Edith Letwin's grave marker

Putting Stones on Our Graves

I had a breakthrough recently in my genealogical research. I had been searching for information on my great-grandmother, Edith Letwin, and her children. Edith was my paternal grandmother’s mother. I’ve written previously about her and my great-grandfather, Joseph. My uncle, Jay Kubrin, vividly recalls her death and funeral, which happened when he was a child and…

The Hare With Amber Eyes

The Hare with Amber Eyes

One of the pleasures of reading family history is the way it skips across boundaries. Instead of one thing, you get two: family and history. Read this way, the story of your clan can be thrilling. All at once, you find your ancestors hobnobbing with French Impressionists, corresponding with poets, or dodging the Gestapo. It’s…

Mariann S. Regan's "Into the Briar Patch"

The Legacy of the Briar Patch

Into the Briar Patch: A Family Memoir by Mariann S. Regan My rating: 5 of 5 stars Long before family historians begin formal research, they pass through an informal stage of inquiry. This casual phase, in which an outwardly passive child or adolescent absorbs lore handed down through the generations, is nearly universal. Most of…

Kubrin-Lipsy family tree

My Family Tree—a Work in Progress

Several people have read my family history in manuscript and asked for some sort of device to help them keep track of the characters and relationships. This request is understandable. The manuscript is crowded with characters. The narrative jumps between branches of the family and between generations. If you don’t already know our lineage, it…

Memories & Souvenirs by ThunderChildAllen

What Is Memory?

A few weeks ago, while writing about my “discovery” of my great-grandfather Isadore Katz’s birthplace of Várpalánka, I made a mistake. I wrote at the time that my family had not lost anyone in the Holocaust, but this statement was incorrect. I learned about my error several days later, when my mother reminded me of…

Christopher Benfey's "Red Brick Black Mountain White Clay"

Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay

As I move more deeply into the effort of writing a family history, I find myself reading more widely in the genre. You can’t work without taking stock of the precedents in your line. To write a family history, I have to come to grips with the genre itself, to learn lessons from those who…

My extended family, circa 1968

Why I Write About My Extended Family

I can find no rule stating that a memoir about family must focus on the writer’s immediate family, but the custom seems to be widely observed. Parents and siblings occupy the foreground. Aunts, uncles, and grandparents take up their positions in a dim and sketchy background. The family tableau appears in this configuration as if…

Douglas Fairbanks at the Third Liberty Loan Rally. By Paul Thompson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Microhistory

For some time now, I have been working under the assumption that family history and memoir require some sort of framework to guide the writing. It’s fine to rummage in your store of memory and reflect on the life you have lived. It’s also fine to research your family tree and trace your line of…

My great-grandparents, Joseph and Edith Letwin

Joseph and Edith

Some months ago, I wrote a post about my great-grandparents Harry and Tillie Kubrin, the forebears of our line on the Kubrin side. That post started out as a primer on family history craft, but something drew me inexorably to the subject of Harry and Tillie, and I quickly veered off-message. Great-grandparents must be inherently…