Thursday, August 14, 2014

21st Century Marketing and The World Blog Tour

Here I find myself in the second year of my personal history preservation business, A Lifetime Legacy. The last business I started was in 1980. It was a court reporting agency. Searching for clients was simple: open up the Yellow Pages, turn to Attorneys, and start calling them.  After a few calls, you’ll get your first client.  Done.  You’re a business owner.  As for 21st century entrepreneurship…quite a different story. “Yellow Pages? What’s that??” Now it’s about networking, relationships, social media presence…and the World Blog Tour.  

 A week or so ago my friend and personal historian colleague, Linda Shay, reached out to me and told me about the World Blog Tour. Be sure and check out her blog Saving History. The World Blog Tour is a wonderful concept of paying it forward…21st century style. Essentially, it’s a chain letter for blogs.  (Chain letters sure have evolved since 1891 when the first chain letter was sent!) Here’s the concept: Someone invites you to join in, you invite someone else to join in (and pay it forward), you invite someone (paying it forward), and so on. And it all kicks off with a simple blog post. In keeping with the World Blog Tour, I need to answer some questions. Soooo, let’s get this show on the road…

What am I currently working on?

I’m working on several projects, but the one I’m most passionate about is one which raises awareness of the importance of personal history preservation.  Association of Personal Historians NYC chapter Coordinator, Martie McNabb of Memories out of the Box, has designed and regularly hosts community events called “Show & Tell.” Endorsed by the Association of Personal Historians, these events are now taking place around the globe. (The events I host take place once a month in Commack on Long Island.) The title speaks for itself… “Show & Tell”…yep, just like in second grade, except this time it’s for grown-ups. Everyone is welcomed to bring an item of personal significance, and “show” and “tell” about it.  I’m especially passionate about this project because it brings people together, learning about each other through our stories. Stories of a ticket stub from a concert a “teller” attended just last weekend, or stories of a $2 bill another “teller’s” grandfather gave him when the “teller” was a tyke, making him promise never to spend it, assuring he’d always have $2 in his pocket. 

As an aside, in keeping with my passion to connect generations and preserve memories, I started a new online chat, #ALLchat - A Lifetime Legacy Chat. It's a nostalgic story-prompt driven Facebook chat. So join in on the conversation and Let's #Allchat! 

How Does My Work Differ From Others Of This Genre?

I spent 32 years as a court reporting agency owner, taking the spoken word and transposing it into written transcript form, without compromising the essence of individual conveying the story. Attorneys are rehearsed and specific with their questioning of a witness.  Witnesses are sometimes nervous and typically completely unrehearsed. It’s an interesting dynamic. BUT, a dynamic which has translated seamlessly to the field of personal history preservation.  I often equate my role as personal historian to that of an attorney during a deposition -- rehearsed with a list of questions, those questions to be answered by an unrehearsed witness, who is always passionate, often emotional, recounting an event from their life. The family stories I help preserve come from individuals who are unrehearsed, always passionate, often emotional, having witnessed history firsthand. It’s a remarkably-similar process. My former life as a court reporting agency owner gives me a unique vantage point in my role as personal historian.

Why Do I Write What I Write?

I hope to help individuals (and their descendants) understand why they do what they do and say what they say, by learning of the triumphs and challenges their ancestors faced, using that knowledge to move productively forward through life.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

For my blog writing, I sit down and…write. That’s it, really. I don’t give it much thought.  What’s on my brain comes out on my fingers, and words somehow appear on my screen. It’s my hope that those who read my blog come away feeling good, better understanding their place in this world, and knowing their descendants are relying on them to be the best person possible. We should all be proud of where we came from. I’m doing my best for my descendants, so that they can be proud…of me…of themselves.   

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

Saving History - As I mentioned earlier, stop by and check out my pal’s blog: Linda Shay of Saving History.  Linda is a research historian and adjunct history professor specializing in 20th Century studies, She’s currently directing an oral history project with a local veteran’s club and city museum. A gal with whose mission is that of my own, recording the stories of our everyday lives.  After all, what we learn is history books is only part of the story.

 Purely Simple Words - Another colleague, Georgia Piazza, writes a wonderful blog, Purely Simple Words… What you will find on her blog are interviews of fascinating people who have secrets to share. You will learn secrets to success and living your dream.  It’s a great study of different paths people have taken on their way to living a successful, fulfilled life.

 Food Stories Blog - Another favorite.  It’s our stories of…food.  (I’m an Italian girl. I have all my grandmothers’ recipes lovingly preserved in cookbooks, together with dinner table stories. And lucky me, my maternal grandfather was a chef. So I have his handwrittten cookbook from 1947.) Check out this blog for scrumptious recipes. Be sure and preserve your own recipes and the stories that go along with them, or use some of the recipes found on this delectable blog and start your own traditions, with stories to be told for generations.

 GeneaBloggers - I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this outstanding (and personal all-time favorite) blog site. It’s the ultimate site for your genealogy blog – an online community created by Thomas MacEntee. A compilation of outstanding blogs written by those passionate about genealogy and personal history preservation. There is something for everyone here. 

 So in closing, please check out the blogs I mentioned. Hopefully they’ll inspire you to start building your own personal history archive.

 Remember: Don’t let your family history be a mystery. (Your descendants will want to know.) 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Will Your Family’s Story Become History or a Mystery?

When answering my phone early one morning, I was greeted with the sweet voice of a young woman who sounded as though she was weeping. She asked if I might be able to help her. Her husband’s 95-year-old grandmother had just passed away. She was so sad. But she was also overcome with fear. Her own dear 97-year-old grandmother was…old. This young woman was so worried that her children would never get to know this remarkable person she called “Grandma.

I asked her how old her children were. “Oh, I don’t have any children yet. I must preserve all the stories my grandma has told me so when I do have children, they can know her like I do. Can you help me with that?”

I described some of the many ways personal historians assist in recording family history: printed memoirs, narrated slide shows, video biographies. I will never forget her next sentence, not for what she said but for how she said it:

“I must have her on video. 
I must see her sweet face telling her stories.”

She proceeded to tell me a bit about her grandmother, stories that weren’t the makings of a great history book … but oh, the content was riveting: the everyday life of an everyday person who has seen the world change over the course of a very busy century.

As I listened to this young woman, I thought about what life must have been like the day her grandmother was born, and how different life is today, a world hardly a whisper of its former self, except for the people who live in it, people living their everyday lives, working hard to raise families, wondering what the future holds, one day rolling into the next, each day before now part of history.

As this young woman reminisced, I was reminded of my own grandmother, who passed away at age 97 on October 9, 2001. Through my grandmother’s stories, I learned not only about history, but of my own FAMILY history.

Grandma spoke of her life when she was a little girl and a young woman (she’s 23 in this photo -- above -- from the 1920s). She told about her aunt marching for women’s rights to vote, reciting her aunt’s speeches, describing the exact outfits her aunt wore. She talked about her dad competing in boxing matches that were very popular in the early 1900s. She would smile telling about the coin purse her grandmother kept hidden under the layers of her floor-length dress.

Through my personal history voyage working with individuals and families preserving their legacy, I have discovered that knowing about the family who has come before us is so much more important than simply the need to satisfy our curiosity. The older I get the more I recognize the remarkable traits of my grandmother that have been passed down to my mother. I wonder how many of those traits were passed down from my great grandmother and great-great grandmother? There’s so much we can learn from our ancestors’ triumphs and mistakes. We can follow in their knowing footsteps, or change direction if we must … but only if we know the path they took.

We can sit and stare at a family tree assembled with the aid of second-hand tales and research sites, wondering who these people were and how their lives affected ours. Or we can start today adding life to the names on that tree by recording their stories, our story, creating “present” history.

Personal historians are experts at drawing out the stories our descendants will want to hear. We’ll teach you how to “do it yourself,” or work with you using special techniques developed by members of the Association of Personal Historians.

I know it always seems too early to start recording your family and personal history…until it’s too late. So, please reach out today. I'm here to help guide you on your way to preserving your history. I look forward to working with you—as partners in time.