family history and genealogy

Tag: interview techniques

Every Story Is Apocryphal

"Family History" by Robert Kehlmann. Sandblasted hand-blown glass, mixed media. By Rkehlmann (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“Family History” by Robert Kehlmann. Sandblasted hand-blown glass, mixed media. By Rkehlmann (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 If you like to write but lack the gift of unbridled imagination, I have just the thing for you. Family history combines the richness of fiction with the veracity of your daily paper.You don’t have to imagine characters. You don’t have to worry about plot. Just write down those family stories and mix in some genealogy or social history. The stuff practically writes itself. Continue reading

Something Durable and Luminous

Long after my family history is finished, after the writing is done, after my book is published (or not), after all my relatives and I myself are gone, our voices will still be audible in digital recordings. Our words will also be legible, provided anyone takes the trouble to dig through my files. I have no idea how posterity might receive this archive. I’m still grappling with the oddity of this situation in the present. Continue reading

What Is Memory?

Memories & Souvenirs by ThunderchildAllen

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 some earlier conversations we had had on the topic.
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Writing About Living People—Personal Issues

Writing about living people raises a host of legal, personal, and literary issues. If these complications escape your notice while you’re in the throes of writing, try flipping through a family album sometime. Resist the undertow of sentimentality and nostalgia and instead consider the people you see as changeable human beings, with relationships with each other and a relationship with you.

How do you write about your relatives while taking all this complexity fully into account? How do you write about them—truthfully and candidly—without disturbing these relationships? Continue reading

What Belongs in Your Family History?


Writing family history is first and foremost an exercise in selection. Reviewing that hoard of letters, photographs, diaries, family legends, and oral history from which you compose your account, you must decide continuously which details to include and which to leave out. Continue reading

Then and Now

I was down in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago for another round of spelunking in the family archives. My explorations were extremely successful. I found scads of old letters, notebooks, calendars, and greeting cards. My grandmother was a terrific archivist, and my mother has preserved everything. Continue reading

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