As we move into the holidays and our free time dissipates, it seems easier to put off working on any family history projects until mid January. Now is precisely the time to collect family memories, however, while we are getting together in large groups.
Spend some time creating a list of questions you’ve been meaning to ask family elders in your efforts to preserve the life stories and family history of people you care about. Your questions may be about family history, genealogy, old photos, stories from events or, even the background of heirlooms. Dig a little deeper to capture the details that fill in those stories you already know. What else would you like to know? Don’t ask them yes or no questions. Invite the conversation with words like tell me, show, how, describe, name, what and why. Let them know ahead of time that you’d like to ask them some questions – that you are recording memories. This way they’re not caught off guard and have time to think about their responses. Maybe the holiday gatherings are the starting point for future sessions.
Begin by asking the oldest living relatives the questions you have for them. If they have passed away or are unavailable, ask cousins, extended family and even close friends or old neighbors the questions. They may not have all the details, but may remember stories told to them.
Perhaps you are the family elder. Well, get busy! People love great stories told in rich details, even if those memories are of simple moments shared years ago.
While you will be making the effort to get the conversations recorded, you will also be spending time with others, who are also giving you back a piece of history. The gift of time, as you know, is always the hardest gift to give.
Creating projects using old photos
Your options for creating projects afterward with those old stories and photos are limitless. Spend one hour searching ideas for using old photos or recording family stories and your head will explode with brain storming euphoria. You can find ideas that run the gamut from projects created in a few hours to something the extended family needs to invest in, such as creating a Ken Burns-type film documentary. You can’t do anything, however, unless you begin.
By way of example, my mother in law has a terrible memory. Always has. Knowing I knew very little about her childhood or family history I decided to start asking questions a few years ago. One holiday I asked her to tell me the story of her favorite Christmas gift as a child. She went to her photo albums and turned to the page with a bicycle. My husband and sister in law were stunned. We scanned the photo and recorded the story using the StoryScans software.
She entertained us with a descriptive narrative about how her father, who was a pharmacist and always worked long late hours, was never really sentimental about the holidays. For months she wished aloud for a bicycle of her own, like other children in the neighborhood. She never expected to receive one, because she knew her father would consider a bicycle an extravagant gift. On Christmas morning she came bounding downstairs to see a massive pile of gifts for everyone under the lighted tree. Like a kid in a candy store, she wondered what awaited her. A note instructed her to check the front porch. There waiting for her was a gleaming red cruiser bicycle with a white leather seat, headlight and a brown wicker front basket with a red flower on it. On the handle bar was a giant white bow with her name on it. The stories of Nanna riding around the old neighborhood as a young girl with her friends in suburban Philadelphia just rolled.
We talked about the gift, the house rules for caring for the bicycle, where it was stored, what Christmas traditions the family enjoyed, how one uncle who lived in Red Bank New Jersey came over late and played the piano into the night. Apparently her father was sentimental enough to listen to the whims of his little girl, at least once. He hid the bicycle in the rear of the pharmacy until late Christmas Eve. Oh the memories that bicycle created. I then sent that StoryScans™ talking image file to all my husband’s siblings.
His mom has since passed away and these stories are pure gold to us now.
Record the Stories with StoryScans
Your task is to prevent regrets. Collect family stories, starting with the oldest living relatives and work your way down the genealogy chain. Ask children questions, too.
As always, we recommend you bring your Flip-Pal mobile scanner to your holiday gathering, because there is always something to scan with its story where reminiscing occurs. Record voice and merge it with the scan to create an image that speaks.
Have enjoyable and memorable gatherings during the holidays!