You hear it over and over, but it still can't be said enough. Your living relatives are the best place to begin your family tree research. If you're getting together with family this summer for vacation or a reunion, take some time out to record a few of their memories. Ask grandpa about his wartime experiences. Ask grandma how to make some of those treasured family recipes. It doesn't have to be anything formal, such as a recorded interview. Just ask a few questions as you're all sitting around the table during dinner (try setting up a video camera in the corner to capture the dinner-time reminiscences), or get out a few of the old family photo albums. You might be surprised with the stories you hear!I've been asking my parents, grandparents and other family members questions for over 25 years, and I still learn something new every time we get together. So sit down and collect some family memories this week.
- Oral History Step by Step: Collecting & Recording Your Family History
- 10 Tips for Great Interview Stories
- 50 Questions to Ask Your Relatives
- 10 Memory Books for Recording Family History
I know some of you aren't lucky enough to have living grandparents or even parents to ask about your family history. Don't forget the aunts, cousins, even family friends! They each have stories to share as well. You can also learn a lot about your ancestors by reading stories and accounts of their contemporaries - neighbors, members of the same ethnic community, individuals who shared similar experiences (e.g. same Japanese-American internment camp), etc.
There is no better way to understand the history that you came from than through the words of the people who lived it first-hand. So make oral history a priority in your family history research! You don't want to have any regrets...