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Genealogy: How to Record Your Relative’s Stories

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I visit my grandparents every Sunday. After our customary dinner and dessert, our conversations often lead to stories of the past. My grandfather reminisces on stories of boyhood growing up in Holland and the tragedies of living there during World War II. He thoughtfully conveys the stories in his deep accent as we all listen intently to the lives of our ancestors. There are stories of first meeting my grandmother and of the inventions that were never patented, stories of traveling throughout the world, and coming to America. He passes on wisdom through life lessons and displays the shoes we have to fill. Every Sunday, I sit and listen hoping that all of this is somewhere written down. That the stories that have set the standards in my own life may enrich generations for years to come. That those carrying our last name might know the hard work that has landed them where they are and the expectations of their ancestors.

snapshot with Grandma and Grandpa

How to Record your Relative's History

And so I began.

Choose a Medium

Starting to record family history hard to do. I had the intention long before it actually happened. Start first by deciding how you want your relative’s stories recorded. Video, voice recording, written record, and voice over pictures are all great ideas.

Grandma and grandpa with grandchildren

I started bringing a video camera to capture my grandparents on film. I like a filmed record because not only do you get their past recorded but also their voice and personality. I think it would be really cute to film the grandchildren acting out their stories and make a mini documentary with their grandparent’s voices over the recording!

Next, make a list of what you want them to talk about. Old marriage photo

Brainstorm

Brainstorming your list:

  • Find out what journals and pictures they already have and evaluate which parts are missing.
  • Ask further questions regarding what is already written down.
  • Ask the who, what, when, where, and why of found pictures.
  • Consider past stories that have already been told.
  • Consider generic questions about the era or area they grew up in.

Ask the Right Questions

Here are some more questions to get you started:

  • What was your first job?
  • How did you meet Grandma/Grandpa/your spouse?
  • What was your wedding day like?
  • Who was your best friend growing up?
  • How did you celebrate birthdays growing up?
  • What was your favorite childhood pastime?
  • How did you and your spouse spend your first Christmas together?
  • Where was your first vacation as a couple?
  • How did you decide the names of your children?
  • Where is the most exotic place you have traveled?
  • What are some memories you have of being a parent?

Genealogy work is becoming a popular pastime. Many are motivated by their desire to know where they came from and to leave a legacy themselves. Talking to living relatives is a great first step to researching even deeper into your ancestral background. Look for upcoming posts on how to further your genealogy work and discover more about yourself.

Have you done any genealogy work? What was your favorite part?

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

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