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Dr. Suzanne Rumsey
Department of English and Linguistics
Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne
Alonzo Price Bowman was turning 90 years old in April of 2014. As a budding family history writer and archival researcher, I knew that the nine decades of American history over which his life spanned were pivotal, even grand, in the social history of our country. Yet, Grandpa Alonzo had never been the type to reminisce over his involvement in major economic, political, or technological movements. Yet, Grandpa agreed to share with me parts of his life previously unknown to the family. The multiple compilations and presentations of the oral narrative histories represented in this collection honor the man I remember as Grandpa Alonzo. The first presentation of interviews and archival research was gathered into a single chronological living sketch to clarify the events of Alonzo’s life. This “living sketch” was a companion piece to a seminar synthesis paper that examined how the collection and recollection of family narratives change the cultural beliefs within family communities. I continued to gather oral history narratives, literacy artifacts and other family history artifacts over the summer of 2014. Poignantly, this collection of stories, photos, histories, and interviews became even more important when Alonzo passed away shortly after my visit in June. This collection served as the impetus for a thirty-one minute documentary-style compilation of Grandpa’s own words, pictures, and relevant historical information that resituates his life history into the broader spectrum of American history.
Taken together, the written project, research seminar paper, and multimediated presentations represents the smaller stories that may be displaced in the mass construction of American historical memory. My research with Grandpa Alonzo is more than mere “genealogy,” but entails a mixed-method approach to family history writing that is rich, vibrant, and significant, beyond the presentation of artifacts to the binding of family communities.
English Language and Literature | Linguistics
Button, Nancy, "Writing the Smaller Stories: Research practices in family history writing" (2015). 2015 IPFW Student Research and Creative Endeavor Symposium. 13.