If you're like me, you have one or two stories about one of your relatives that you know almost word for word as it was told to you countless times over family holiday gatherings or family dinners. For me, that story is about my grandmother's near death experience where she would tell us about how she crossed into the after-life for some time before returning back to her body. It's a story you don't really forget. But what about the stories that aren't so readily shared? How will those be passed on and preserved if no one is talking about them and no one is asking about them? Gathering your family's stories is all about taking time to ask, to listen and to record. Here are a couple tips to help you on your journey to preserve what makes your family special:
The best way to gather stories about a family member is just to take the time to interview them about their life. If may seem like a daunting task, and it can be, but imagine all of those precious family nuggets you'll miss if you don't do it! Those stories are at risk of disappearing into thin air if they are not recorded. Schedule a time to meet with a family member you want to learn more about and set aside at least an hour at a time to listen to this relative share the stories of their life. Have interview questions ready to go before you begin to help guide the conversation, otherwise you might get way off track (although that might be when you get the most interesting details!). You can find some great interviews questions here. Bring a video or audio recorder with you and make sure it is fully charged (and on!) before you begin. Most recorders allow you to easily download and save the transcription to your computer. It may also be helpful to ask your family member to gather any family photos or items that might aid in sharing these stories. Make sure those items are preserved as well by scanning them onto your computer or keeping them in a safe place. Once your interview is done, email it out to other family members that might be interested in listening to it.
If the family member you want to learn more about is computer-savy, then email can be a great - and less daunting - way to gather family stories. Rather than emailing a long list of interview questions all at once, which will most likely be over-whelming to your family member, spread the questions out by sending 1-2 questions per week. Once you're done, copy the responses into a folder or google doc so you can compile the stories and share with other family members too.
Have you found other effective ways to gather your family stories? We would love to hear them!