Share

Family Histories Have Meaning

Posted: December 5, 2016

Why do we wait so long to learn about our ancestors, the histories behind the lives of our families? Recording oral histories now is one way we can preserve these histories.

Our youth can play an integral part. They LOVE all things "techy". When they look like they are getting “bored” with the idea of sitting around as adults engage in the many stories and sharing with one another give youth the role of director and get those stories recorded and saved for posterity.

Why do we wait so long to learn about our ancestors, the histories behind the lives of our families? My parents recently passed away, and as we all do, that is the time we start to discover how little we know about who we really are. In my family we are struggling to identify the people and places in the many different photos we have found, some dating back to the 1800’s. The people who can help identify them are no longer with us.

As part of Strengthening Families Program: for Parents and Youth 10-14 (SFP 10-14), one activity has families work on a family tree. This is just the beginning of all our youth could be learning about who they are. But with this activity we have hopefully planted the seed for further discussions.

Many families are good at sharing the oral stories, especially during large celebrations like baptisms, birthdays, weddings, holidays, graduations and yes, funerals. But then what? What do we do with all we have heard?

The Library of Congress Research Center website on American Folklife offers the following on capturing oral stories. “There are many ways to document and preserve family histories. One approach concentrates on the examination of public records, such as census records, church records, wills, and deeds. Another approach focuses on the examination of various materials that are in the possession of family members, such as diaries, photograph albums, home movies, business records and artifacts. A third approach is concerned with recording oral history interviews with family members about aspects of their lives and memories of other relatives and important events in the family’s history.”

Here is where our youth can play an integral part. They LOVE all things techy. They are always “Snap Chatting” or “Instagramming” or using some other new App to communicate with one another. When they look like they are getting “bored” with the idea of sitting around as adults engage in the many stories and sharing with one another give the youth the role of director and get those stories recorded and saved for posterity.

“Recording oral histories can be a very effective way of capturing information that is difficult to obtain by any other means. Oral accounts can serve to significantly complement other kinds of information. For example, a person being interviewed might tell the story behind a family event that's captured in a photograph, and name the family members depicted. Recorded interviews also have the added value of capturing the interviewees’ voices and, if video recordings are made, those persons’ moving images, too. There is a thrill in listening to the actual voices and viewing the moving images of your own family's elders.” For ideas on planning and capturing oral history interviews go to The American Folklife Center. Future generations will be glad you did.

Contact Information

Patty Graff
  • Extension Educator, Food, Families & Health
Email:
Phone: 724-837-1402