I was born in Southern California to parents who grew up together in Redondo Beach, attended the same high school, and married shortly after my father returned home from the Navy at the end of WWII. As a genealogist, I somehow feel it’s important that you know I have Scots heritage from my mother, Swedish and German from my father.


I spent my childhood in Los Angeles and Orange counties in those carefree days when parents didn’t have to keep their children on a leash and playtime wasn’t structured with classes and teams. I enjoyed reading more than anything, but I also liked roller skating, ballet, and playing hide and seek with the neighborhood kids. After high school, my family moved to Ventura (about two hours north of Los Angeles), and it was there I met my future husband. I was 18 and he was 22. We courted when we were students at Brigham Young University and got married when I was barely nineteen! Within a year, we moved to Boston where my husband attended Harvard Law School, and we lived and worked as dorm parents at a private girls school. We became parents in our own right before he finished law school, and returned to California after his graduation with an 18-month-old son.

I earned a degree in English from UCLA in my late 20s, after I’d had a second son. (Those were hectic years!) We ended up with four children, three boys and a girl, who are now grown. While they were in their teens, I returned to college for a master’s degree in communications and soon after began working as a freelance writer.book signing

My husband and I have always been involved in genealogy, and I’ve spent many interesting hours in libraries and court houses trying to find out who I came from. After I wrote a family history about my Scots grandparents, I decided I’d learned so much from the process, I could teach others how to write stories about themselves and their families. For the last 18 years I’ve been teaching classes at Santiago Canyon College in Orange County, California, and teaching seminars and workshops for genealogy societies and other groups interested in learning how to write memoir and family history. Learn more about me and my classes at my website, www.memoirmentor.com.

In 2007 Signature Books published Breathe Life into Your Life Story, a book I co-authored with my husband, that includes much of the material I teach in my classes. It was long hard work, and I now have a deeper respect for anyone who writes and publishes a book.

In 2014 I published a family history of five generations from my father’s side of the family–The Parrett Migration: Their Story is America’s Story. It was a labor of love involving thousands of hours of research and travel to the places they lived in Europe and America’s Midwest, Southern, and Eastern regions. My goal was to bring to life ordinary people, like most of our ancestors, people who left few records behind to show that they lived. It turned out to be a rewarding project.Learn more more about the book here.

My blog is an attempt to participate in the larger community of people interested in writing personal and family histories and perhaps help a few people persevere in writing their stories.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Thomas MacEntee February 17, 2009 at 12:51 pm

You and Your Genealogy Blog Have Been Spotted!


Just a quick note to say that we’ve noted your blog over at Geneabloggers! It is now included on our blog list and I’ve also mentioned it in today’s post, This Week’s New Geneablogs (http://www.geneabloggers.com/this-weeks-new-geneablogs-4/).


Thomas MacEntee

2 Memoir Mentor February 17, 2009 at 8:41 pm

I don’t know how you found me so fast. You have SOME sleuthing ability. I’m happy to find YOUR attractive blog and am looking forward to checking out all the links you promote. Thanks for adding me to your list.


3 Annie Payne May 8, 2010 at 2:46 am

Hello Dawn,
I attended your pre-conference writing workshop at the APH conference in Salt Lake City, 2008 and am so pleased to have finally arrived at your website via Larry Lehmer’s blog.
I enjoyed reading the story about the Jewish mum’s cooking style and added a comment about our ’50’s & ’60’s universal panacea (which was ‘secret women’s business’, never to be spoken of in front of the males of the family. I continue to enjoy and revel in the cultural differences I encounter through my warm connections with APH colleagues.
I spoke on our ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission)Perth, yesterday and was secretly thrilled when the switchboard lit up when my name was mentioned 30 minutes before my 30minute interview which also contained ‘talkback’ directly with people on the radio station’s phone line, Facebook posts, text messages, and ‘tweets’ as I spoke about low cost, high impact ideas for Mother’s Day. So many women had warm memories of mum – in the kitchen surrounded by the neighborhood kids baking the weekly supply of cakes, biscuits, slices and pies; mum teaching tablke manners, mum teaching family values etc. It was great!

4 Joyce Scott April 11, 2011 at 11:20 am

Hi Dawn, What a wonderful presentation you gave to the group at St. John’s Lutheran on April 8. I was impressed how well you did with all the racket going on. You are truly a pro!! I noticed that non of the men nodded off during your presentation. That’s unusual for our group. Many of your ideas were so helpful in just writing e-mails to friends. I look forward to joining your class in the fall. My Hip replacement is scheduled for July 15, so I should be in good shape by then. The best to you! Joyce Scott

5 Memoir Mentor April 12, 2011 at 12:53 pm

It was so good to see you at the St. John’s luncheon, and I’m glad you’re returning to class, Joyce. I wish you well with your hip replacement surgery. You’ll be so glad to have it behind you.

All the best,

6 Shirley September 21, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Just dropped by to thank you for putting my blog on your blog roll. I get visitors from your site and want you to know I’m grateful. Looks like you continue to find larger and larger audiences. So happy for you.

7 Memoir Mentor September 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Thanks, Shirley.

8 Debbie Mayes February 1, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Nice profile on you in Speak! I know how you felt. I was scheduled at the same time as Curt Witcher at the OGS Conference this year. I didn’t expect anyone to come to my lecture. The little audience I had must have really been interested in my topic to pickmy lecture over hearing Curt speak.

9 Laura Moore May 29, 2013 at 5:10 am

Hi Dawn,

I came across your website because I was doing a search for Education Week. I love Family History and try to get my students like you to bring their ancestors to life and truly get to know them. Mine has been quite the journey. I left Iowa when I was 18, because my mom told me if I left all her problems would be solved. A supervisor found me crying in the break room and took me into her office. I thought she was going to fire me, but instead wrote me a letter of recommendation, gave me names of relatives in Salt Lake City and told me to be on the first bus to Utah on Monday morning, “At least now you will have a chance at life.” she told me. That Monday morning I got on Greyhound bus with $200 and two suitcases bound for Utah and here I am today. I have just written, and self published my first book called Friends…Lessons of Life. My friend told me “you need to get into Education Week.” But I have no idea where to start and that is how I found you. Wondered if you could offer any ideas or guidelines. I tried to find an email for you, but couldn’t your website said to leave a comment on your blog. Thank you for your time and help!! I will have to go check out your book now!! Laura Moore (LL Moore)

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