This blog is for my family. The one I have now, and the one that will come along in the future, in the years and decades and – if we haven’t blown up the world yet – centuries ahead.
I have thousands of files, photos, documents; plus household items, pieces of furniture, even shards of homespun cloth, the accumulated history of nearly 1,200 years of ancestors. Some of these treasures are displayed with love, others are jammed in drawers or stuffed into manila files “to be organized later.”
This is “later.” I’m not going to put it off any longer. I’ve had most of it around me all my life. On rainy days as a child I poked through drawers and cabinets and studied whatever of these treasures I found. Some of our cabinets held scraps of paper written by my grandmother, telling where that piece of furniture or that scrap of cloth came from. Not what store or what city, but what ancestor. There was a chest of drawers that belonged to Sir Isaac Newton’s half-sister. A blue and white blanket made of wool my great-great grandmother wove and loomed herself. A basket. A scrapbook. A metal box…. Eventually, I’ll digitize everything that’s two-dimensional and have it in a safe online spot available to all my family. Also eventually, I’ll write down all the family stories that I know so they don’t end with me. I have hundreds of them, maybe more once I search my brain. Stories that my mother and father told me, or that I remember from my grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Because I was always listening. I’m a writer (professionally), and that’s my job, to listen.
It’s an ambitious goal, but I’ll take it one post at a time. It should only take me 20 years or so.
The following is an interview conducted by Gini Webb of Ginisology for Geneabloggers.
May I Introduce To You . . . Cynthia Berryman
I have the pleasure of introducing you to Cynthia Berryman and her blog, We’re All Relative, described as, “. . . A place to archive my family’s stories and photos.”
A little About Cynthia
“I grew up in a little town called Encinitas, in the 1950s and ’60s. It was really three towns that adjoined – Cardiff, Encinitas, and Leucadia – and the three together had a population of less than 5,000. It was idyllic. We lived on a ranch, with horses and dogs and chickens, occasionally a goat or a few ducks, with all that open space. Ours was the only house in a valley that was close enough to the ocean that I could hear the waves at night. It was so casual then. After a day of sun and surf I could walk into the grocery store barefoot, and all the other kids in there would be dressed the same – bathing suit with maybe a t-shirt over it. My father and sister occasionally drove a pony cart to town to get a doughnut. And of course, everyone was pleasant.
It’s not like that anymore, of course. I live about 60 miles north of there in a coastal community called Costa Mesa. Southern California is just one big sprawling suburb. My sister and brother both live in the mountains now because the coast is so crowded. But I can’t leave this weather. I’m a wimp for cold or humidity.”
How Cynthia Got Started in Genealogy
“I started doing family history when I was about seven. My father’s family has a long documented heritage, so in my home we had things like christening gowns from the 1800s, old Dutch wooden shoes from the early 1900s, journals written in the late 1700s, things like that. A couple of pieces of furniture had their heritages taped inside drawers. We have a dresser that supposedly came from Isaac Newton’s half-sister. Its genealogy was written on a note some time long ago, probably the late 1800s or so, telling exactly who it passed from at each succession. There is one person I can’t track down, and it drives me crazy!
Getting actively involved in genealogy is something that has been nagging at me for years. I have most of the family treasures – journals, hand-made furniture, photos, china, etc. I have them because to me they’re treasures, and my siblings didn’t seem too interested. But now they’re getting more interested, and would like copies of the photos. It took me a long time to get around to it, but I’m finally starting. My main goal besides the photos is to get the stories down. I know so much about our history, things I know my siblings don’t, so my nieces and nephews don’t have anything to connect them with their past, really. I want to make sure all of what I know gets to them.”
Cynthia’s Thoughts on Blogging
“I only started my blog two months ago. I did it for several reasons. For one, it’s going to take me years to get all the family stuff organized, and I don’t want to be doing this on my deathbed. So it’s been on my mind for a long while. But the reason I started exactly when I did is because I needed to get back to writing. My career is writing, and for the past decade or so I’ve written for investment newsletters. It’s my own business, and I take on as many or as few clients as I want. Well, I kept taking on more and more work, and pretty soon I was working seven days a week, about 12 hours a day. And it burned me out. I literally could not string together the words to make a meaningful sentence. I would write a page, and when I got to the end of it I couldn’t remember what the beginning said. So I took a two year break. Before jumping back in with paying clients, I wanted to make sure I could write again. I love doing the blog now, and I think it will help keep me balanced once I go back to work.”
Cynthia’s Tips for New Bloggers
“Heck, don’t ask me this question. I used to be a creative director. I could talk for a month (and I have!) on learning to write. There’s a popular blog I’ve seen with a perfect message: No story too small. I can see where it might be intimidating for a blogger to think about having enough to say. But don’t look for the great American novel or the universal truth. And don’t worry about perfection. The absolute best writers in the world never — N-E-V-E-R — nail it on a first draft. And blogging isn’t even a novel. Just write from your heart and hit ‘Post. ’”
Cynthia’s Favorite Blog Posts
“I launched the blog with a couple of deeply personal posts, right out of the gate. Then I looked around and thought to myself, ‘uh-oh, I’m supposed to come up with one of these every day? Or even every week? This is going to be like a comet once it hits our atmosphere – a spark of bright light, then nothing.’ I had to step back and start interspersing the very personal posts with ones that might have a few family tidbits within a larger broader theme.
So my favorite posts are from early on, the ones that are most from my heart. Those are:
Stories My Father Never Told Me
The Only Photo of My Mother’s Childhood
Cynthia’s Time with the Ancestors
“Research is my weakness. I LOVE to research. I think all writers do. My husband used to be an ad man at a famous agency, and he remembers the founder of the agency used to say, ‘somewhere, somehow, some time, someone has to sit down and write the *#%$& ad!’ So for me it’s not how much time I get to spend on research, it’s how good I am at dragging myself away from it.”
Cynthia’s Favorite Ancestor
“I don’t have any favorites. They’re all wonderful.”
How Genealogy Has Improved Cynthia’s Life
“I wrote about this the other day. I think it grounds me, gives me a deeper understanding of myself.”
What Cynthia Loves Most About Genealogy
“Everything but trying to reconcile dates and places.”
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Please take a moment to head on over to Cynthia’s blog. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Welcome Cynthia, it’s great to have you here!
© 2014, copyright Gini Webb
Thanks for the follow; much appreciated!
I like the thinking behind your writing, Su. (And your writing.)
Thank you so much. I’ve just read your post about children and found so much of my own thinking in it. It’s beautifully written. 🙂