Arnold Garson is a media executive (retired after 46 years in the newspaper business) who channeled his deep experience as an investigative reporter into tracking down family history details. At the Okoboji Writers’ Retreat, he’ll share how he does it.

Garson is an award-winning journalist who creates written narratives of family stories for clients. He discovered through exploration of his family of origin that there are compelling stories everywhere to tell for future generations. A hobby in retirement has turned into a service Garson provides for families who want to learn about the lives and times of their ancestors.

After his mother died in 2010, he decided he wanted to write her story. He knew she wouldn’t approve, so didn’t want to do it while she was living. Still, she knew it was a fascinating story, and during the years before she died, he did manage to talk to her often about her early life. Garson finally started working on Dorothy’s Story in 2016. 

In the process, he met a professional genealogist working on researching the same family. She realized they had complementary skills and convinced him to collaborate on future projects.

He eventually was lured into working on other projects and has now developed an impressive client list.

Here’s what one client had to say:  “You can have no sense of the pleasure this project has been for me, and this has largely to do with the great respect you gave the story from Day 1. It has also to do with the way you projected yourself, from the beginning, to be a close friend, deeply knowledgeable, and caring about me and my family’s story. You have several great gifts – two of them being a seemingly insatiable desire to fully understand and question until you do, and a personality that is warm, inspiring, and confidence-building. I thought the process would be difficult and burdensome. It was not. It was a total joy.”

There is much to learn about genealogy and the current tools used to find previously unknown facts. Garson will share how he goes about finding family secrets or stories not yet told.

Currently, Garson is completing a research project about his family’s 90-year-old summer home on Lake Okoboji.

West Lake Okoboji

Garson spent about one-third of his career as a reporter and investigative reporter, one-third as a supervisory editor, and one-third as a publisher. 

Writing/reporting awards: 

  • American Political Science Association Public Affairs Reporting Award
  • John Hancock Award for Business and Financial Journalism
  • Associated Press Managing Editors, California/Nevada, Best Column
  • Associated Press Managing Editors, Iowa, Sweepstakes Award


  • Digging for your family roots: The research. Discover the lives and times of your ancestors. Who were they, and how did they live?
  • Writing your family story: Creating something that people will want to read.


Arnold Garson was one of the top speakers for me. He taught us how to do family research and encouraged me to write my story. He was supportive without being placating.

Okoboji Writers’ Retreat Participant