20 April 2008

Local Family Historian Speaks at April NMGS Meeting

Her family loved to diary and write letters. Today, when all we have are text messaging, e-mails and, yes, even blogs, it's nice to look back to a time when writing was a true craft, and even children could be craftsmen. Jan Bennett displays her family's writings in her book "The Making of a Family: The Pecos years 1916-1940." On April 19, 2008, she presented her book to the New Mexico Genealogical Society, and discussed with the group the process of writing and publishing a family history.


Click on the photos below to see larger views




Mrs. Bennett read excerpts from her book to the audience at Botts Hall, in the Albuquerque Special Collections Library. She and her cousin, Penny Storms, published the book independently in September, 2007. The text includes beautiful, vivid family stories written by Bennett and Storms, as well as original stories and diary entries written by their fathers. Their fathers, Robert and Daniel MacPherson, were encouraged by their own mother to write frequently in their journals, especially when they went on vacation.

The MacPhersons lived in Albuquerque, but every summer the family would vacation at their cabin in Pecos, New Mexico. The brothers, Robert and Danny, would fish, hike and ride horses all summer long. To the delight of the audience, Bennett read aloud excerpts from the brothers' writings which described their adventures in Pecos.

In addition to reading from the book, Bennett also discussed her writing process. She told the audience how she came upon a number of diaries and letters that her family wrote. In order to save these writing for posterity, she and her cousin decided to write this book. She knew her grandparents, and realized that her children and grandchildren needed to know them, too. How better to tell her grandparents' story than through the words of her father and uncle?

She was not able to find a publisher who wanted to publish her book. Luckily, her cousin Penny Storms had been in the publishing business for eleven years. Together, they published the book independently.

Many attendees of the lecture purchased Bennet's book, and she signed copies before leaving. You may find her book at the Page One Bookstore in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


The family always waited anxiously for the mail to arrive. Jan displays a mail bag that they used. The writing on the bag reads "D.A. MacPherson; Holy Ghost Canyon; Espirito Santo Canyon; Valley Ranch, N.M."


Jan shows the audience a photocopy of a family diary. The books on the table include diaries, letters, and the original manuscript of her book.


Some of her family's diaries.



Robert MacPherson's drawing of the family's flight to Pensacola, Florida. A figure on the bottom right says "Adios, Folks"; while the figure on the left displays the Florida shore. Robert was apparently very detailed in his drawings: the airplane on top includes its call letters!

Biography:
Jan Bennett has lived in Albuquerque her whole life. She is a retired Spanish teacher from APS. She is married, and has two grown children. She is a photojournalist and a fine art photographer. She will be a featured artists at the Placitas Artist Series on May 25, 2008 in Placitas, New Mexico.

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