This Week in Personal History... August 8

curated links to blogs and articles of interest to personal historians and family biographers

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

—Orson Welles


From “sharenting” to editing, from how the stories we tell about ourselves shape our lives to how to handle family photographs after a loved one dies, this week’s links run the storytelling gamut. Which is your favorite—and why? Share your thoughts with our generous contributors, if you will.

And, of course, let us know if you swing by Times Square to pick up the telephone!

Roundup of Personal History Links - August 8, 2017

In the News

Many of us have the urge to document our lives, but for one segment of the American population this has become an almost obsessive compulsion: parents. I count myself among this group and understand both the draw and drawbacks of digital sharing. Check out two varying perspectives in “I’m Giving Up the ‘Sharenting’–for the Sake of My Children” and “X Marks the Mylestone.”

“When we want people to understand us, we share our story or parts of it with them; when we want to know who another person is, we ask them to share part of their story.” How subtly reframing your narrative can help you to live more purposefully.

On the Blogs

This one’s an oldie but a goodie, rediscovered when a colleague shared it on social media: Genealogies tend to focus on names and dates, but oral traditions add flesh to the skeleton. Are you listening to your grandmothers?

When cleaning out your parent’s home after a death, don’t let all those boxes of family photos, and the stories they hold, be a burden; instead, allow them to help you heal.

Have you written your life story? If you’re ready to take the next step, Shreveport, LA–based Sarah Hamer discusses the value—and different types—of editing.

Longtime editor and writer Pat McNees, who is based in Maryland, provides a wealth of information on her site about memoir and life story writing. Warning: Don’t click unless you’re willing to get lost in a web of links—one good story leads to another here!

Worth Checking Out

At the intersection of pop culture and oral history, this brilliant interactive art installation in NYC's Times Square creates a platform for immigrant voices. Visitors are invited to open the door of one of three repurposed telephone booths, pick up the receiver, and listen to oral histories of immigration from the newest New Yorkers.

Visitors can also open the phone book inside each booth to read more about the storytellers' communities both here in New York and the countries they have traveled from, and to leave behind a part of their own story if they wish. The installation includes 70 different stories that will last anywhere between 2 and 15 minutes. Through September 5.