Friday, April 24, 2009

2 good children's resources for writing life history.

Fletcher, Ralph J. How to write your life story. Collins, New York, 2007.

This book is a great 102 pages on making your life into a good story. An engaging book in a very readable format. (Good for adults too.)

  • Myth#1 You have to be a famous celebrity
  • Myth#2 You must have an amazing life
  • Myth#3 You can't write your life story until you are old and gray
  • Myth#4 Nobody will read it so what is the point.

In answer to the above, Fletcher writes that interesting stories happen to everyone. What really is important is how well written the history is.

The book includes interviews with youth authors, Jack Gantos, Jerry Spinelli, Kathi Appelt and how they turn life stories into books. It also includes good information about how to write well, including: finding a focus, thinking about form, the "so what?" factor, chronology, characterization, dealing with the hard stuff, and etc. Highly recommended.

Smith, Erica. Write it Down! A girls guide to keeping a journal. Rosen Central: New York, 1999.

This was a vibrant 48 page little book geared towards middle school aged girls extolling the virtues of keeping a journal. It suggests that journaling can help you keep your "brain sane" and help you look back and see how much you are learning. It can help you get through life's tough situations and give you something to confide in without being judged.

There are "Jump Start" ideas throughout the book giving hints about what to write about, such as:

  • Describe 5 great things about yourself
  • What is one memory you have from first grade?
  • Describe a typical school day.
  • Describe a typical day 15 years from now.
  • Who is your best friend?
  • What do you talk about when you are together?
  • Pick a person in your family and describe your feelings for him or her.
  • How did you view this person when you were little? How do you view him or her now?
  • If you could be any animal, what would you be? Why?
  • Write about a special day you spent together with your bud.
  • If you could take a trip anywhere with your friends, where would you go? Why?
  • Describe a time when someone was really there for you. What did this person say or do that helped you?
  • Describe a time when you were disappointed by a person. Did you express your disappointment? If not, how would you do it now?
  • How are you similar to each of your parents? How are you different?
  • When was the last time you tried something new? What was it? How did it go? Would you do it again?

The book had a large focus on keeping your journal private and how to deal with it if someone invades that privacy. I also appreciated it's recommendation to talk to a real person if you needed help with certain situations such as depression, drug use, physical violence, etc.--not just bury all your feelings in a journal.

The book also recommended using your journal as a vehicle for self discovery in other ways, once you have entries to go back and read. For example:

  • Read what you wrote 6 months ago and look for some clarity about who you are and where you are going.
  • Have a friend or family write in your journal, or choose a section to read to them.
  • Re-write a story from your journal into a short story, a play or a song
  • Try explaining what you want to in pictures only, no words.
  • Jot down ideas on any topic, just random.
There were several website resources listed in the back, but I wasn't really impressed--certainly couldn't recommend them here. The booklist looked much more promising. I'll let you know when I try them out. Other than the questionable websites, this was a great book for budding teenagers. Hopefully it will help in getting a few interested in their own personal histories.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Making Family History

Yesterday, I gained a new member of the family. My sister got married. I have a new brother-in-law, Colin, and my sister is the new Mrs. Amy Slade. We spent the day with my family, and with a whole new branch of the family, as well as extended family we don't get to see enough. It was one of those watershed days, where your life and family all comes into focus. One of those days that don't happen often enough.

The day was heavenly. She couldn't have had better weather. And the trees were just coming into bloom. All up and down the street were gorgeous flowering trees and a breeze came up early in the morning and blew some of the petals all over the driveway and the yard. It was like confetti over everything. Daffodils and tulips were everywhere. Dad is a wonderful gardener so you wouldn't have even known it was the first really warm week of the year. It was just the most perfect spring day I've ever seen--just what one would want for her little sister's wedding.

Probably so I could incorporate it into my blog, (grin) Amy integrated family history and the blending of these two families into the party. (thanks Amy.) For favors, she had the favorite cookie recipes from each of the new couple's grandmothers, their mothers and then a new recipe for Amy and Colin. They printed recipe cards of each for everyone as mementos and displayed wedding pictures of each of the couples. Literally, it was a sweet tribute to the families they come from.

We, of course, printed a bunch of giclees of the couple and of Amy's bridal pictures. You'll have to permit me for a minute to brag about how beautiful my sister is. These giclees we did were incredible. And we had a hard time deciding which to print. They all looked like a magazine shoot.

Ok. I'm done. But she is gorgeous isn't she? And the prints turned out so nice. I'm afraid that we got a little carried away, and that they will have more pictures of themselves than they will know what to do with.

Amy and Colin are both the youngest children in their families and Collin comes from a large family. So there were tons of nieces and nephews, in-laws and etc. The pictures that included the whole family were amazingly huge, reminding me of the turn of the century photographs you see of huge families. I spent the day pretty blown away by the changes in our family. We haven't had a wedding for 15 years and my family has pretty much stayed the same for that time. Now, our family relationships are changing, my younger sister is an adult, and the balance of nurturing will begin to shift. The span of a family never ceases to amaze me even though I work with genealogy every day. Life moves so quickly and passes from one generation to the next in what seems like moments. And all through it, those precious, sometimes choppy, always consequential relationships are really the only important things in life.

And there is nothing like a family wedding to make your life flash before your eyes. Yesterday I got to see second cousins once removed, great aunts, my uncles I don't get to see enough, previous teachers, old family friends, neighbors I used to see every day but haven't seen for 15 years, and lots and lots of the people who shaped me into who I am. I got to spend a little time thanking those people for the wonderful influence they have had on me, catching up on how everyone is and being grateful and overwhelmed at how blessed I've been. It is just amazing how much one life affects so many others, and how so many lives affect yours. As I head back to real life today, I hope I can let that perspective continue to guide my day to day actions.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dear Myrtle announces a new blog

Got this from Dear Myrt today. I'm sure it will be worth reading, as is everything she does.
Take a look:

Well, after much anticipation and behind-the-scenes effort, Ol' Myrt here is pleased to announce the birth of a BRAND NEW Genea-Blog namely the Internet-Genealogy Blog featuring my take on topics presented in Family Chronicle, Internet Genealogy, Discovering Family History and History Magazine.

Ol’ Myrt here is not abandoning her own DearMYRTLE’s Genealogy Blog. You can count on me to continue to “opine” here on a regular basis. (Opine is a word Genea-Musing's Randy Seaver used recently to characterize one of Ol' Myrt's posts.)

As if six to twelve DearMYRTLE blog entries each week aren’t enough, eh? Seriously though, all sorts of great things are happening in the magazines from Moorshead Publishing, Ltd. and I’ve jumped at the chance to spotlight the work of some mighty talented genealogy experts.

Hmm, does Myrt really “jump”?

You betcha. Just ask my grandchildren.

Visit today, and subscribe to the RSS feed using whichever blog reader you are familiar with.

The best part is they’ve turned on “comments” so you can freely share your feedback with the other blog readers. I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Blog post about us.

Geoff Rasmussen just posted a great article about the fine art prints we do.
Take a look at
Publish your tree on artist's canvas.
You really have to see these giclee prints to appreciate them. They are beautiful. A real heirloom--like Geoff said. Hope his family enjoys it.
Thanks Geoff.

Sources 2

I'm all into source integrity lately. (Did you click on any in my last post? :-D) Here is another good link today.
Six Genealogy Myths to Avoid
Thanks Family Tree Magazine. Good Stuff.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sheva the Fair, my most famous Great-Grandmother

For today's carnival of genealogy I've chosen to tell you about my most famous ancestor who changed the course of Jewish History. Sheva of Alexandria also known as Sheva the Fair.

Sheva is the seventeenth great-grandmother of my father's mother through my Sylvester, Streeter and Schram lines. She was born in 34AD in Alexandria, Egypt and brought by her parents to En-Gedi Israel in 45AD. From the extant sources we know that she grew up happily with her two older brothers there by the spring in En-Gedi where her father was a sandal maker.

Sheva changed the course of history in 74 AD when she was taken prisoner by General Lucius Flavius Silva, the Roman commander of the 10th legion stationed at Masada. As I'm sure you know, Masada was one of the last strongholds of the Jewish people after the fall of Jerusalem. As described by Flavius Josephus in his book Jewish War (7:143) the seige of the Romans against the Jewish Sicarians on the inpenetrable Masada was one of the great military standoffs in history. The Romans withstood the heat of the Negev desert to build 4 forts and lay siege to the fortress, eventually building a siege ramp of thousands of tons of rock which still stands today. According to Josephus (Jewish Antiquitites 2:434), the fortress walls were breached by the battering ram on 16 April 74AD where the Romans found that 961 of the 966 men, women and children who had occupied the mount had taken their lives in a mass suicide rather than be captured by the Romans.

The famous Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin discovered Sheva's papyrus codex journal when he excavated Masada in 1964. It was found with a primitive roman mirror, linen scarf and some high heeled sandals (only worn by Roman nobility.) The journal has shed much light on the life of the Roman soldiers and specifically Silva. While Sheva wrote of her growing love for Silva and their deep relationship, it also describes her gentle turning of his heart towards compassion and respect for the Jewish people. It is because of Sheva that Silva became a life-long advocate for the Jewish people. Through Sheva's journal that we know of Silva's response to the suicide at Masada, "A victory? What have we won? We've won a rock in the middle of a wasteland, on the shores of a poisoned sea." Tragically, while the fortress was under seige, Silva gave her the choice of returning to Rome with him or taking the means necessary for her to live independently of him. Rather than being a kept woman, she chose to take the wealth and soldiers Silva offered her and return to Alexandria. It was with Silva's money that she became one of the founding benefactors of the famous Library of Alexandria, one of the largest libraries in the ancient world. The sculpture above stands in the library courtyard. Later fragmentary sources tell of her finding love with Demetrius of Phaleron. While she had three children with Demetrius, including my sixteenth great-grandfather Theophrastus, it is known that she always felt her soulmate was Flavius Silva.

Much has been written and said about Sheva in the many books, articles and etc. about Masada and the Library of Alexandria. In fact, Sheva was portrayed by Barbara Carrera in the 1981 movie Masada. Barbara met with me and my grandmother to do research for the role early in 1981. She ended up doing an ok job I think but didn't really capture the beautiful grace of this amazing woman.

Genealogical information on my father's mother's mother's line is from Ancestry's One World Tree and these personal websites.