13 November 2007

Just the facts: Holiday gatherings

Thanksgiving (for readers in the US) and Chanukah are only a few weeks away. Plan to advantage of family gatherings to collect information on your family's unique history.

Think about taking pictures and also video holiday dinners. Prepare and send questionnaires in advance for guests to complete and bring to the gathering. You could threaten not to give them dinner if they don't turn in the answers, but that's not really nice - just don't give them dessert!

Hopefully, the gatherings - at your house or at the relatives - will include several generations. In addition to questionnaires, make sure to give the attending guests the latest updates to your family history research.

Record older generations telling the stories they heard from their grandparents, as well as younger generations asking questions about the family.

There are many oral history websites offering hundreds of possible questions. among the most useful for older generations:

Where did our family come from?
What was our original name?
Are there any unusual stories about our name or origin?
Do we have any famous or infamous ancestors?
How did our family get here? (wherever "here" is)
Do we have branches in other countries?
What was the first family event you attended as a small child?

Younger generations might want to know how parents and grandparents met, how earlier generations immigrated on ships or train, and how they walked from home to school and back again twice each day - uphill both ways - in high snow drifts.

Try this ice-breaker: Write questions on slips of paper, fold them and let each guest select one. They can choose to answer the surprise question themselves or ask the question of someone else.

Search the web for "Oral History questions" or check the great resources here on Cyndi's List.

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