Saving Stories Personal Historian

About Saving Stories

Founder, Chris Wisniewski

My own story begins with a diverse background in art, design, sociology, anthropology, history, and web design. At university, I spent time in Flagstaff, Arizona studying and working with members of several Native American tribes. While studying with Navajo teachers, I was introduced to the Navajo belief that there are two types of wealth a person may obtain. The first is the wealth obtained through physical objects, such as blankets, sheep, turquoise, and silver. The second type of wealth came through the knowledge of stories, folkfore, and cultural ceremonies. Both were valued equally among the Diné. It was a concept which resonated with me on a very personal level.

After receiving my degree in American Studies/Minority Issues, from the University of Connecticut, I worked for several years in the field of international education as a teacher of English as a Second Language in Massachusetts and in Guayama, Puerto Rico, "La Ciudad de las Brujas." In 2000, I founded my own web design company, BackRow Design, where I continue to play a role as principal designer.

In 2009 I co-founded Saving Stories, a personal history business, along with Stephanie Nichols. An article about Saving Stories was published in the MetroWest Town Crier in 2011 describing our business. In 2012 Stephanie restructured her own business, yet we remain frequent collaborators.

I had the opportunity to live in London for two wonderful years from 2015-2017. Whilst there, I apprenticed with the Conservation Department at the Westminster Archives. Under the guidance of the Head of Conservation, I learned to clean, restore, preserve, and catalog various types of documents and photographs, which were part of their collection. I also participated in numerous workshops presented by The London Society of Genealogists, and other local historical societies. I focused primarily on courses detailing the resources and records available in the UK for tracing families and individuals, as well as a number of workshops relating to England during WWI and WWII.

Upon my return to the U.S., I settled in the tiny town of Wellfleet, Massachusetts, way out towards the tip of Cape Cod and just a stone's throw from where the Pilgrims originally landed in Provincetown (before they made their way down to Plymouth). Since then, I have been enjoying learning the rich history of this beautiful, little spit of sand. As someone who is interested in the history of the immigrants who make up our country, it is wonderful to be so close to where so much of our immigrant history began.

Living on the Cape also allows me to spend time some up-close and personal time with whales, one of my other passions. In the summer, I work part-time for the Dolphin Fleet whale watch company. The Dolphin Fleet takes people out to see humpbacks, finback whales, minkes, and occassionaly the endangered North Atlantic right whales, who spend time in the food-rich waters around Cape Cod. In the 1970s, the crew of the Dolphin Fleet identified and named two humpback whales. They were named Salt and Pepper, due to the markings on their tales, and they were the start of a scientific catalogue which has been used to record and track indiviual humpbacks ever since. The catalogue of whales has allowed scientist over the decades to track Salt, her children, grandchildren, and now her great-grandchildren. When I heard this, I felt two of my passions intersect - family history and whales together - what could be better? Salt is still around and I was so excited to not only see her myself in 2017, but to see her breach right along-side our boat (that's Salt in the photo). If you would like to read more about Salt's family history, click here. If you are ever able to visit Cape Cod, I encourage you to go out and see the whales. They are truly amazing.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved listening to people's stories. My career as a personal historian began more than 30 years ago, working with my own family — doing research, asking questions and recording interviews with my extended family about their memories of the past. I am well versed in conducting research from a wide range of records to help round out oral histories. You can frequently find me at the National Archives researching census records, ship manifests, naturalization documents, and alien registration records. I have extensive experience locating records of birth, marriage, and death from a variety of sources. I love researching old newspapers or periodicals or digging through local history collections to locate additional information to support a family's story. Just as every person is singular, the path of research each project leads me down varies, depending on the needs of the family. It's that variety which makes this work so interesting - searching for new doors to open up to illuminate the past.

I have become passionate about preserving people's stories. I know the impact saving and sharing stories has had in my own family. I feel so privileged to be able to help others preserve their stories to share with their family, friends, and generations to come. While I enjoy the challenge of helping families find and document their roots, I love capturing the stories behind the names and photos. It is by preserving those little details that we can give life, meaning, and understanding to the names and faces inour past. It is the stories and details which are so often lost from one generation to the next.

With each project, I enjoy finding ways to embrace the unique personality of each individual, family, or organization in the design and layout of their personal history books. My focus on design has always been on producing clean, classic layouts that enhance the stories and personal photographs in a timeless style that will be appreciated for generations to come. You can see examples of the design and layout of my family history books here.

I continue to research my own family. The photo above was taken in the village of Kobyłczyna, Poland. It shows me in the field where once stood the house in which my maternal grandmother was born. Our family never knew the name of the town where my grandmother was from, but after much digging and research I was able to walk in her footsteps and bring my children along to share the experience. It is a wonderful feeling to be grounded in your own history.

Sto lat: One Hundred years of the Wisniewski Family in America by Chris WisniewskiWould you like to know more about me?

Read a tribute to my father, who was my own inspiration to start saving our family stories many years ago.

Learn more about my own family history in, Sto Lat: A Hundred Years of the Wisniewski Family in America, now on sale.

Still want more...? Look through the photos on the top of each page on this website. They are all photos of my own family, and yes, that's me rocking those cool shades in the photo on the top left of this page.



Saving Stories is a member of the American Folklore Society, the National Aging in Place Council, and the Society of Genealogists, London, England.

American Folklore Society National Aging in Place Council Socieity of Geneologist London
 
“I never travel without my diary.
One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”
― Oscar Wilde