World Blog Tour…really?

In cultural history, Family History, social history on August 6, 2014 at 2:40 PM


globe-and-quillWorld Blog Tour…who knew???

Probably not the place to admit this, but I am always a little surprised when someone posts a comment to my blog so I was even more surprised when one of those comments was an invitation to participate in the World Blog Tour. What is World Blog Tour you ask, well, basically it is like a chain letter for blogs. Someone invites you to participate, you invite someone else to participate, and they invite someone to participate, and so on. So a very heartfelt thanks to Kassie Ritman, aka “Mom” over at for the invite (and the comments). Truth be told she is doing some really important work at her site; engaging her entire family in the process of family history preservation by focusing on “the stories behind the photos and stats.” Most of us would love to get our family on-board and Kassie shares some great ideas she’s used with her own family.

So, back to the World Blog Tour, a short Q & A about my own blog and then a quick shout out about some of the other blogs I follow. Maybe (fingers crossed) they will want to participate in the World Blog Tour as well. Now, onto my “A’s” for those “Q’s.”

Question One: What am I currently working on?

I’m an adjunct history professor so the summer is a bit slower than life in the fall. To that end I’ve begun writing a book. My academic research is focused on the 20th Century so this book will trace the everyday experiences of three families from 1933-1945; one each from Germany, England, and the US.

How Does My Work Differ From Others Of This Genre?

While the underlying goal of my work does not differ much (that is I hope to help folks gather, interpret, preserve, and share their family history) my approach does. As an academic and historian I understand that while history is generally explained by the deeds of the great heroes, it is in fact lived by everyone. Each one of us has a unique chapter to contribute and without it the story of history is incomplete. I help clients understand their own family history from the context of greater historical events of the time.

Why Do I Write What I Write?

I have always enjoyed history, studying the past, and trying to understand how our present condition was influenced by the events that came before. Most everyone I speak with indicates they too enjoy history but not the way it was taught in school; the endless memorization of places, names, and dates that were out of context. Hopefully my writing will encourage others to do some research of their own to reconnect with their own family history.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

Rather boring actually. Develop a thesis, do some preliminary research, re-think the thesis, and repeat. I jot down or record thoughts as they come to me and have kept a Commonplace Book for decades. I can easily fall into procrastination and then be forced to conduct a writing marathon but thankfully those are coming less and less.

A quick “shout-out” to some old friends and new discoveries.

Debbie Perham at A Lifetime Legacy is doing some amazing thing on Long Island. From her “grown-up show and tells” to her Facebook page for those who live or were from Commack Long Island she is making great strides in helping her tribe discover, preserve, and have fun with their family history.

Another plug for Kassie Ritman, aka “Mom” over at Her blog is full of really innovative ideas to get the family involved in the project and when you have more players it is just that much more fun.

Ben Highmore over at looks at history from a cultural perspective. Ben teaches cultural studies at the University of Sussex in England and recently published The Great Indoors: A Home in the Modern British House. Obviously his writing is about all things English but his style is very crisp and his work is a lot of fun to read.

Finally, the folks over at StoryCorps. While this is not really a blog they are doing some amazing work preserving the oral histories of everyday folks. Taking the form of recorded interviews, participants (two) simply sit in conversation. A copy of the recording is preserved at the Folklife Center at the Library of Congress (talk about preserving history). Check out their work and look for a StoryCorps program in your neighborhood.

So check out the blogs, start your own, and remember, you should be Saving History…because your story is priceless.

Dealing with our parents stuff

In clutter, Family History, social history on August 5, 2014 at 7:41 PM

downsizing parents stuff

Dealing with our parents stuff.

Claudia Buck of the Sacramento Bee published an article in the Seattle Times entitled “Boomers need help dealing with their parents ‘stuff’; basically a how to downsize your parents’ belongings. The statistics are clear; the parents of the baby boomers, generally in their 80’s and 90’s are passing on and leaving behind a lifetime of stuff to their children. Most of us don’t need an article to remind us that this “stuff” can become quite a dilemma for the family. If we have not already inherited our own parents “stuff” we certainly have enough of our own to know it’s everywhere. Lining closets, stored in boxes, crammed in attics and garages, our material lives take up considerable space.

Professional Organizers are featured in the article as their services are often enlisted to help sort, organize, and dispose of the accumulation… DISPOSE??? Yes, sometimes in the literal sense as boxes, furniture, and pounds of ephemera end up in dumpsters and charity bins across the country. Other times items are simply pared down and re-stored with the promise to “go through this stuff soon” but sometimes “soon” never comes and the boxes get passed down again. Of course we cannot expect to save everything, especially things we know little about, but that is exactly the point. Someone, at some point knew about that stuff, what it meant, and why it was saved in the first place. The things we amass help tell the story of who we were, what life meant to us, and what mattered to us.

If you find yourself dealing with your parents stuff, remember, part of that stuff is your history too. Ideally we can make time to discuss and document the memories before we find ourselves sifting through a garage filled with things. Remember, you too should be Saving History…because your story if priceless.


What are Boomers doing to set the Record Straight?

In Uncategorized on August 2, 2014 at 9:22 AM

Baby BoomersWhat are we Boomers doing to set the record straight?

In the course of research for an upcoming class I’ll be teaching on 20th Century life in America I have naturally encountered considerable material on the Baby Boomer generation. I am a “boomer” and while I know I have already lived through some of the most historically important events in American history, I have not really given much thought to how those events have been interpreted by the generations that followed me; Generation X,Y and Z. Well, based on the very preliminary research I’ve done, it seems there is a considerable debate brewing about the perilous conditions we boomers have passed on to those who follow us. Clearly there seems to be no shortage of “boomer bashing” opinions out there and while I defend everyone’s right to have an opinion I am left wondering if some of the “ranting” is perhaps a little short on sources; specifically, the actual interpretations of boomers themselves.

Have we given our subsequent generations enough data from which to make informed interpretations? Do they know how you experienced the 60’s or 70’s and how the events of those periods influenced the person you became? Do they know the rights they take for granted were not easily attained? We have the information; we have the memories and recollections. Are we documenting it, sharing it with our families, and helping to set the record straight? Look around your house; there are memory triggers everywhere. A photo, a piece of jewelry, a knick knack or piece of art; the list is endless and quite often simply looking at those “things” can trigger memories of a time long past. It is in your memories that a new interpretation of the event resides and you alone can help set the record straight.
Remember, you should be Saving History…because your story is priceless.


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