I was so pleased I had been asked to signed books after I spoke at Jamboree a few weeks ago. Jamboree is an annual genealogy conference sponsored by the Southern California Genealogy Society at the Burbank Marriott. It’s one of the biggies.

So, I sold and signed what I thought was a respectable amount of books–for me.  (There’s Pat Williams, one of my students, on the far right, buying a copy of my new family history, The Parrett Migration.) I went home feeling like I’d done something kinda special.

Book Signing








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A Book is Born! The Parrett Migration

by Memoir Mentor on June 12, 2014

When I was a bride in my twenties (many years ago), my husband and I stopped at a farm in Locust Grove, Iowa, on a cross-country trip to the East Coast. The farm was owned by Ken and Lois Parrett, distant cousins of mine I had never heard of until that day. They took me on a tour of the area and showed me land my ancestors once owned and cemeteries where they were buried. That visit turned out to be Dawn Thurston, The Parrett Migrationone of those turning points that send your life in a new trajectory. I wanted to know more about these Parretts, whose name I’d carried since my birth. Over the years, between raising children and being busy with a thousand other projects, I occasionally set aside research time to visit genealogy libraries and communicate with distant cousins and various record keepers. It wasn’t until the last decade that my research took on an added focus. I was intent on writing a book that brought my paternal family to life.

And so it happened: I published my family history in late May and, book by book, readers are becoming acquainted with the Parretts–a family that had largely had been lost to history.

The five generations of Parretts profiled in my history left few records behind. As I became better acquainted with the eras in which they lived–America’s colonial and frontier periods–I began to realize that they took part in significant events in American history, including the major migration periods that spread the country’s borders ever westward. That realization gave me the theme that drove my story–and its title, The Parrett Migration: Their Story is America’s Story.

It’s been interesting to hear comments from readers. They tell me, “My ancestors were involved in these events, too.” Or, “I could write a similar story about my people.” It’s true. I suspect nearly anyone who reads my book will see their family’s story in the Parrett story. (And they should write their own version, shaping it to their family’s particular circumstances.)

My book was a challenge on many levels. Could I bring to life seemingly obscure people and tell an interesting story about them? Could I incorporate the writing techniques I stress in my classes? (I felt nervous about that one, for I knew I had strict judges!) Could I do justice to five generations without being too superficial? Could I finish such a mammoth undertaking?

I did finish, so I overcame at least one challenge. The jury’s still out about the others. However it’s ultimately judged by readers, I hope the book will stand as a sincere effort to honor my family and preserve their story for future generations.

To learn more about the book, go to http://www.ParrettFamilyHistory.com and purchase it at Amazon.com.


Connecting the Generations

by Memoir Mentor on May 24, 2014

Over the years, many of my students have complained about children who show little interest in their family history. “I don’t know why I’m working so hard on my family history,” they tell me. “No one in my family will read it.” Sound familiar?

Sometimes it’s difficult to get young people interested in their forebears–older people, too–because their attention is focused on the here and now: what’s going on at school or on their iPads, or (later), what’s going on at work or with their own children, and more. “It’s best to catch them when they’re young,” says my friend Janet Hovorka. She suggests talking to our children or grandchildren when they’re in the eight- to-twelve-range, before adolescence makes them hard to reach. Janet knows what she’s talking about. She has immersed her children and their home in the traditions of their ancestors. (Her fourteen-year-old son spoke at RootsTech this year, the youngest speaker ever to speak at that conference.)

Recently, Janet published a book–actually several books–that feature her ideas and suggestions for spreading a little family history in our homes, too. Her book, Zap the Grandma Gap, is a treasure–informative, inspiring, and fun to read. She writes, “Family history is one of the most important tools you can use to empower your children and help them become well-adjusted adults.” Her book is chock-fimageull of clever ideas to help families become more informed about their ancestors–ideas for games, gifts, recipes, photo displays, wall decor, maps, dioramas, family newsletters and blogs, time capsules, and more. You get the idea–and many more will come to you when you read her book.

In addition to Zap the Grandma Gap (which is primarily written for people like us who care about such things), Janet has created four activity books (so far) for young people on specific heritage topics. If you have ancestors who came from Sweden, Germany, or England, you’re in luck, because she has a workbook for your kids or grandkids. She also wrote one for young people who have Civil War ancestors. These workbooks offer heritage-specific games and puzzles, crafts, paper dolls, and simple, interesting articles about holidays, education, and other things pertaining to foreign lands. You have to see them to appreciate how fun and useful they are.

Trying out Janet’s ideas…

I heard Janet speak at a recent genealogy conference, and she inspired me so much, I decided to take my grandkids–who are in that critical eight-to-twelve-range–on a “field trip” to the town where I grew up, which is fortunately only about ten minutes from where I now live. So one Saturday morning a few weeks ago, I piled them in my car and we took a tour of my former homes and schools. Dawn & Kids FullertonWe even made an extended stop at a favorite park I played at. They were troupers and seemed to be interested–especially when I told them there was a surprise at the end of the tour. The surprise? Lunch at Watson’s Drug in Old Towne Orange, a charming little oasisBrooke & Quade Watson's  that has maintained its fifties/sixties atmosphere. Tom Hanks filmed his movie “That Thing You Do” in this location. Walk into Watson’s Drug and you take a step back in time–decades back. The “drug” part of the establishment is long gone. Today it’s an old-fashioned soda fountain, complete with jukebox, Formica-topped tables, and malts served in tall, frosty silver tumblers. I hope my grandkids came away thinking family history can be a lot of fun!

One more thing about Janet…. She and her husband, Kim, own Chartmasters, a company that designs gorgeous family tree charts of various kinds–custom ones, too–the type you might hang on your wall to get your family interested in their heritage–and that family history you’re going to write!