The #1 Thing I Wish I Would’ve Done Last Easter - Be a Family History Hero
What would you give for one more chance to speak to a relative who has passed? To ask one more question? To hear one favorite story again?
Holidays are when families gather and share memories. Often they are stories told over and over again. But then the next holiday rolls around and that favorite aunt or uncle is no longer there, or can’t remember. And although you might have disliked hearing the same stories told over and over again, not having them at all is somehow worse.
It’s a loss layered on a loss.
This Easter as we try to make grandma France’s Italian Easter bread, we are experiencing that pain. We have the recipe, but it just isn’t coming out right. We can't recall who taught her to make it or where she got the recipe from. And we don't know why she made it. It just wasn’t Easter without it.
If we had recorded our grandma Frances last Easter we would have the recipe in her own words and understand why she carried on this tradition our entire lives. My sister and our children could enjoy listening to her voice and her sassy personality for years to come. The way she mixed Italian words with English, never pausing to translate. The way memories from her childhood would bubble up as she rolled the dough and braided the bread. The way she’d give us advice. More often that it was “I wouldn’t put up with that.”
If I had recorded her, I could have preserved that recipe and the memory for future generations. I could have been the family history hero this Easter sharing that recording. And the Easter bread.
We just never know how much longer our relatives will be able to share their memories and life lessons.
Family gatherings are great opportunities to record them and build a lasting legacy.
Nervous? Don’t be. My simple list of Dos and Don’ts for interviewing your relatives can make you a family history hero this weekend and for years to come. Read on.
DO Create a List of Who to Interview
Make a list of your interview subjects. Start with your eldest family members first or those that you rarely get to see in person.
DON'T Make this 60 Minutes
Since this a family gathering, don’t compete with the Easter Bunny. Try to carve out 10-20 minutes alone with your interview subject in a quiet comfortable place.
DO Know What You Know… And What You Don’t
For each interview subject, jot down in a notebook or notecards what you know about them and what you would like to find out.
DON'T Interview Groups
It’s tempting to record everyone at the dinner table, but people talking over each other and the clatter of dishes doesn’t make for good recordings.
DO Bring a Pedigree Chart
Bring your family tree to use as a reference.
DO Gather Your Recording Equipment
You don’t need to any special technology or a sound engineer to record your family interviews. You can use your smartphone, computer, or a hand held voice recorder. Download the free audio software program Audacity onto your computer to record and edit your audio.
DON'T Forget to Test
Testing, Testing, 1-2-3. Whatever you plan to use, test it out a few days before to get comfortable. And make sure you have a lot of backup batteries and plugs for charging.
DO Bring Photos or Memorabilia
Bring a few photos or objects to help trigger memories. Do you have photos where you can’t identify everyone? This a good time to ask Aunt Gladys just who all is in that wedding photo.
DO Prepare Your Questions
Start now by making a list of questions. Start with the “vital record” questions such as their name, birthdate, and marriage date. Then move onto more open ended questions where their personality can shine through, such as:
What’s your favorite Easter memory?
What are you most grateful for?
Where did you grow up?
What are you proudest of?
What was your favorite subject in school and why?
How did you meet your spouse?
Sorry, this isn’t about you! Let your relative do the talking. Limit your questions in this setting and don’t interrupt. If you hit a genealogy gem, schedule a formal follow-up interview.
DO Share! But Keep it Short
Yes, this is an audio recording but we live in a busy visual world. We are used to scrolling, flipping, and scanning to get our information. Pair short snippets of your interview with photos and create a treasured gift that people will share and share and share. Post on social media or upload audio to your ancestor profiles on family history websites such as familysearch.org and legacystories.org.