Updated: Jul 1, 2020
I started researching my Family History younger than most and even now there are still things that I wish I had asked older family members!
Holidays, Parties or Celebrations are the perfect opportunity to see some of your older relatives and extended family and discuss with them any stories or memories they have about our families.
You might not want to bother them during a celebration, but what happens when they are no longer around to tell you those stories? The reality is that most of us during family gatherings find ourselves in small groups chatting anyway and they will probably be more than happy to discuss the ‘old days’ and will most likely be glad that you are taking an interest.
Oral history plays a big part in all our families. Some cultures are known to have ‘storytellers’ who can recount generations and generations of family information. But we are not so fortunate as to have someone appointed to take on this task, so how will you remember this information so that it can be passed down through the generations?
Okay so you could sit down with relatives and take notes that could be typed up later, but would you be interrupting their ‘memory flow’ so that you can catch up with your notes? Probably not the best idea!
Nowadays pretty much all of us have mobile phones and most of these have recording devices whether it be video or audio. If its an older relative they may be more comfortable with the audio option. Either way check that they are okay with you recording your discussions and let them know what the recording will be used for.
Start by asking questions and let them answer, even when you think they might have finished answering that question wait a short time as often in their own mind they are recounting another memory which could be lost if you distract them with another question. If they are elderly it might be an idea to take regular breaks to get a drink or some food to ensure they don’t get too tired too soon.
Remember to save these recordings in a safe place!
Also, on the day spend a bit of time asking other family members if they have any photographs or artefacts relating to the family history that you could perhaps arrange to see at a later date. Ensure you ask everyone as you just never know what has been passed down to whom when family members have passed away. If there are any old documents, letters or photographs endeavour to obtain copies of these.
More importantly even if you don’t intend to look at your family tree for some years, do this NOW! Otherwise when you sit down to commence your research you will wish that you had spent time at that party or celebration some years before quizzing your old Aunt.
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