Do you miss some of your grandparents’ stories or are you looking for a deeper connection through family history? Here’s how to preserve family history with older relatives.
How much do you know about your family tree ? What about the life stories of your loved ones?
Probably not nearly as much as your grandparents, aunts, or uncles! Yet many of them may not be comfortable with computers or other technology, which are the easiest way to quickly document family history.
As I write this, I’m thinking of my great-grandmother’s story about dating in her day and finding her husband. Details I can’t recall but wish I could hear again.
Additionally, I can remember all the things my grandfather tried to teach me as a child and into my teen years. I’m bothered by the thoughts that of everything he tried to involve me in, I took it all for granted that I’d have the chance to learn it all over again when I was more mature or looking to broaden my horizons.
And, I know there’s parts of my grandfather’s life that have only been mentioned, like being in the coast guard, but were never actually part of any conversation or story telling.
My great grandmother and great grandfather on my mom’s side of the family each made their way to the U.S. alone from Puerto Rico and Cuba. I never had the pleasure of meeting my great grandfather and I know little more about my great grandmother than that she left home as a teen, moved to NY and taught herself the English language by watching the news and reading newspapers.
But the struggles of moving to a country alone, or even how she met my great grandfather … all of these stories have never been told and are lost.
My own mother passed away 4 days before my youngest child was born and my daughter was 4 years old. Needless to say, they know very little about their own Grandmother, other than the few things I or my dad might mention in passing.
As I am confronted with my father’s health issues, I’m aware that our time together is limited. And once again, I and my children will only be left with the memories we’ve made and few stories about his life without details but plenty of gaps.
But it doesn’t really have to be this way. There are things you can do to preserve life stories and family history, even as your loved ones age.
Here’s where you come in: you can use your computer literacy or even just your video camera to capture their memories for the benefit of the entire family. By doing this, you’ll leave a legacy for your children and their children so the memories live on.
Try some of these ideas to document your family history:
Explain what you want to do.
Tell your aging relatives, in advance, what your goals are. Stress that you want to know about the family’s history or details on their life stories.
- Let them know that you believe that they can shed light on various areas of the family’s story. Share that you want to meet with them to film, audiotape, or conduct another sort of interview.
- Make use of what you know about the relative when you approach them. For example, if they love undivided attention and speaking about themselves, you should easily be able to get answers to your questions.
- If, on the other hand, the relative is shy, quiet and private, you’re facing a bigger challenge to get them to open up to you. Perhaps they’d find it easier to start by talking about mundane details of everyday life before slowly progressing into more personal topics.
Prepare a list of questions you want to know about your family and bring your video camera with you. Make up your list in advance, thoroughly considering specific questions you have about your family’s history.
- Ask if it’s okay for you to video your conversation. Since many people aren’t very comfortable being on camera, place the camera as inconspicuously as possible to encourage them to focus on you.
- Having a complete interview on video is an enormous asset, since you can preserve it to pass down through generations.
Make Audio Recordings
If you don’t have any way to record the interview but you have the capacity to make an audio recording, do so. Allow your relative plenty of time to answer the questions and elaborate in any way they want.
- Sometimes, something that’s said in an interview will lead to new and fascinating family information. Plan ahead for this and have more than enough memory on your recording device just in case.
Devise Written Interview Questions
In the event you want to gather more info about historical family events or elements of the family tree, write down all of your questions.
- Depending on your relative’s age and ability to express themselves through writing, furnish the relative with a copy of your questions and have them write out their own answers.
- This method will not work for everyone as some relatives will miss the value or specific content of what you’re trying to gather.
Decide the Best Method to Gather Historical Info from Aging Relatives
- Make an effort to determine, in advance, the best method to use to gain the knowledge you’re looking for.
- You might have relatives who still hold family secrets. Thus, they might be less than appreciative about being asked questions about their family. Some relatives might even sabotage your efforts to gather information or at the very least, ignore your endeavors.
- Sometimes resistant relatives will come around if you persevere gently in your efforts and make it clear you plan to plod ahead with other relatives to gather the information you want.
If You’re Stumped, Contact Genealogy Experts
In most communities, there are organizations that will help you hunt down your family history and advise you how to approach aging relatives with questions.
- You can also contact experienced genealogists online and ask for assistance or guidance with your processes.
Options for Preserving Family History & Life Stories
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3. Family History Record Book
Are you passionate about preserving your family’s rich history and ancestry? Look no further than the Family History Record Book, your essential tool for genealogy research. With its user-friendly design and an array of invaluable features, this book offers a seamless way to document your ancestors’ details and create a lasting record. Here are some key benefits:
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Obtaining facts about your family’s history and family tree can be a big adventure and an even bigger challenge. But if you persevere, there are huge rewards to learning your family history. And your efforts don’t just benefit you; with recorded or written interviews, you’ll leave a legacy for generations to come.