Capturing Family History With Aging Relatives

Karate Bourbonnais Family Tree 300x237, Tri-Star Martial Arts Academy Bradley & New LenoxHow much do you know about your family tree? Probably not nearly as much as your grandparents, aunts, or uncles! Yet many of them may not be comfortable with computers or other technology, which are the easiest way to quickly document family history.
Here’s where you come in: you can use your computer literacy or even just your video camera to capture their memories for the benefit of the entire family. By doing this, you’ll leave a legacy for your children and their children so the memories live on.

Try some of these ideas to document your family history:

1. Explain what you want to do. Tell your aging relatives, in advance, what your goals are. Stress that you want to know about the family’s history. 

  • Let them know that you believe that they can shed light on various areas of the family’s story. Share that you want to meet with them to film, audiotape, or conduct another sort of interview. 
  • Make use of what you know about the relative when you approach them. For example, if they love undivided attention and speaking about themselves, you should easily be able to get answers to your questions. 
  • If, on the other hand, the relative is shy, quiet and private, you’re facing a bigger challenge to get them to open up to you. Perhaps they’d find it easier to start by talking about mundane details of everyday life before slowly progressing into more personal topics.

2. Create videos. Prepare a list of questions you want to know about your family and bring your video camera with you. Make up your list in advance, thoroughly considering specific questions you have about your family’s history.

  • Ask if it’s okay for you to video your conversation. Since many people aren’t very comfortable being on camera, place the camera as inconspicuously as possible to encourage them to focus on you.
  • Having a complete interview on video is an enormous asset, since you can preserve it to pass down through generations.

3. Make audio recordings. If you don’t have any way to record the interview but you have the capacity to make an audio recording, do so. Allow your relative plenty of time to answer the questions and elaborate in any way they want.

  • Sometimes, something that’s said in an interview will lead to new and fascinating family information. Plan ahead for this and have more than enough memory on your recording device just in case.

4. Devise written interview questions. In the event you want to gather more info about historical family events or elements of the family tree, write down all of your questions.

  • Depending on your relative’s age and ability to express themselves through writing, furnish the relative with a copy of your questions and have them write out their own answers.
  • This method will not work for everyone as some relatives will miss the value or specific content of what you’re trying to gather.

5. Decide the best method to gather historical info from aging relatives. Make an effort to determine, in advance, the best method to use to gain the knowledge you’re looking for.

  • You might have relatives who still hold family secrets. Thus, they might be less than appreciative about being asked questions about their family. Some relatives might even sabotage your efforts to gather information or at the very least, ignore your endeavors.
  • Sometimes resistant relatives will come around if you persevere gently in your efforts and make it clear you plan to plod ahead with other relatives to gather the information you want.

6. If you’re stumped, contact genealogy experts. In most communities, there are organizations that will help you hunt down your family history and advise you how to approach aging relatives with questions.

  • You can also contact experienced genealogists online and ask for assistance or guidance with your processes.

Obtaining facts about your family’s history and family tree can be a big adventure and an even bigger challenge. But if you persevere, there are huge rewards to learning your family history. And your efforts don’t just benefit you; with recorded or written interviews, you’ll leave a legacy for generations to come.

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