Monday, December 9, 2013

Oral history ~ the younger folks?

One of the most important aspects of genealogy is the oral history interview. But, sometimes preserving these memories can be a race against time.

Sadly, this is the case with my family. By the time I began this genealogy adventure, my mother was the only surviving member of her generation. So many stories lost!

Thinking about this raised an interesting concept. Why not oral history with the younger generation? Why not capture there very recent and vivid memories? Think of all the funny and interesting recollections!

It would be interesting to get their perspective on events that you yourself may have been a part. Endless opportunities.

How about ...

What was your favorite birthday present?

Who was your first best friend? Are you still bests?

What is the first song you remember hearing?

Do you have a favorite holiday tradition?

If they have a younger sibling ... what do you remember feeling when they were born?

What vacation memory makes you smile?

Which relative do you feel the most connected?

How do you feel your growing up years are different than your parents?

Think of all the current and "not so distant" memories you could discuss. Recording their young voice, as they share life experiences. Who knows? Maybe with their eventual grandchildren!

A wonderful side benefit ... this could be a great way to introduce family history to the younger folks. Sharing their memories could raise curiosity about previous generations. Learning how their lives are very different, but the same in many ways.

What would you ask the younger folks in your life?

Make time to record precious memories ... even the more recent.

Here are a few helpful tools for oral history interviews.

Fifty Questions for Family History Interviews by Kimberly Powell, Guide

Free Genealogy Family Interview Questions by Ancestor Search

Oral History & Interviews by Cyndi's List

Oral History Video (YouTube) by Angela Y. Walton-Raji of the The Beginning Genealogist


  1. I'm gonna have to do my Son, he's done 3 Tours of Duty, his Beloved Grandparents are gone. I need to do this.

  2. When I taught 5th grade, about 18 years ago, I had my class orally interview THEIR grandparents and write down the memories of these older people. They then wrote them on shopping bags, which I had crumbled up to look old. THere were some FASCINATING stories!

  3. Some of these practices should be preserved in refining and upholding genealogy. In the end, it is about people: their thoughts, their feelings, their testimonies. The task is really finding ways to encapsulate these things in forms which will stand the test of collective memory, for generations.