U.S. Humanities Endowment Launches National Project Connecting Family Stories to America's History

WASHINGTON, (November 24, 1999)

Follow your family's story and you will discover America's history. That is the theme of My History Is America's History, an exciting new project created by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to mark the new millennium.

"With the holidays approaching and the generations gathering, there is no greater reminder of the value of family, and there is no better time to start sharing and collecting family recollections," NEH Chairman William R. Ferris said. "My History Is America's History offers Americans of all backgrounds a way to explore family history as we discover how our own family stories connect to the history of our nation. By gathering together our family stories, My History will weave a powerful tapestry of America that illustrates our nation's history and culture."

The White House Millennium Council has officially designated My History a national millennium project. "My History Is America's History can help us appreciate who we are, where we come from, and what we want from the future both individually and as a nation. This project will help us explore, preserve, and share our family histories and treasures," said First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. "I encourage you to use the inspiration, guidance, and resources offered through My History to begin exploring your family's story because your history is America's history."

My History Is America's History is a nationwide initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities, in partnership with the White House Millennium Council, the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Genealogy.com, LLC, PSINet Inc., National Association of Broadcasters, U.S. Department of Education, Heritage Preservation, FamilyFun, and Houghton Mifflin Company.

The project outlines 15 things you can do to save America's stories in the My History guidebook, website and poster, and includes simple, easy-to-follow steps to preserve stories and treasures. Among the tools are sample questions for drawing out relatives' memories; tips on preserving family treasures such as photographs, furniture and videotapes; and classroom and family projects to give children a personal connection to American history. A listing of national and local resources such as historical sites and societies, exhibits, and genealogical groups is also provided.

"Many Americans are historians without being aware of it," NEH Chairman Ferris said. "Each of us has stories we pass, like heirlooms, from generation to generation. Through these stories, we connect with our families, our past and our hopes for the future."

The website, http://www.myhistory.org, is designed as a virtual "front porch" for families to exchange stories, post photographs, create family trees and discover our families' place in history. Genealogy.com, a leading provider of family history tools and resources, has shared its technological expertise in the genealogy field for the My History Is America's History project. "We designed the My History website to make it easy for both novice and experienced family history enthusiasts to record and preserve their family stories for future generations," said Genealogy.com Chief Executive Officer Rob Armstrong. "We're especially excited that children can work together with grandparents and other family members on the project, and that teachers can use the website to interest students in American history through their own family stories."

Family history can provide students of all ages with a personal connection to America's history. Seen through a grandparent's eyes or in an old family photograph, events like the Roaring Twenties, Great Depression or the Civil Rights Movement come to life. Teachers across the country are using family history to teach their students American history. My History offers lesson plans and classroom-ready resources for all grade levels.

"Students in my class look into the countries represented in their family background and the countries from which their ancestors emigrated. They find a 'family treasure' to bring in and share, and they research a 'family story' that might be told at family gatherings, or remembered by someone in the family. It is exhilarating to feel the excitement among the students as they share their stories and see American history come to life," Mary Gene Devlin, a teacher at Deerfield Elementary School in South Deerfield, MA, said.

Sue Carmody, a parent whose son attended Devlin's class, said, "Sometimes the family learns something new, too. My son, Dan, called both sets of his grandparents and asked them about their parents. We located a trophy my grandfather - Dan's great-grandfather - had won for track. Dan had never known about him or his athletic ability before. Maybe this is even where Dan gets his own athletic ability - we were all very excited about this discovery," Sue Carmody said.

"Making history an exciting adventure for the entire family is the best way to create new family historians," NEH Chairman Ferris said. FamilyFun magazine designed several activities for My History to encourage families to preserve and share their stories, including the creation of family quilts, cookbooks, millennium portraits, history museums and website photo albums.

"My History Is America's History helps us rediscover America as we establish our family's ties to American history through stories that are near and dear to our heart. Our family stories define us as individuals, just as they connect us to distant places and significant events in American history. It is time for all Americans to discover and celebrate these stories and see how they fit together to tell the great story of America's history," NEH Chairman Ferris said.

The My History Is America's History guidebook may be downloaded from the project website at http://www.myhistory.org. Printed guidebooks are available at libraries and a limited number of copies are available for a nominal fee by calling toll-free 1-877-NEH-HISTORY (1-877-634-4478).

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