Brian’s Memoir Journey

Brian’s Memoir Journey

I started out to record the life of my father Ralph Victor Miller in 2011 and thought I would set out my working sequence as I go. It may give others a few ideas.
My great grandfather built a house at Macandrew Bay, so there is a connection with my own life at the Bay

Decide who the main character will be and what other people may feature in the memoir
I’ve been collecting information, notes and clippings in a cardboard box for sometime with the intention of making it into a book. My father was an excellent artist and his story needs to be told so those who study his art can learn more about his life and the development of his art. Examples of his work can be found at

The first thing I did was to make a timeline of his life to see the major episodes and from that develop possible chapters headings. It’s a short timeline unfortunately since he died in his sleep at an early age of 37.

SOURCES I made a list of people family and friends and who should be contacted for information or stories.

I then set up an A-Z clip folder to collect and sort information in a logical fashion. I also downloaded free AncestryCharts to collect data on from

You can’t always plan the way things work….An elderly family member and two elderly family friends died recently. They all had knowledge and stories of immediate benefit to my work, but when someone suddenly becomes terminally ill you cannot start interviewing with a tape recorder – It’s too late. Which makes me realize how urgent it is to get our parents stories down as soon as possible – First hand information is disappearing fast.

When my Uncle died recently my cousin from Melbourne brought hundreds of photos of the family and many of my father as a child that I had never seen.
So I spent several days studying the best way to scan photos for archival records and scanning the photos while they were available. You need to learn this so that when photos suddenly fall in your lap you have a system set up to scan and file them safely. Click How to Scan Photos Now that I understand scanning I can deal with any photo that I find.

Once I started organizing notes I realized the stories were becoming complicated as I did not know for sure when certain family members lived and to put my father’s life in context I needed accurate information about when each family member lived. Also many family members were called by names that were not their official name. So how did I get this information?
1. Family Members – I asked various members of the family for Birth/Death/Marriage certificates.
2. Family Bible – A cousin found the family bible and gave me a copy of the records.
3. It’s easier to start with Death information, as cemetery records are easily accessible and give lots of extra info. Also cemetery records often
contain records of other family members buried in the same plot as well as full names and ages.
4. NZ BDM Historical Records Site. This site gives information of those born more than 100 years ago (1909) Died more than 50 years ago (1959) or Married more than 80 years ago ( 1929) The website only gives the year of the event and a reference no. You will have to pay to get a copy of the certificate, however it is useful in establishing the exact name of older members of your family and a start to sequencing the family.
5. I then went to Cemetery Records. These are available for all towns and cities in NZ. I searched the Dunedin cemetery records on clicking on cemeteries search. This provided heaps of information on many family members. I found – exact names – age at Death- Last Address – occupation – other family members who were buried in a plot….years in NZ ( hence when they left UK) and which part of the UK they came from……
6. Some of our family were killed in WW1 &WW2 so I looked them up on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
This not only gave me the exact name, rank and their military reference number, age at death, regiment and casualty type, but it also gave the grave reference and a direct link to the Graveyard website with photos.

FAMILY TREE SOFTWARE Although I’m doing a family memoir and not a full genealogical record, I still need to collect the information in one place and decided to invest in Family Tree Software. The Family Tree Software page in this website has useful advice on what software to buy.

A lot of Genealogical software is Windows based however because of my photography I have a Macintosh computer and so I’m trying Reunion the best family tree software for Macs. and also investigating iFamilyfor Leopard I’ll tell you later which one I decide to use.