Jerri-Jo Idarius, Family Historian
I have spent most of my life on the West Coast of the United States. I was born and grew up in Portland, Oregon and have lived in Northern California since 1971. In 2005, I moved to Willits—a small town 45 minutes from the beaches of the Mendocino Coast and close to the ancient redwood forests.
I joined the Association of Personal Historians in the Fall (APH) of 2013 and attended their conference in Washington, D.C. that November. I was later surprised to learn that several of the members had never published their own personal or family history.
Having a background as a calligrapher, photographer, book designer, editor and magazine publisher, I began to put together my personal history in early 2014. It has now expanded into two volumes—with photos on almost every page and stories interspersed.
Less than a year after joining APH, I visited an uncle and some of my paternal cousins and their families on the West Coast, gathered photos and proceeded to create a private Facebook group for family members in the United States and abroad. I also joined ancestry.com in order to locate more documents, photos and data. By the end of 2015, we had over 80 members in our Facebook group, and I had collected photos and stories from 17 cousins. As of January 2016, I have put together a hardback book of over 400 pages covering over 200 years of family history, with special emphasis on our individual stories and recollections.
Many of my 17 cousins had lost contact with one another other through the years. We were born between 1936 and 1958 and had not organized any inclusive family reunions since the 1960s. Although five of us were adopted by one or both parents (myself included), this project has made us aware of the shared influence of our parents and grandparents. The outcome of dozens of phone interviews and Facebook group sharing has activated deep levels of self-reflection, personal healing and bonding. The overall outcome has been transformative and surely lead to more joy-filled family reunions. See the testimonials page.
My experience as a holistic health practitioner, visual artist and publisher of books, poetry and live interviews, has given me a special appreciation for the insights that come from telling one's story . . . especially when combined with rich visual elements.