The book, the classes and seminars—all things pertaining to Memoir Mentor—actually had their beginning when I, then Dawn Parrett, married Morris Thurston, a man with an abiding love for family history. He coaxed me into taking a genealogy class with him that first year of marriage, when we were both students at Brigham Young University in Utah.

Midway through that class, we had saved enough money to pay for gas for the one-hour drive from Provo to Salt Lake City’s famed Family History Library. (Yes, our budget was that tight!) The first time I saw the birth record of my Scottish grandmother in the hypnotic glow of the microfilm reader, I was hopelessly snared into the intriguing world of genealogy.

A book came later, a history of that Scots grandmother and her family. After publishing the book, the idea struck me that I could teach others how to write and publish their family histories. That thought evolved into what has become eleven satisfying years of teaching life story writing to hundreds of students in California and Utah. My classes focus on writing—the quality of writing—not merely getting something on paper, but crafting a story so interesting, others will want to read it.

My curriculum soon grew into a book, Breathe Life into Your Life Story, co-authored with Morris, who has lectured with me in seminars about our shared interest and has written an award-winning biography of his Norwegian ancestor Tora Thurston. 

Along the way, we’ve also collaborated in remodeling a home from top to bottom, raising four children while I earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and he earned a law degree, and keeping a long marriage fresh and interesting.  We’ve survived with the partnership intact.

So, that’s it—in a nutshell—my history with family history.