September 2013). Three veterans of digital journalism and media — John Huey, Martin Nisenholtz, and Paul Sagan, Fellows at the Joan Shorenstein Center at the Harvard Kennedy School — interviewed dozens of people who played important roles in the intersection of media and technology — from CEOs to coders, journalists to disruptors. Riptide is the result: more than 50 hours of video interviews and a narrative essay that traces the evolution of digital news from early experiments to today. It’s what really happened to the news business.
Rutgers Oral History Archives

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Sephardic American Voices: A Jewish Oral History Project (actively collecting through 2015)
Slavery, U.S. (University of Washington links to primary and secondary sources on)
Sound Portraits (listen online to several StoryCorps stories)
Space, Science, and Technology (Department of Space History, National Air and Space Museum)
--- Space Astronomy Oral History Project (SAOHP)
---Space Telescope History Project (STHP)
--- Glennan-Webb-Seamans Project for Research in Space History (GWS)
---RAND History Project (RAND)
Southern Oral History Program (conducted or collected under the auspices of the Southern Oral History Program in the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) Search by interviewer, interviewee, occupation, ethnicity, or project)
StoryCorps Stories
StoryCorps Griot Project to record stories of African Americans (partner: National Museum of African American History and Culture)
Studs Terkel Radio Archive (listen to a master interview ordinary people and those better-known). See also Feeling Tone: Bringing Studs Terkel’s Radio Archive to life (Tony Macaluso, Oral History Association, Spring 2016). He left behind 5,600 radio programs, mostly on reel-to-reel tape, when he died at the age of 96 in 2008. Read all about it.  See also Working, below.
Suffragists Oral History Project (Bancroft Library's Regional Oral History Office)
Telling Histories (Nyssa Chow's site, including Anatomy of a Hunger Strike)
Telling Their Stories (oral history projects conducted by high school students, with Holocaust survivors and refugees, WWII camp liberator/witnesses, Japanese American internees, residents of San Francisco's Fillmore District, and elders who witnessed the struggle to achieve voting rights for blacks in the 1960s) -- sponsored by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)
Testimony (inside stories of mental health care, Mental Health Media)
376th Heavy Bombardment Group Oral Histories (World War II veterans based in North Africa and later in southern Italy)

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United Nations Oral History Collection (Dag Hammarskjold Library, audio files and transcripts)
U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project (University of Texas at Austin)
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum "First Person" Podcast Series. See also videos of Conversations with Survivors and First Person: Conversations with Survivors
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum oral history collection. See Special Collections.
U.S. House of Representativs
U.S. Senate Oral History Project, which oral historian Donald Ritchie talks about in an informal oral history interview conducted by Verusca Calabria (he says, for example, that senators and their staffs do not have to promise secrecy about what goes on behind the scenes in the Senate.
Using deep web search engines for academic and scholarly research (Chris Stobing, Comparitech, 6-2-18) Comparative info about and links to JSTOR, Archive.org, Library of Congress, Osti.gov, GPO’s Catalog of US Government Publications, The National Archives, Highwire Press, Encyclopedia Brittanica, FRED, Google Books, Scribd, Project Gutenberg, The Online Books Page, Getty Research Institute, Law Library of Congress, LexisNexis, Science.gov, PubMed, Globalhealthfacts.org, New England Journal of Medicine, US Geologic Survey, US National Map by USGS, USGS Real-Time Water Data, USGS Earthquake Hazards Program, The SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System, Academic Index, IEEE Xplore Digital Library, TechXtra, Core (open access research papers), arXiv.org, DeepDyve, VideoLectures.net. With info on how to use VPNs.

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Veterans History Project (huge collection of personal accounts of American war veterans, collected, preserved, and made accessible so future generations will know the realities of war, from World War I through current conflicts)
VHP's links to other oral history sites about war-related experiences of veterans and civilians
Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace (excerpts edited by Maxine Hong Kingston)
Voices of Civil Rights(AARP)
Voices of Feminism Oral History Project (Women's History Archives at Smith College)
Voices of the First Coast (oral histories from Northeast Florida)
Voices of the First World War (series of podcasts, International War Museum, UK) or listen to podcasts on BBC Radio 4
Voices of the Holocaust (British Library collection)
The West Point Center for Oral History (stories of the American soldier, in war and peace, in development)
What Did You Do in the War, Grandma? (Rhode Island women during World War II)
Wexler Oral History Project (Yiddish Book Center) Video interviews with 450 people of all ages and backgrounds: bobes and zeydes from the Old Country, American-born students, world-renowned musicians, actors, and cultural activists, and descendants of Yiddish writers. Browse full-length interviews by narrator's last name. Here's Lili Bermant (one of my writing students).

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Witness to War: Preserving the Oral Histories of Combat Veterans
Women of Four Wars (Veterans History Project)
Women in Journalism (Washington Press Club Foundation Oral History Project, initiated by National Women's Press Club)
Working (Radio Diaries) Stream Studs Terkel's interviews (from which he wrote Working, workers talking about their jobs, a collaboration with Working in America. (Go there to tell your own story about working.) See also Studs Terkel Radio Archive, above.
World Bank Group oral histories, part of a larger World Bank Group archives
World War I Document Archive
World War II Submarine Veterans History Project (California Center for Military History)
• You'll find more projects to look up in this list of Oral History Association award winners.

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Books to help you get started
writing your own (or someone else's) life story)

Booklists on these topics:

Writing Personal and Family Histories

Memoir Writing As Discovery

Memoirs, Healing, and Self-Understanding

Writing from Memory Prompts

Anthologies of Life Story Writing and Reminiscence

The Art and Craft of Memoir and Biography

Books for Life Story or Reminiscence Groups

Writing Personal and Family Histories (a booklist)

These are books for people who (generally) do not see themselves as writers but want to write something about their life or their family.
Breathe Life into Your Life Story: How to Write a Story People Will Want to Read by Dawn and Morris Thurston. Advice and examples on “showing” rather than "telling," creating credible interesting characters and settings, writing from the gut, alternating scene and narrative, and generating suspense. 
For All Time: A Complete Guide to Writing Your Family History by Charley Kempthorne. Charley’s wise, loveable, encouraging personal style and long practical experience make this a good book to give to someone you want to encourage, if only to write for the family. He makes it all seem human and doable. “The facts, or at least the important facts, of mom and dad’s marriage were not where and when it took place but what they made of it.”
The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing: How to Transform Memories Into Meaningful Stories by Sharon Lippincott. A personal historian's "roll-up-your-sleeves" guide to writing and publishing your own (or someone else's) memoirs or autobiography.
Keeping Family Stories Alive: Discovering and Recording the Stories and Reflections of a Lifetime by Vera Rosenbluth. Interviewing and recording techniques helpful for family histories.
Legacy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Personal History by Linda Spence. A very popular guide for doing oral histories and personal and family histories, with memory prompts that encourage storytelling more than fact-finding: What were you like as a child? What did you think? What did you do? Organized by topic, from earliest memories, school life, young adulthood, marriage, children, grandchildren, through later life.
Memoirs of the Soul: A Writing Guide by Nan Merrick Phifer. An excellent how-to guide, and not just about the spiritual you. "Phifer urges amateur writers to write of the inner life, or times of joy or crisis or profound contentment."--Library Journal, which highly recommends it for public libraries.
Still Here Thinking of You: A Second Chance with Our Mothers (Joan Potter, Susan Hodara, Vicki Addesso, and Lori Toppe). Months after forming a writers group, four women from very different backgrounds found themselves unexpectedly writing about their mothers. In the process, not only did their understanding of one another deepen, but their perceptions of their mothers were transformed.
The Legacy Guide: Capturing the Facts, Memories,and Meaning of Your Life by Carol Franco and Kent Lineback. Moving from facts to memories to meaning, this book takes you through the seven stages of life: childhood, adolescence, young adulthood (roughly 20-30), adulthood (roughly 30-45), middle adulthood (roughly 45-60), late adulthood (roughly 60-80), elder (roughly 80 onward). Fairly sophisticated writing prompts, and examples from fine writers, invite you to recall forgotten moments and discover their significance.
Living Legacies: How to Write, Illustrate, and Share Your Life Stories by Duane Elgin, Colleen Ledrew. Emphasizes illustrating your stories with photographs, memorabilia, and other images (including digital format).
The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life by Marion Roach Smith. Get the gist of this slim book from her interview on NPR's Talk of the Nation: 'Memoir Project' Gives Tips For Telling Your Story. From the opening pages: "There is an old saying that most men would rather have you hear their story than grant their wish."
Start & Run a Personal History Business: Get Paid to Research Family Ancestry and Write Memoirs by Jennifer Campbell. How to make money doing something you love. Members of the Association of Personal Historians can also purchase four special toolkits for personal historians: 1) Get Your Personal History Business Up and Running; 2) The Interview: Record and Develop the Story; 3) Products and Services; 4) Marketing: APH Members Share Ideas That Work
Story Bridges: A Guide for Conducting Intergenerational Oral History Projects by Angela Zusman. A concept and a process. Download an excerpt (PDF) from the Left Coast Press site, clicking on "download excerpt" beneath book image.
Turning Memories into Memoirs: A Handbook for Writing Lifestories by Denis Ledoux. Workshop in a book, encouraging nonwriters to write their own stories, by a founding member of APH.
You Can Write Your Family History by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, who, starting from a genealogy base, offers tips on how to bring characters and social history to life and present stories about people on the family tree.

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Memoir Writing As Discovery (a booklist)

Shimmering Images: A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir by Lisa Dale Norton. A slim, well-written book focused on the slice-of-life memoir. Norton encourages you to find "memory pictures," find your voice and the heart of your story, identify one potent period of your life, and “explore it through vivid imagery, honest voice, stunning compassion, and a deep awareness of the larger issues at play that guide your story in a subliminal way—myth, metaphor, and current issues of the day.”
Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative by Melissa Febos. "Targeted to the writer who fears their personal narrative would be seen as self-indulgent, hurtful to others, or simply not worthy of their time and talent."~Boston Globe. In short, writing about craft, trauma and healing, and social justice, "walking the line between vulnerability and over-divulgence."
Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives Through the Power and Practice of Story by Christina Baldwin. Says Baldwin (whose workshops are inspirational): “Our life story is our constant companion, the litany that guides our every move and thought. So we need to make our lives a story we can live with, because we live the life our story makes possible.” She encourages storytelling to build community, webs of connection, bridges to understanding, using the “voice of story” to call us to remember our true selves.
Citizens of the Dream: 41 Good, Serious, Smart Answers to your Questions about Writing, Painting, Playing, Acting and Living the Creative Life by Cary Tennis
White Gloves: How We Create Ourselves Through Memory by John Kotre. Interesting insights--for example, "what we believe we accurately remember often has been reconstructed, as when an event that initially evoked fear and anger is later recalled as a hilarious adventure" (Booklist review). A more recent book by Kotre: Make It Count: How to Generate a Legacy That Gives Meaning to Your Life
Writing from Life: Telling Your Soul’s Story by Susan Wittig Albert. Albert (founder of Story Circle Network) encourages women to discover their voices and grow spiritually by putting their stories into words. Her guide invites women on a voyage of self-discovery, by exploring eight thematic clusters: beginnings and birthings; achievements, gifts and glories; female bodies; loves, lovers, lovings; journeys and journeying; homes and homings; visits to the Valley of Shadows; and experiences of community. She also explains how to form women’s Story Circles.
Writing Life Stories: How To Make Memories Into Memoirs, Ideas Into Essays And Life Into Literature by Bill Roorbach. Intelligent commentary and exercises to help you access memories and emotions, shape scenes, develop plot lines, populate life story with "characters," and bring depth to your memoir or personal essay.
Writing Your Life: A Journey of Discovery by Patti Miller. A helpful companion for structuring book-length life writing, with wise counsel on remembering (and selective memory), emotional healing, finding one's voice, choosing details, creating drama, and imposing structure. Australian writer, but the book seems easily available online. By the same author: The Memoir Book, which one writing student said was exactly what she needed to get going on her memoirs.
Your Life as Story: Discovering the "New Autobiography" and Writing Memoir as Literature by Tristine Rainer. This highly recommended guide, full of exercises, asks you to think about your life and about how best to write a life story. Some object to her de-emphasis on historical accuracy, but many praise her for her handling of such topics as story structure (how best to organize the story of your life), how to handle the passage of time, and the ethical problems of writing about family and friends.

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Memoirs, Healing, and Self-Understanding (a booklist)

After the Chapters End: Preserving Your Child's Too-Short Life Story by Sue Hessel. A step-by-step guide to preserving the life story of a child who died, by a personal historian and bereaved parent.
Another Morning: Voices of Truth and Hope from Mothers with Cancer by Linda Blachman. A book for parents challenged by serious illness, to help and inspire them to leave stories and messages for the children who will survive them.
The Beneficial Effects of Life Story and Legacy Activities by Pat McNees (Journal of Geriatric Care Management, Spring 2009). Get PDF file of journal article here (61.9KB)
Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss by Jessica Handler (author of the memoir Invisible Sisters, about being the "well sibling" of two younger sisters who die)
Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir by Sue Williams Silverman. In addition to covering traditional writing topics well, Silverman encourages writers to transform their life story into words that matter. She advocates finding the courage to speak truth about issues on which others might prefer silence. Her own confessional memoirs are about incest (Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You) and sexual addiction (Love Sick).
The Healing Art of Storytelling by Richard Stone. This classic and insight-provoking guide to finding coherent narratives in our life experiences, recently out of print, is now available again. Not about memoir but about understanding the storylines of our lives.
Living to Tell the Tale: A Guide to Writing Memoir by Jane Taylor McDonnell. In this little book, McDonnell focuses here on how to write "crisis memoirs," finding "our own meaningfulness, even in the midst of sadness and disappointment." In addition to teaching a related college course ("Witness Narratives: Memoirs of Survival"), she has written about life with her autistic son and about her own problems with alcoholism.
Narrative Medicine by Rita Charon. The idea behind the field of narrative medicine, which Charon helped create, is that the doctor's job is to listen and by hearing the patient's story to know the patient more fully than numbers on a chart can convey. You'll find more resources on narrative medicine here, including books by Arthur Kleinman, Lewis Mehl-Madrona, and Arthur Frank.
The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story by Linda Joy Myers. Step-by-step memoir writing, with healing from emotional pain as a goal; full of interesting psychological insights.
Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By by Timothy D. Wilson. I found this book through an excellent story on the topic: Writing Your Way to Happiness by Tara Parker-Pope (Well blog, NY Times, 1-19-15)
The Story of Your Life: Becoming the Author of Your Experience by Mandy Aftel. Geared more to self-understanding than to memoir writing, this book is still useful for life writing. Focusing on what Aftel calls the three major life plots (love, mastery, and loss), she provokes reflection on things like How Money Complicates the Love Plot, How Children Complicate the Marriage Subplot, and How Escape Complicates the Mastery Plot.
The Story You Need to Tell: Writing to Heal from Trauma, Illness, or Loss by Sandra Marinella. (“Sandra Marinella deserves our recognition for her years of dedicated work with writers, veterans, and cancer patients. Her incredible research, her networking, and her gift for words should carry this book into the pantheon of great books on writing.” — Christina Baldwin, author of Storycatcher)
Writing and Healing: “The Best Therapy I’ve Had” (Sharon Lippincott's article about how a memoir writing class helped recovery from a brain injury, Women's Memoirs 6-26-11)
Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives by Louise DeSalvo. Cautioning that writing is no substitute for medical care, DeSalvo (who wrote about her own pain, anxiety, and depression in Vertigo: A Memoir) recommends writing five pages a week, uncensored, in spare moments, reporting every detail, to speed healing -- and sharing with other empathetic writers, to sharpen narrative. She refers often to James W. Pennebaker's Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, based on his 10 years of clinical research. "Dr. Pennebaker has demonstrated that expressing emotions appears to protect the body against damaging internal stresses and seems to have long-term health benefit," wrote Daniel Goleman, in the NY Times.
Writing War: A Guide to Telling Your Own Story (Ron Capps, CreateSpace). Written by a veteran for veterans, it details the elements of craft involved in writing both fiction and non-fiction. The Veterans Writing Project uses the book in its co-cost seminar and workshops for members of the armed forces, active and reserve, who want to learn about writing in order to tell their stories.

Two articles by Randy Dotinga:
Does writing a memoir help an author to heal? (Christian Science Monitor, 5-15-15) Three writers (Darin Strauss, Lizzie Stark, and Jennifer Finney Boylan) share their thoughts and concerns about sharing deeply personal secrets in a memoir.
Trio of authors recall how they investigated dark family secrets (CSM, 5-13-14) Three writers – Emma Brockes, author of 'She Left Me the Gun'; David Berg, author of 'Run Brother Run'; and Michael Hainey, author of 'After Visiting Friends' – all investigated dark areas from their families' pasts.
Memoirs of illness, crisis, disability, differentness, and survival (a reading list)


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Writing from Memory Prompts (a booklist)

Those for whom writing seems a daunting task can often respond to simple, straightforward, or inspirational memory prompts. Books featuring such prompts vary greatly in the style of prompts (from simple fact-finding questions to prompts that probe for emotional memories to prompts that liberate the imagination).

Telling the Stories of Life through Guided Autobiography Groups by James E. Birren & Kathryn N. Cochran. Provides sensitizing questions which help participants write on life themes (as opposed to life stages): Branching points. Family. Money. Work. Health and body. Sexual identity. Experiences with and about death. Your spiritual life and values. Your goals and aspirations.

Writing Your Legacy: The Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting Your Life Story by Richard Campbell and Cheryl Svensson. More themes for Guided Autobiography groups.

Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg author of the popular Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. Message: Put pen to paper and write as fast as you can for ten minutes, in “writing ‘sprints’ that train the hand and mind to quicken their pace and give up conscious control.” For those having trouble getting started.

The Legacy Guide: Capturing the Facts, Memories,and Meaning of Your Life by Carol Franco and Kent Lineback. Moving from facts to memories to meaning, this book takes you through the seven stages of life: childhood, adolescence, young adulthood (roughly 20-30), adulthood (roughly 30-45), middle adulthood (roughly 45-60), late adulthood (roughly 60-80), elder (roughly 80 onward). Fairly sophisticated writing prompts, and examples from fine writers, invite you to recall forgotten moments and discover their significance.

Legacy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Personal History by Linda Spence. A very popular guide for doing oral histories and personal and family histories, with memory prompts that encourage storytelling more than fact-finding: What were you like as a child? What did you think? What did you do? Organized by topic, from earliest memories, school life, young adulthood, marriage, children, grandchildren, through later life.

Thinking About Memoir by Abigail Thomas. A tiny volume of writing prompts which encourage writer to write brief bits, coming at your life at an angle, through the "side door," as she does in her slim, fine memoirs (A Three Dog Life (about caring for her husband after a hit-and-run accident shatters his skull) and Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life show how vignettes and snippets artfully arranged can convey the arc of a changing relationship, or relationships.

To Our Children's Children: Preserving Family Histories for Generations to Come by Bob Greene. A small book of writing prompts for oral or written family histories -- one of the first of its kind.

Writing Your Life: An Easy-to-Follow Guide to Writing an Autobiography by Mary Borg. A slim, spiral-bound, illustrated, easy-to-maneuver workbook (good for senior centers) with questions and memory joggers to tease out a life story, and excerpts from real autobiographies.

You Are Next In Line: Everyone's Guide for Writing Your Autobiography by Armiger Jagoe. A slim, very simple do-it-yourself guide with brief extracts from famous life stories to illustrate broad themes: In the Beginning, Family Affairs, First Home, Early Years, Grown Up, Adult Life, Special People, Humor, Important Events and Life Passages.

Life's Little Writing Prompts (online, Story Circle Network writing prompts)

Women's Memoirs writing prompts (online; click on "previous entries" at bottom to find earlier entries)

Anthologies of life story writing and reminiscence

My Words Are Gonna Linger: The Art of Personal History ed. by Paula Stallings Yost and Pat McNees, with a foreword by Rick Bragg, a great gift for that person whose life stories should be recorded or told but who keeps saying, "Who cares what happened in my life?" Read excerpts here and order here to order directly from APH. Backstories about the process of getting the stories into print will be of particular interest to those who want to help others tell their life stories. "At last, a collection that shows the 'why, what, and how' behind memoir as legacy." ~ Susan Wittig Albert, author of WRITING FROM LIFE, founder of Story Circle Network

Pulse: Voices From the Heart of Medicine - The First Year, ed. Paul Gross and Diane Guernsey (excellent essays, poems and short narratives from the hearts and in the voices of patients and their health care providers, from the online magazine Pulse)

Listening Is an Act of Love, edited by Dave Isay (stories about home and family, work and dedication, journeys, history and struggle, and 9/11), from the StoryCorps Project. Second in the series: Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps. (Listen to Isay on moms on NPR's Democracy Now:“Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps".

Born Before Plastic: Stories from Boston’s Most Enduring Neighborhoods(Vol. 1: North End, Roxbury, and South Boston) and My Legacy Is Simply This (Vol. 2: Charlestown, Chinatown, East Boston, and Mattapan), from Grub Street’s Memoir Project (giving seniors a chance to turn their memories into published narratives).

Not Quite What I Was Planning, NPR's delightful slideshow of images and text from the book Not Quite What I Was Planning:Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure, edited by Rachel Fershleisher and Larry Smith, based on the six-word memoirs of the storytelling magazine Smith.

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The Art and Craft of Memoir and Biography (a booklist)

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr. An ideal gift for someone who is writing, or thinking of writing, their memoir.
The Art of Time in Memoir (Then, Again) by Sven Birkerts. The great memoirists often break the rules, especially about mixing present and past tense. “Apart from whatever painful or disturbing events they recount, their deeper ulterior purpose is to discover the nonsequential connections that allow those experiences to make larger sense; they are about circumstance becoming meaningful when seen from a certain remove.”

Black Women Writing Autobiography: A Tradition Within a Tradition by Joanne Braxton

The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson. A delightful account of how those final stories get told.

Extraordinary Lives: The Art and Craft of American Biography ed. William Zinsser. Thoughtful talks (and biography shop talk) by Robert A. Caro, David McCullough, Paul C. Nagel, Richard B. Sewall, Ronald Steel, and Jean Strouse.

How To Do Biography: A Primer by Nigel Hamilton (a brief interpretive history of life stories, or at one reviewer called it, "a zesty romp through millennia of biographical portraits" -- not really a "how to" book)

I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory by Patricia Hampl. Explores the act of memoir-making, the tension between memory and forgetting (inventiveness as part of the search for emotional truth), the art of storytelling, and the value of the first draft, as a mystery dropping clues about the narrator's feelings.

Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir , ed. William Zinsser. Excellent talks by Russell Baker, Annie Dillard, Alfred Kazin, Toni Morrison, and Lewis Thomas.

Naked, Drunk, and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay by Lara Adair. Helpful especially for memoirists who want to craft personal essays--by a popular columnist and writing coach/instructor.

To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction by Philip Lopate. Pieces by the master of essay writing on the craft of personal essay and memoir writing.

Writing a Book That Makes a Difference by Philip Gerard. Though not geared to memoir-writing, Gerard presents insights and examples that could help elevate your memoir above a string of anecdotal memories.

Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past by William Zinsser. Using his own story as an example, this expert on writing well shows how to be selective in choosing the stories to tell and the details to use.

Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art by Judith Barrington. Memoir-writing basics (present vs. past tense, first vs. third person, balancing the needs for accuracy and good storytelling, etc.)

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Stories about oral history

Oral history becomes performance art (Connie George, The Beacon 5-4-13). Antoinette Ford founded the Double Nickels Theater Company to help older adults turn their life stories into performance art in a style called "reminiscence theatre." (Double Nickels: 55) The genre helps to connect ages and cultures through older adults’ tales of their pivotal life points.
A convert to family history . (BBC News, A Point of View 12-2-11). The discovery of a tape recording shed light on a puzzling family photograph which was taken in 1906 - and changed historian Lisa Jardine's views about the genealogy boom. "What a thrill, then, to encounter the miracle of oral history - of having a person in front of you who was actually there."
Oral history records heart and soul of mountain culture (Max Hunt, Mountain Xpress, 5-18-17) Historians working to preserve stories of Western North Carolina .
Digital scribes transfer ancient words into bits and bytes (Chris Windeyer, Nunatsiaq Online 1-20-10). Technology is being used to capture the traditional knowledge of elders from the Igloolik area about everything from shamanism and kinship to traditional navigation methods and hunting and sewing techniques.
Michael Bechloss: 'Oral History Vital as Written Sources Dry Up' (Presidential historian receives society’s Stephen E. Ambrose Oral History Award). Rutgers press release
Hearing Harlan County, an interview with oral historian Alessandro Portelli about his work interviewing people in Harlan County, Kentucky. Listen to Portelli's interviewing advice (American Public Radio).
Large Scale Digitization of Oral History: A Case History (Eric Weig, Kopana Terry, and Kathryn Lybarger, University of Kentucky). Story of an analog-to-digital reformatting pilot project that explores what can be accomplished with limited funding and a large target collection--the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History: more than 6,500 interviews and 12,000 interview hours.
Why We Tell (and Record) the Story (Amanda Lacson, Family Archive Business, 3-8-18) on lessons she learned at Columbia University’s Oral History MA workshops. Best stuff in second half.
How can theories of popular and personal memory be used to analyse women’s oral testimonies of working life during the Second World War? (Hazel Sadler, Storytellers-The Oral History Group, LinkedIn, 1-6-17 ) Discusses, among other things,"the harmful repercussions of a dismissive audience, in which the ability to remember details of the home defence was more difficult for women, due to their inability to find receptive audiences for their histories. Peniston-Bird and Summerfield use the term ‘Circuit-breakers’ to describe the part unresponsive audiences play in the production of memory. This theory is important ... as it is a common feature of women’s memories of the Second World War."

Listening Is an Act of Love. Listen to radio interview with David Isay and stories from ordinary people (Storycorps Oral History Project Recording Stories) or read the transcript. Or buy the book: Listening Is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project
Lives Connected (Peter Mayer's oral history of experience during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath--also an experiment in data visualization).
Making Sense of Oral History (Linda Shopes's excellent overview of oral history as part of history). Part of the wonderful History Matters--U.S. Survey Course on the Web, by the American Social History Project/ Center for Media and Learning (Graduate Center, CUNY) and Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (George Mason University). See list of all History Matters resources available online.
Modern challenges greet oral historians meeting in Little Tokyo (Esmeralda Bermudez, Los Angeles Times, 4-3-11). They collect, preserve and share the voices of the past. Changes in technology could give them a far wider audience — and even more video — if that's what they want. Ethical dilemma: Do they have a right to put online for the world an interview they did sixty years ago, when only scholars would have been likely to listen to the interview or read the transcript?

Back to Doing Oral Histories section head

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Oral histories & interviews (Cyndi's links)
Oral history projects dedicated to capturing and preserving survivor testimonies (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum links)
Permanent archive for village thanks to Lottery (Rob Smyth,Burton Mail, UK 1-14-12). A village in East Staffordshire will have a permanent archive of its history and heritage thanks to a £24,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Script for Video or Audio Interviews with Family Members (Rootsweb)
Secrets of a Successful Interview (Valerie Holladay, Holiday Magazine, Jan./Feb 2005)
StoryCorps (Every voice matters)
Studs Terkel and oral history techniques (Chicago Historical Society's excellent links to guides to doing oral histories in the classroom)
Teaching the Cold War Through Oral History (Donald A. Ritchie, OAH Magazine of History, Winter 1994)
What can social media do for oral history?. Writing about social media's use to capture oral history, Jim Richardson reviews (for Museum Next) the varying approaches of StoryCorps (recording a conversation between two people who know each other), StoryVault (a UK-based site more likely to collect people's experience of history-changing events), and UK SoundMap (the British Library's attempt to map and archive the sounds of the United Kingdom, using AudioBoo. Fascinating account of the positive effect of widely available new recording techniques and letting regular people create tags for archived items.
What questions should you ask in a video biography interview? ((Jane Lehmann-Shafron, Video Biography Central)
YouTube video of Manny Curtis, cartoonist and Jewish war veteran (you hear his voice as you watch him cartooning)

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Further reading about oral history

The Order Has Been Carried Out : History, Memory and Meaning of a Nazi Massacre in Rome, by Alessandro Portelli (2003). Fascinating study of how a Nazi massacre in Rome during World War II (the Ardeatine Caves massacre, 1944) affected three generations of Romans—shedding light on the Italian Resistance movement and on the history of Rome’s working classes.
The Death of Luigi Trastulli and Other Stories: Form and Meaning in Oral History by Alessandro Portelli (1991)
The Business of Memory – The Art of Remembering in an Age of Forgetting, ed. By Charles Baxter (1999)
Interactive Oral History Interviewing: Essays on the interactive construction (in oral history) of understanding, interpretation, and meaning of lived experience, ed. Eva M. McMahan and Kim Lacy Rogers (2011)
Memory and History: Essays on Recalling and Interpreting Experience ed. Jaclyn Jeffrey and Glenace Edwall (Institute for Oral History, 1994)
Social Memory and History, Anthropological Perspectives ed. by Jacob J. Climo and Maria G. Cattell (2002).
Essays on how social memory is constructed, how memory depends on culture and context, how it transmits or contests culture, how it constructs the present and reconstructs the past.
Oral History in Social Work: Research, Assessment, and Intervention by Ruth R. Martin (1995)

My thanks to Elisabeth Pozzi-Thanner, founder of Oral History Productions, for help preparing this reading list.


Reminiscence and life review, especially guided by someone who knows how to make the most of the experience, is an important developmental phase, in which we older adults take stock of our lives and, with luck, begin to see both pleasant and unpleasant memories as part of what shaped our identity. With aging, retirement, divorce, widowhood, and separation from our children, we lose roles we once played and may experience less sense of identity and self-worth. Life review, however done, can be therapeutic, and in groups, under a masterful leader, can also be enormous fun. Good groups bond. Creative juices flow. Hearing each other's stories brings back our own often forgotten memories, good and bad, which in the presence of sympathetic others can be healing.

Three books I have found particularly useful and interesting in terms of how to run such a group (including how to deal with disruptive, self-absorbed, or shy participants):

Birren, James E. and Donna E. Deutchman, Guiding Autobiography Groups for Older Adults: Exploring the Fabric of Life. Writing about your life two pages at a time. Provides questions (as writing prompts) on different themes, transitions: On the major branching points in your life, on family, on major life work and career, on the role of money in one's life, on health and body image, on sex roles and sexual experiences, on experiences with and ideas about death, on loves and hates, on the meaning of life (aspirations and goals), on the role of music, art, or literature in your life, and on your experiences with stress. Participants in GAB groups write a two-page story each week, on one of these themes. (I took the online training for GAB instructors in Birren's approach, when Cheryl Svensson and Anita Reyes were offering it together. The ten-week session really gave me a sense how the process works and was a great place to start. They aren't offering it together anymore.

     You may find these books helpful for conducting life story workshops:

Books based on Guided Autobiography principles (useful for their theme-related groups of "sensitizing questions"):

Writing Your Legacy: The Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting Your Life Story by Richard Campbell and Cheryl Svensson.
Telling the Stories of Life through Guided Autobiography Groups by James E. Birren and Kathryn N. Cochran
Uncovering Treasures That Matter: A Therapist's Guide to Asking the Right Questions by Bonnie Bernell and Cheryl Svensson. The same sensitizing questions can be used for memoir-writing or Guided Autobiography Groups.
• You can watch-listen online to the late Birren's lecture Psychological Development Through Autobiography .
• Kaminsky, Marc, ed. The Uses of Reminiscence: New Ways of Working with Older Adults. Interesting reading even if you don't plan to lead a reminiscence group for elders, and useful if you do.

You may also find these books helpful:
• Schneider, Pat. Writing Alone and With Others (an update of The Writer as an Artist, by the founder of the Amherst Writers and Artists Press and workshop method in Amherst, Massachusetts)
Transformational Reminiscence: Life Story Work, by John A. Kunz, Florence Gray Soltys, and others, provides professional insight into the process of helping older adults with reminiscence and life review.
Forget Memory:Creating Better Lives for People with Dementia, by Anne Davis Basting. A powerful antidote to the notion that memory loss = loss of identity, and a reminder that people with dementia lead better lives when they can express themselves and feel heard. You need better ways to help them than asking questions that require a good memory to respond.

• Anecdote (Australia, "Putting stories to work") offers a free download of Ultimate Guide to Anecdote Circles (PDF, a practical guide to facilitating storytelling and story listening). A blog entry criticizing a Steve Denning video about radical management for not telling stories also offers a Storytest to see if you can spot a story. Good site for insights into storytelling for businesses.
Teaching Life Writing Texts, ed. Miriam Fuchs, Craig Howes. A new book that looks useful only for academic courses where the focus is STUDYING life writing.
The Value of a Flawed Memory (Sue Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal, 7-26-16)
"Even inaccurate memories can help people shape their identities and set goals; a new understanding of memory’s role. "A growing number of researchers say memories are not just a storehouse for facts but also a creative blend of fact and fiction that helps people tell meaningful stories about their lives, set goals and envision the future in a realistic way. It is commonly believed that storing a memory is like making a video, but long-term memories are never literal replays. They’re mental constructions of facts, inferences and imagined details that people patch together after the fact...
"Sharing stories with listeners who pay attention and are emotionally responsive aids in recall of facts and helps storytellers find meaning in past experiences, according to research by Monisha Pasupathi, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, and others. Sad experiences in particular tend to take on more meaning when recounted to others."

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the late Philadelphia pediatrician-researcher-educator

Following are extracts from My Century by the late pediatrician, medical educator, and medical researcher Thomas McNair Scott (reprinted here by permission). I was hired to interview Tom and write his memoir by his son, Robert. I spent two weeks in Philadelphia interviewing him and as you can imagine it was fascinating.

"Delivering babies in the poor parts of Dublin was quite an experience. You went into the room, drove out the chickens, and delivered the baby. Very often the new father would ply you with whiskey. I managed to escape the whiskey. On the first delivery I made, instead of a baby I found a rare condition called a hydaditiform mole, a cancer of the placenta. I was very proud that I recognized it and called the hospital for help."


"My fellowship at the Thorndike was to end in June of 1931, but in the spring of that year the recently founded American Pediatric Society held its annual meeting in Atlantic City. Child care as a separate discipline was introduced to America in the mid 19th century by Abraham Jacoby, a German doctor, practicing in New York. Noting the poor care that children were receiving, Jacoby had made the care of children the basis of his practice, initiating such things as pasteurization of milk and immunizations. He must have taught other doctors to follow his example for he was appointed professor of child health at the New York College of Medicine in 1861. From this beginning arose the group of doctors who became pediatricians, but the first pediatric organization in the United States, the American Pediatric Society, wasn't founded until 1928. I had enjoyed my six months' training in child health at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in London very much so I decided to go to Atlantic City to attend the pediatric meeting. I traveled down from Boston by train, more than an eight hour journey. While at the meeting, I fell in with some students from Johns Hopkins and, seizing the opportunity, I asked them if I could hitch a ride with them to Baltimore. Thus it was that I took part in the discussion of cases at the weekly 'Grand Rounds' with Dr. Edwards A. Park, one of the country's leading pediatricians.

"Shortly after I returned to Boston, I received a letter from Dr. Park, asking if I would be interested in a job as the resident in the pediatric outpatient department. It seems that the resident he'd chosen for Outpatient care had come down with tuberculosis and had been sent to a sanitarium. I quickly replied to him that I was very interested but that I had had only six months' experience in pediatrics. He took me anyway."


"Medical knowledge and treatments have changed since the days I was a resident at Hopkins. When I entered pediatrics, for example, the standard of medical care called for treating cases of infants with pneumonia by bundling them up and sending them with devoted nurses to sleep in the fresh air on the roof. Also, at that time, many children had mastoiditis from middle-ear disease, which then required emergency surgical intervention, mastoidectomy. Now both of these diseases are treated, and indeed prevented, with antibiotics, but in those days there were no antibiotics.

"There was a real resistance to change when I was in training. Medicine had a nihilist mind set. While Fleming had discovered penicillin in 1927, and had shown that it killed bacteria in the petri dish, nobody in clinical medicine had taken notice of it. Although Salvarsan, an arsenical, had been shown to cure syphilis in 1903, no other advances were made in the control of infectious diseases until 1935, when Domack discovered Sulfanilimide with its powerful therapeutic antimicrobial action. Then, with the Second World War coming on, clinical medicine rediscovered penicillin and Flory initiated full scale production of the antibiotic, which became available for U.S. Army use only, in the early 1940s. The Army used it to cure syphilis, which was prevalent during the war. After the war, penicillin became widely used and the mindset changed.

"Attitudes toward pediatric patients have also changed. In the 1930s, when I was a resident, children were kept in the hospital for a very long time, to get over whatever illness they had. Their parents were rarely allowed to visit, only once a month, for fear they would introduce infection into the hospital. In addition, in a study of hospitalized infants who were cared for in every way except that they weren't held, most of those babies failed to thrive and many of them died. That study called attention to the importance of touching and love in the care of infants. In the 1950s, a knowledgeable psychiatrist at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, John Rose, realized that strict visiting rules were a mistake. Thinking that the nurses might object to any change in their routines, he persuaded them to try parental visiting three days a week. The nurses, soon realizing how much more quickly the children recovered, and how much burden having the parents there took off them, came to Dr Rose and asked, "Can't we have it every day?" This major change was not recognized as a real therapeutic advance at the time, and Rose died of complications from diabetes shortly after daily visits became routine at the Children's Hospital. But in my mind, this was a major advance in child care, which subsequently has became standard practice through out most of the world.

"We often discovered things as we worked. Cardiologist Helen Taussig, for example, ran the cardiac clinic for Dr. Park. She saw numerous babies with Tetralogy of Fallot, who were blue at birth for lack of oxygen, because their veins and arteries were transposed. She suggested that if one could surgically switch the vein and artery, these 'blue babies' could be saved. Dr. Blalock, a surgeon at Hopkins, was persuaded to try this operation. It was successful, and the baby being operated on turned from blue to pink. This procedure, the Blalock-Taussig operation, introduced cardiac surgery for babies and Dr. Taussig became known as the blue-baby doctor."

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Selection from
by Herman Sheets with Pat McNees

"Although Oskar [Kraus] was one of the more famous members of the family, my grandmother continued to think of him as her idealistic and impractical younger brother, always in need of her unsolicited advice. As I recall, she summed up his friends, efforts, and accomplishments like this: “First Oskar gets interested in and spends most of his career writing about Brentano. He could have picked someone noncontroversial to spend his time on, but no, he has to pick Brentano, the only professor to ever be expelled from the University of Vienna. And why was Brentano expelled? Because in 1894 he decided to argue that the Pope was not ‘infallible,’ a remarkably stupid thing to do in Vienna, the self-appointed capital of the remnants of the Holy Roman Empire.

“Next, what does Oskar get involved in? He supports hiring at the University of Prague some controversial civil servant from the Swiss Patent Office who isn’t even a lawyer. This Einstein wants to change all the laws of physics! First of all, no one understands anything he talks about. Everyone knows about Newton and the apple, how does he refute that? I don’t even think Oskar believes what Einstein is saying.

“Then Oskar gets involved with all those Czechoslovak nationalists. You know, like that former professor, Tomáš Masaryk, and his like-minded friends. The fact that both Masaryk and Oskar studied in Vienna with that expelled Professor Brentano clearly indicates that they have no practical sense. Also, anyone with any sense knows that the biggest tragedy of the Great War was the break-up of the Austrian Empire into all these silly little countries with no history and no culture!

“And as for his friend Albert Schweitzer, well at least he is not controversial. He has a lot of degrees and is well intentioned, but, like Oskar, has no practical sense. He is off in Africa so no one has any idea what he is doing or who he is.

“And finally, Oskar makes friends with Bertrand Russell in England. What good is a friend like him? He’s the most controversial person in the universe. What can you say about a mathematician who thinks he is a philosopher?”

~From Chapter 1, “Life in Germany and Czechoslovakia.”
Click here to order STARTING OVER


Hermann Chitz's life, which began quietly in 1908 in the Kingdom of Saxony, was to span a century and two continents. He escaped to America from Hitler's Europe; his parents, assimilated Jews, stayed behind. With a Prague doctorate and patent in hand, he landed in New York in 1939, and changed his name—starting over as Herman Sheets.

In wartime he worked on critical aspects of the atomic bomb that would end the Second World War. In peacetime he directed research and development for Electric Boat's nuclear submarine program. At the peak of his career, in a single year, his wife died unexpectedly and he was fired for displeasing Admiral Hyman Rickover.

As a single parent, with three of his six children still at home, he started his career over again in the University of Rhode Island. Not until his own children were educated and launched did he remarry and take on an expanded family. This is the remarkable story of an immigrant, inventor, ocean engineer, technical consultant, and family man who consistently turned difficult transition into new beginnings.

From Chapter 1, “Life in Germany and Czechoslovakia.”
Click here to order STARTING OVER


‘Everyone has a story.’ Growing industry makes memoir-writing more accessible (YouTube video, PBS NewsHour, 5.4 minutes, 5-21-23) What is our legacy? What do we leave behind after we’re gone? During the pandemic, many of us pondered these questions. Now, more people are passing on their stories in the form of memoirs. As Jeffrey Brown reports, these books — once reserved for the famous — are becoming more accessible than ever. "You don't have to be famous to have a good story to tell." Good interviewers are integral to unlocking your stories. "Not everyone is a natural storyteller.," says Gail Trecosta. "Not everyone as they're telling their story recognizes the parts of that story that might be very interesting. Not everyone is thinking in terms of how will this story make sense a hundred years from now, what part is missing." Good interviewers recognize when you've hit a dead end and need to head in a different direction. They encourage you to tell the stories of both successes and failures.
How to find the right personal historian to help you preserve your life stories (Dawn M. Roode, Biographers Guild of Greater New York, 9-9-20) Determine what you would like your end-product to be. Consider your budget. Talk to your top personal historian candidates. Well explained, and How to plan a life story book in 3 simple steps Broad steps:
    1. Organize your family archive.
    2. Write a life timeline.
    3. Narrow down themes you would most like to address in your writing or interviews.
Our story, in the hands of a pro (Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post Metro section, 12-10-13) "A growing number of families are turning to professionals to record their family stories, employing “personal historians” to sit and ask the open-ended questions they don’t have time to ask during the rush of holiday gatherings or the sporadic bursts of long-distance communication....Personal historians tend to focus on documenting the stories of living people and their relatives before they are lost.
Family History Narrative (Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, Creative Nonfiction) "There are several types of family history narratives. They can be like Colletta’s; he reports as a historical literary journalist, employing numerous creative nonfiction devices: active verbs, scenes and a narrative arc. Or it can be a family biography, like Judd’s book. He writes in the style and voice of a traditional biographer, with less attention to making the prose pop on the page: “George was not an innovator like his father, nor was he mechanically minded. He slipped into the management of the family businesses and worked under his father for nearly 20 years. . . .”             

  'Julie Foster Van Camp’s family history narrative, “Searching for Ichabod: His Eighteenth-Century Diary Leads Me Home,” might be called a family history memoir. She narrates her personal quest to learn about her ancestor..."
     Want to become a personal historian, helping others tell their life (or family) stories? Pick up a copy of Start and Run a Personal History Business: Get Paid to Research Family Ancestry and Write Memoirs by Jennifer Campbell. Jennifer was active in the Association of Personal Historians. For twenty years, APH members learned and shared a lot about the craft and the business in a floating conference that changed sites (and sides of the country) regularly for APH's broad membership. (I was president for a couple of years.) After twenty years, the organization folded, but local APH groups still exist around the country.

---A short history of the Association of Personal Historians (McNees) -- toward the end you'll find links to regional APH organizations.
---21 frequently asked questions about personal histories and personal historians (McNees)
---Listen to personal historian Stephanie Kadel Taras explain What personal historians do and why (audiofile of an interview on the Ann Arbor program "Everything Elderly." See Ann Arbor News program description.

---My Words Are Gonna Linger: The Art of Personal History, edited by Paula Stallings Yost and Pat McNees, with a foreword by Rick Bragg, a great gift for that person whose life stories should be recorded or told but who keeps saying, "Who cares what happened in my life?" Backstories about the process of getting the stories into print will be helpful if you want to help others tell their life stories. "At last, a collection that shows the 'why, what, and how' behind memoir as legacy." ~ Susan Wittig Albert, author of Writing from Life and founder of Story Circle Network. Out of print, but you may be able to find used copies.

Anecdote (Australia, "Putting stories to work") offers a free download of Ultimate Guide to Anecdote Circles (PDF, a practical guide to facilitating storytelling and story listening). A blog entry criticizing a Steve Denning video about radical management for not telling stories also offers a Storytest to see if you can spot a story. Good site for insights into storytelling for businesses.


Alt.obituaries ("notices of dead folks"), an online group for obituary lovers
Obituary Forum (blog for the Society of Professional Obituary Writers (and fans)
The Late Show with Gordon Pinsent (an unconventional take on the art of the obit — CBC radio documentaries of a range of Canadians, from a street kid with dwarfism to an elderly man obsessed with sailing through the Northwest Passage)
The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries, a delightful book by Marilyn Johnson, whose website is here.
Society of Professional Obituary Writers administered by Alana Baranick, author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers
Obituary search engines and indexes at libraries, universities, and societies (Ancestor Hunt's obituary search portal)
Links to obituary sites for over 800 newspapers in North America, Europe, and Australia
Obit Magazine (good reading online, for those who want more on the subject, including exemplary obits!)
Good Bye! (the late Journal of Contemporary Obituaries (archives 1996-2002)
Adam Bernstein on the difference between British and American obits and a link to the Telegraph (U.K.) obit page, with its distinctive obit style
Post Mortem (a Washington Post blog about "the end of the story") and an Editor & Publisher story about Post Mortum: 'Washington Post' Obit Blog Creates Death Stars.

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