How to earn a PhD—as in personal history doctorate

Sixteen years ago Kitty Axelson-Berry, a journalist writing her mother's story, formed the Association of Personal Historians. Through her experience Kitty learned that other share her passion giving voice to personal stories. Soon her relationship with a handful of similarly impassioned individuals created APH, which now boasts a membership of over 600 worldwide.

My relationship with APH began while researching the various ways people capture and preserve family stories for the book LifeCatching. My curiosity was sparked by my work with a marketing and public relations firm that specialized in the funeral industry. We were on the forefront of promoting the life celebration approach to memorials and the work made me keenly aware of how quickly personal histories evaporate. Funeral officiants described how the harsh reality of death often left loved ones struggling to recall the individual's history, to fill in the gaps of often told stories or family history. I yearned to impact that loss of memories.

So I joined APH. I dub it my road to a PhD-as in personal history doctorate. Final certification has come from my clients-the individuals, organizations and communities that I have had the honor of assisting in organizing and sharing their histories. My LifeCatching business continues to evolve in a direction that uses my strengths. For if I have a weakness, I know that I have a legion of APH-ers to call upon.

I attended my first APH Conference in 2006 in Portland OR. Wonderful relationships followed. This year's dates are October 16 - 20, Harrah's Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV. I'm conference chair and looking for a large turnout. I'll be blogging periodically about developments.

For more information about the Association of Personal Historians www.personalhistorians.org