Ask insightful family history questions and you'll discover plenty of family stories. Use the family reunion to gather, document and share your family stories.
I love fascinating family stories, or "tales about people, places, objects, and events related to the members of the immediate family or their ancestors." (www.storyarts.org)
Family history stories are about the pet dog named "Montana," Grandma’s homemade raspberry jam and the annual spring drive to the mountains to pick flowers. They are the narratives that add personality and identity to casual family reunion conversations. Family stories can also be the glue that bonds a family together.
Our unique stories help us better understand ourselves and can ground our decision making. Family stories:
Family stories are critical for genealogical research, as they are often rich in details that identify ancestors and define family history. But sometimes it's hard to start meaningful conversation that stir up memories and get people talking. These family history questions will help.
Every individual and each family has a story - or many stories. Ask the elders these family history questions at your next family reunion to discover your family stories.
There are many, many more wonderful interview questions out there. Find the ones you like by looking for books on "personal storytelling" or "life history" at your local library. Browse interesting conversation starters and gather journal writing prompts that are specifically written for drawing out memories.
Establish what you want to accomplish before you get to the family reunion. Create a theme or focus on a particular person. Don't try to capture someone's entire personal history at once - it's too overwhelming. Focus on small portions at a time.
Prepare your specific questions and conversation topics in advance. Determine the format you'll use and ask relatives for help.
For a completely unique experience and perspective, let (or help) a child conduct the interview. I recently took my 6-year-old son with me to visit with my husband's Great Grandmother. He asked questions I didn't think of and was able to elicit information I couldn't draw out!
Depending on your family dynamics and reunion schedule, you could pair kids and adults with elders for an hour or an entire afternoon and have many interviews happening at once.
Keep notes during the interviews. But you might want to consider recording the conversation as well.
Did you know that a story can change with each oral telling? As a matter of fact, according to Roots Tech, the largest family history and technology conference in the world, oral history can be lost in just 3 generations.
It's easy to record conversations with today's technology and smart phones. With the app from FamilySearch, you can even upload and store them for free.
Combine your notes, recorded interviews and a few photos into a written story. Such a one-of-a-kind storybook will become a family heirloom in and of itself.
If you like the idea of purposely planning, creating and then documenting memories, check out the free e-course. I do most of my printing projects through Heritage Makers. They have TONS of creative templates so once you know the program, the project comes together very quickly.
There are many online resources, classes and books that can teach you the skills necessary for documenting your personal and family histories. But the family reunion is perhaps your most valuable resource. While everyone is together, build in opportunities to share family stories and ask insightful family history questions.