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Capturing Family History With Aging Relatives

by Ivy B

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.

how to preserve family history and capture life stories from your loved ones
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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.

But how?

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.

Create Videos.

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

1. DIYBook

DIYBook offers two enticing membership programs, Life Story and Business Book, designed to empower your creative aspirations and entrepreneurial ambitions.

Benefits of DIYBook include:

  • Weekly Writing Prompts: Receive a weekly dose of inspiration with thought-provoking prompts delivered directly to your inbox. Kickstart your writing journey and overcome writer’s block effortlessly.
  • Your Personal Author Account: Seamlessly craft your stories and ideas within the confines of your very own Author Account. No more need for scattered notebooks or lost manuscripts – it’s all at your fingertips.
  • Professional Book Printing Services: When your masterpiece is complete, DIYBook offers book printing services that allow you to transform your digital creation into a tangible, beautifully bound book, delivered right to your doorstep.
  • Achieve Your Dream in One Year: With a commitment to daily writing habits and our structured system, DIYBook empowers you to realize your dream of becoming a published author in as little as one year.

2. Storii

Are you looking to capture the essence of your life and leave a lasting legacy for future generations? With Storii, it’s not just a possibility; it’s a seamless reality. Here’s how Storii works, along with some key benefits:

  • Life Story Questions – Find Diamonds in the Rough: Storii offers a treasure trove of over 1000 life story questions to choose from. Dive into your unique journey by selecting questions that resonate with you or even create your own, uncovering hidden gems from your life’s narrative.
  • Life Story Phone Calls: Storii makes it effortless to answer life story questions. Whether you prefer to receive scheduled phone calls or call in at your convenience, these sessions help you populate your life story effortlessly. What’s more, Storii automatically transcribes and archives these recordings, ensuring your story is preserved accurately.
  • Connect with Family and Build a Legacy: Storii is not just about your story; it’s about sharing your experiences and wisdom with loved ones. Securely share your stories via email or links, allowing your family and friends to cherish and celebrate your journey. Plus, download your stories as beautifully crafted keepsake audiobooks, turning your memories into timeless treasures.

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:

  • Comprehensive Family Tree Recording: The Family History Record Book provides ample, meticulously organized space to document up to eight generations of your family tree, accommodating an impressive total of 255 individuals. With dedicated sections for each generation, you can delve deep into your ancestry, preserving vital information and connections.
  • Multiple Information Fields: Capture the essence of your ancestors’ lives with up to 16 pieces of information for each individual, including essential details, dates, and sources used. This comprehensive approach ensures that your family’s legacy is well-documented and supported by credible sources.
  • Cousin Calculator and Timeline: Navigate family relationships effortlessly with the included cousin calculator chart, simplifying the often complex web of connections. Additionally, a unique timeline showcases over 100 types of records, making it an invaluable resource for researchers of English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish family history.

Choose between the convenience of paperback or the durability of hardback to tailor your Family History Record Book to your preferences. Preserve your heritage, connect with your roots, and create a valuable resource for future generations with this indispensable genealogy companion.

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.

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1 comment

Clare Martin December 28, 2023 - 9:12 am

It’s our family reunion next May, but before that, I plan to get a family legacy video ready before the day of our celebrations. It’s great that you mentioned sharing family stories can help us preserve our heritage, connect with our roots, and create a valuable resource for future generations. I’ll keep this in mind while I look for services to contact for help with our family legacy videos soon.

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