Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Are You Up for the Challenge? Family History Writing Month Begins February 1st

The Family History Writing Challenge is back for 2013...and it's going to be so good!

Are you staring at years of genealogical research data, boxes of old photographs, and stacks of notes about your ancestors?  Why not take 28 days and turn those names, dates, places, and anecdotes into a fabulous family history narrative?

The Family History Writing Challenge will take place February 1st - February 28th. Make a pledge to write want you want, how you want--for 28 days. The event will be hosted by Lynn Palermo at The Armchair Genealogist Blog.

It basically works like this:  You sign up for the challenge, choose how many words you commit to write each day (250, 500, 1000), and then start writing.  You'll receive daily writing prompts, inspiration, reminders, tips and links to instructional content from genealogists, published writers, and editors.

I'm honored to be providing one of the guest posts for this series.  

To sign up, click here.

Happy Writing!

Here is the official press release from The Armchair Genealogist:


The Family History Writing Challenge Motivates Members to Write Their Stories

For Immediate Release                                                   
Contact : Lynn Palermo

The Family History Writing Challenge returns for the third year of motivating family historians dedicating daily time for writing their family history stories.

Family historians wishing to take up the torch of writing their stories are encouraged to put down the microfilm and pick up the pen for the month of February, and start writing their family history stories.
Upon signing up for The Family History Writing Challenge, participating members are invited to declare a goal in the form of a word count and to commit to completing that word count during the 28 days in February. In exchange for the commitment, Lynn Palermo (The Armchair Genealogist) host of the month long challenge will send out daily newsletters that include motivational messages, writing lessons, along with instructional guest posts by leading genealogists, published authors and editors.

Lynn Palermo states, “by committing to a daily word count my hope is for all participants to make substantial headway in their family history writing goals and to create long lasting writing habits that will carry them forward throughout 2013.”

Lynn encourages members to sign up early to take advantage of the January newsletters that will help participants organize themselves to begin writing on February 1st. A forum for the event is available to participants who want to exchange ideas, struggles and successes in a more intimate atmosphere.

Special guest authors include certified genealogist, author and writing instructor Sharon DeBartolo Carmack from and author, speaker, genealogist and writing instructor Lisa Alzo from The Accidental Genealogist. Guest posts also include writer, educator, historian Biff Barnes Editor at Stories to Tell Books, author and writing coach Tami Koeing from Your Story Coach and Mariann S. Regan, author of the family memoir Into The Briar and Patch and blog. Lynn Palermo suggests participants should watch for future developments in coming weeks, as this list was not complete at press time.

Family historians who wish to participate in the challenge can sign up or learn more about the challenge at The Family History Writing Challenge website. The event will run from February 1st-February 28th.

Friday, January 25, 2013

For the Packrat and the Genealogist: A Review of “How to Archive Family Keepsakes”

Most genealogists likely have a collection of “must have” or “go to” reference books either on their physical bookshelves, or in their virtual ones.  I’ve recently added a new title to mine:  How to Archive Family Keepsakes by Denise May Levenick (a.k.a. "The Family Curator") [FYI: I have the e-Book]

Image courtesy of Denise May Levenick

This book is exactly what I need. In 2006, I sold my parents' house in Pittsburgh.  Both Mom and Dad had passed away, and being an only child, the responsibility fell solely on my shoulders.  Before I could finalize the sale, I had the unenviable task of cleaning out a 40-year accumulation of "stuff."  The house was not very big, but had enough space for just the three of us.  There were two rooms downstairs (living room and kitchen), two bedrooms and a bath upstairs, plus a basement (And, we didn’t have a garage).  But, somehow we managed to store an amazing amount of “stuff” in that living space. Collectively we had clothes, furniture, family documents, and photographs.  Also, I discovered plenty of my own possessions still stored in the basement and attic including dolls and toys, books, stuffed animals and a huge record collection. Mom left behind jewelry, dishes, figurines, appliances, and vases of every size, shape and color (among other items), and Dad left his baseball caps, a scrapbook of photographs and newspaper clippings from his days as a basketball player, and a huge collection of carpenter’s tools, including every type of nail, screw, and drill bit you can imagine.  I did not have much time to get everything cleaned out before the closing date, so basically I threw out what was broken, or otherwise believed to be trash, and then packed everything else up in labeled boxes and moved it six hours away to my own home. 

I'm embarrassed to say all that “stuff” has sat mostly untouched for six years in a spare room and our garage.  I have not done much in the way of organizing, save for a few “clean and purge” sessions I have been able to squeeze in between work, family time, and other obligations.  Each January, I set a goal to “downsize” and archive, and I start off with good intentions. I will organize a few things, toss some others, but somehow I just never seem to get around to the “archiving” part. 

When I first learned that Denise wrote this book, I was thrilled for her because she is a colleague and friend, but I also knew it was a book I had to read.  I need help with archiving (lots and lots of help actually). Thankfully, in her book, Denise provides just the tools I’ve been waiting for!  Also, I’d like to note here that a portion of the proceeds of this book's sales go towards helping to fund the 2013 Student Genealogy Grant, founded in 2010 in honor of Denise’s mother, Suzanne Winsor Freeman.  I first met Denise at the 2009 Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree. I sat with Denise and her wonderful mom, Suzanne, at the banquet, and I commend Denise on her generous example of “giving back” to the genealogy community.

But…back to the book.  From archival papers to artifacts, software solutions to source citations, How to Archive Family Keepsakes, is packed with so many useful tips for genealogists and family historians or curators of all levels, experiences, and interests.  It's a one-stop organizational solution.  Over the years I have read other books and articles on organizing and archival practices, but Denise’s book stands out for me. 

The book begins with how to set goals and objectives.  I like goal-oriented projects. The scope of organizing and preserving family keepsakes is a massive one and always seems so overwhelming to me.  But, Denise does an excellent job of breaking the associated tasks into a series of smaller, more manageable steps.  There are a series of  “Checkpoints” (lists, inventories, forms), with estimated times for how long each task will take, as well as recommendations on the best storage containers and archival supplies. I also like the practical suggestions and the “easy-working solutions that are gentle on you wallet,” and the “call out” boxes that have definitions, tips, or other key points.

I could go on and on, but I’ll simply say:  "Buy this book. You won’t be disappointed!"

The only complaint I have (it’s actually not a complaint, but an observation) is that I wish How to Archive Family Keepsakes had been available seven years ago!   But, “better late than never,” right? Now that I have this book, I finally believe I have the impetus I need to get going and get organized! 

Whether you’re a packrat, a genealogist, or a curator (or all three), I think you’ll feel the same way too.

Disclosure:  I was not paid to review How to Archive Family Keepsakes  However, I did I receive a free PDF copy of this book from Denise Levenick to review. The links included are to Denise's website.  My review reflects my honest opinion of this book.

Copyright 2013, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Remembering Joan Miller

It has been a week since I heard the news that my fellow genealogist, blogger, and friend, Joan Miller had passed away after a battle with cancer.  It is still difficult for me to believe she is gone.

There are people who come into your life, and you instantly like them.  Joan was one of those people.

I remember meeting Joan and her husband, Reg, for the first time in January 2010 when I was a speaker at the Arizona Family History Expo in Mesa, AZ.  A group of Geneabloggers in attendance went out for dinner.  I remember Joan and I shared a sampling of wines and some great conversation.

Over the years, we saw each other at other conferences, including RootsTech, and the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree.  We would always joke about how Reg, who swore he was "not a genealogist" was slowly becoming one, even though he would not admit it.

Joan wrote a wonderful and award-winning Blog called Luxegen.

I will miss Joan's kindness, enthusiasm, and sense of humor.  Quite simply:  Joan was one of the good ones.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Reg and her family.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Join Me: Free SCGS Webinar--Saturday, January 5, 2013

Please join me this Saturday, January 5, 2013, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern/10:00 a.m. Pacific time, for a free Webinar, "Family History Writing Made Easier:  Cloud-Based Tools Every Genealogist Can Use," hosted by the Southern California Genealogical Society.


Telling your family’s story just got a whole lot easier thanks to a number of cloud-based note taking and writing tools and apps you can access from home, your netbook or iPad, and even your smartphone. Learn about the latest tech tools and writing apps for bringing your family’s story to life!

Click here to register.

I'm looking forward to sharing my favorite tips and tools with you!