I have 3 tips for recording your family history this Holiday Season.
What story from your life or your parents' life needs to be remembered?
Did your grandmother board a ship at the age of 15 and immigrate to America all by herself? Does your grandfather have great stories about his life? Was your uncle at the liberation of Dachau during World War II? (I have a friend who this is true for, but she was too young to hear about it while he was alive.) Oftentimes families have stories like these, but questions go unasked, answers and conversations about these things aren't preserved, and adventures are left untold. In our increasingly disjointed society, it's important for families to share stories.
We want to encourage you to take time this holiday season -- a time when families naturally gather around tables and tell stories -- to preserve these stories that make up the unique tapestry of your family. With multiple generations under one roof, it's a chance to dig into your history and discover what brought you to where you are now.
If you're among the older generation, don't be afraid to share your story. If you're among the younger generation, be sure to actively listen when stories are being told. Turn off the football game for a bit. Put down the smartphones -- you have a lifetime to look at screens but a limited time to preserve your past.
The process of telling your story may be uncomfortable at first. Our current culture leaves us ill-equipped for face-to-face interactions and deep conversation, but it's worth pushing past the discomfort to get to the unique history only your family holds. With the help of the tips below, the discomfort should quickly pass.
Here's how to get the conversation rolling and preserve your parents' or grandparents' stories:
1. Be intentional. Set aside specific time for this. Gather your parents or grandparents around the dining room table and tell them you want to hear their stories.
2. Start with simple questions. Easy, fun questions break the ice and often lead to great stories. Begin with a few of these:
- What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten?
- Did you have a nickname as a kid?
- Where did you go on vacations as a child?
3. Record the conversation. Your smartphone probably already has a recording app (like Voice Memos on the iPhone), so use technology to your advantage. The digital age is great for easily sharing things like photos and recordings. Put your phone in the middle of the table and just let it record. Soon, everyone will forget it's there, and you'll have an invaluable souvenir of that moment in time.
If you wish you knew more about your grandparents' stories, we encourage you to do something about it and start recording some of your unique life experiences so future generations can draw strength and wisdom from what you (or your parents) endured, accomplished, and valued. Family stories encourage us to move boldly in our own lives, helping us to uniquely understand who we are and how we got to where we are.
If you still have the chance to tell your story or to listen to the stories of your elders this holiday season, we don't think you'll regret it!!