Friday, October 18, 2013

Have You Ever Wondered What Your Great Grandmother Looked Like?

Well, this could be her, but we'll never know, because there are no markings on this gorgeous photo. She was important enough to someone that they wanted a picture of her, but now she's "A Victorian girl." Let's make sure we preserve our pictures for our descendants. They'll want to know.

When I was a young child, my maternal grandmother told countless stories about her life and growing up at 87 Thompson Street in New York City.  Grandma “Porch” and her brother were raised by their maternal grandmother, since their own mother passed away when they were very young children.  Throughout the ‘20s and ‘30s Grandma was a professional singer at the Rustic Cabin in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey (where Harry James discovered singing waiter Frank Sinatra).  The singing troupe had many pictures taken during those decades.  (WNEW Radio broadcast from there.)  Well, in the 1950s, my dear grandmother lost all of her treasured pictures in a basement flood.  Except for one single picture of my mother and her two sisters as children, one picture of my grandmother at 23 years old, and one picture of my grandfather at about the same age, nothing was left but stories, lots of stories.  My grandmother mourned the loss of those pictures her whole life.  I will always treasure her stories.  (She passed away shortly after her 94th birthday in 2001. -- My grandfather had passed away many years before, in 1957.)  

To the contrary, when my paternal grandmother passed away (at 97 years old in 2009), we discovered a trunk in her basement stuffed with hundreds of pictures.  Our family was thrilled to find this treasure.  Decades of pictures of babies dating from the early 1900s through the 1950s, pictures of cruises taken with dear friends, pictures of homes, weddings.  BUT…who were these people?  Where were these places?  Not a single picture was marked with an identifier.  My paternal grandfather passed away very young.  This trunk likely contained pictures of him as an infant or young child…but we would never know.  I wish Grandma “Florida” was still here to tell us stories about all the people in those photographs (and because I miss her).

This is why I’m so passionate about helping families preserve their precious history, their heritage.  I will never forget my maternal grandma’s stories.  She held those stories so dear, and it’s my special tribute to her. 

(Grandma “Porch” had a porch off her second-floor apartment in Brooklyn – so…she’s Grandma Porch.  Grandma “Florida” had a perpetual tan, as she would have had she lived in Florida – so…she’s Grandma Florida.)

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Knit 1, Purl 2


I am an expert crocheter, thanks to my grandma’s teaching, yet an equally-inept knitter and seamstress, despite my grandma’s teaching.  

From a very young age, my grandma was a gifted seamstress, knitter, and crocheter.  (Her dad had been a tailor.  She figured she must have “inherited” her talent from him.)  When my grandma was 13 years old (in the early 1920s), in order to help support her family, she took a job with a clothing manufacturer.  Her job was to go to couture fashion shows, then go back to the factory and create exactly by memory (and at a lower cost) the designers’ fashions...yep, there were knockoffs back then, too!  She somehow could create anything (sans pattern), and she would carry that talent with her well into her 80s.  

1930s crocheted knitted purse
Grandma's crocheted handbag
She attempted to pass down to each of her eight grandchildren that same talent.  No such luck.  Except for me and the crochet part.  In 2005 my grandma gave me what will always be some of my most prized possessions:  all of her knitting needles, crochet hooks, straight pins and pin cushions, and…wait for it…Singer Sewing Machine (purchased new in 1930).  I still have many of her handmade items including a spectacular crocheted, lined handbag with lucite handle.  (I use it often…smiling all the while.)  

At the top of this post you'll see a picture of my sister and me wearing sweaters my grandma made.  Thanks Grandma.  Love you so much!  Miss you.

Love your parents.  We are so busy growing up, 
we often forget they are growing old.
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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Recording Life Stories in a Parallel Universe

From Courtroom to Living Room

As independent contractors, court reporters move beyond the courtroom, inhabiting a parallel universe of personal history, recording life stories.

The independent contractor world of personal historians is being populated by a growing group of new inhabitants...we know them as court reporters.   As natural-born listeners (and personal historians in a sense), court reporters are predisposed to memorializing events.  The personal history business has become a field court reporters easily relate to and transition into.

It especially attracts reporters in the latter years of their career.  As we grow older, it’s only natural to reminisce about our own family, our childhood, now long-gone grandparents who were (and always will be) dear to us.  

After spending three decades as a court reporting agency owner in New York City and on Long Island, I decided it was time for a change of I immigrated to the legacy profession.  I always loved hearing my grandmothers’ stories about their early childhood…and there were lots of stories.  I started helping others memorialize their stories for coming generations to enjoy. 

It’s funny, that change of pace I was looking for really turned out to be one that was not a change at all, except for the venue:  from courtroom to living room.  As a personal historian, I consider the storyteller “the witness;” the “swear-in” is their introduction with their name, address, date of birth; photographs and personal memorabilia are “exhibits;” friends and family are “expert witnesses.”  There is technical, legal, and medical “testimony” when corporate clients tell about starting their business (perhaps decades earlier) and the evolution to present day.  There’s even "off-the-record discussion" (when recording is paused for an occasional break).

Of course court reporting skills are not required for those pursuing a career as a personal historian.  The job requirements are: exemplary interpersonal, written, and verbal communication skills, organization (you are an independent contractor after all), business acumen is always a plus, and a passion to preserve our heritage.  

It’s your legacy.  It’s our legacy.  Pass it on.
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The Early Years of My Career and What I've Learned Along the Way

Learn, Observe, Listen

In 1977 I decided I wanted to be a business owner. As a young child, I was inspired by my parents and was taught I could be successful at anything I put my mind to. I once read somewhere, "To be truly successful in life, you need to find something you're good at doing and do it. And if God is smiling on you, it'll be something you enjoy doing."

Well, I was good at typing, thanks to years of piano lessons. That was a start. I was also intrigued by everything law. It occurred to me that court reporting might be something I'd be good at. I didn't know any different, so I dove in and "started a business." What the heck was I even thinking?? Of course I made mistakes, but I was honorable, hardworking, and determined to provide the best service possible. I have learned a lot along the way, not the least of which is to take yourself seriously, YOU are a business. Not having a site "on land" (as an independent service provider) doesn't mean you're not providing a viable, valuable service.

My best advice is: Learn...everything there is to learn about your profession, don't look to make a dollar every second you're learning (that'll come later); Observe...what works and what doesn't; and what clients want, not what you think they want.

The way service professionals perform their duties sure has changed a lot through the decades. It is an exciting time. To those starting out in their careers, I wish you all the best of luck. (Remember: Learn, Observe, Listen... LOL. And try to laugh a little along the way.)

“Successful people are not gifted.  They just work hard and succeed on purpose.”—G.K.Nielson
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