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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mathews

If we don't use oral history, we lose the voices of our ancestors and all that they witnessed.

Updated: Sep 11, 2022

Kenvi Phillips, PhD Sounds Like Family: The Oral Tradition in Researching Family History Thursday, September 29, 2022 7:00 PM Eastern (4:00 PM Pacific) via Zoom

This event is free but registration is required.

As genealogists, we have resources to learn about using documents and records, but few educational opportunities to learn how to use oral history. Yet, if we ignore the stories our family passes down, we lose the voices of our ancestors and all that they witnessed. Join us to hear Kenvi Phillips, PhD, celebrate oral history from both a genealogist's and an academic's point of view.

MGC members have shared with us the unique stories their family histories include.

  • From my grandmother: "My mother died when I was very young. I was sent to work for the rich woman who owned the land, polishing all the shoes in her family. She beat me if I didn't get them shiny enough."

  • About a bachelor uncle who would chaperone any school outing involving one of his nieces or nephews: "Everyone calls him 'Uncle Frank' but whose uncle is he really?"

  • From my father-in-law on taking the pharmacy test in the early 1900s: "They gave us equipment and ingredients and told us to make a certain ointment. All the tools were steel so I had to ask for a ceramic spatula, or the ointment would have turned black."

  • From my grandfather: "When my mother was dying of rheumatic heart failure, grandma would bring her medicine. Once I saw her getting off the street car and ran out shouting 'Did you bring Mommy's whisky?' I was four years old when I was taken up to see my mother in bed and tell her goodbye."

  • From my Danish grandmother: "Pastry is a two-person job. I always did it with my friend Evie. If you want to make a really good pastry, the secret is to put in a thin layer of almond paste."

Dr. Phillips is vice president of the New England Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society; Director of Library Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Brown University; and former Curator for Race and Ethnic Diversity at Harvard University's Schlesinger Library. She earned her PhD in American History at Howard University.

This event is part of MGC's M:O.R.E. program, providing free educational opportunities year-round through sponsorship from our member organizations.

Co-sponsors: Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society - New England (AAHGS-NE), Essex Society of Genealogists (ESOG), Falmouth Genealogical Society (FGS), Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston (JGSGB), Massachusetts Society of Genealogists (MSOG), New England Association of Professional Genealogists (NEAPG), and Western Massachusetts Genealogical Society (WMGS).

This event is free but Pre-registration is required: click here

Dr. Phillips provided the photograph of herself.


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