There’s a certain thrill that comes with family history work. Maybe it’s the challenge of the find. Or perhaps its quiet times spent in libraries reading about the sacrifices made by our forefathers. While the feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment we experience in family history efforts vary from person to person, one thing is certain: discovering our family histories connects us with the past and gives us a sense of direction for the future.
“Family history is the joy of connecting ourselves to our ancestors,” said Dennis Brimhall, former CEO at FamilySearch International at the 2015 RootsTech conference. “That kind of discovery is fun. It’s moving. It’s exciting.”
While the advancement of technology and social media has certainly made searching for ancestors easier, its also become increasingly easy to get caught up in the searching and thereby miss opportunities to document our own life’s story.
Joshua Taylor, nationally recognized genealogist and author, said it’s a trap that everyone can fall into if they’re not careful.
“I noticed that I had so much documentation about people who lived 300 years ago, I wasn’t leaving anything behind about my own life, my parents, and my grandparents and other relatives,” he said at the 2015 RootsTech conference.
While there are many ways to record your own history, and the history of those around you, here are three tips to get your started:
Build A List Of Questions
After you’ve decided to record your own history and the history of living relatives, compile a list of questions to ask that will prompt long responses and insights into a life.
“If you’re going to get to know someone, if you’re going to tell a story, you have to ask the right questions,” explained Kirsten Wright, developer of the popular mobile app Kidchatteroo. “I interview my grandma, and if I ask her the right questions, the things she says are completely golden.”
“Start asking questions like, ‘Where was this taken?’ or ‘What town?’ or ‘Was this your home?’ This line of questioning could evolve into more detailed questions about the location, such as, “Did you grow up there, fall in love there?” One FamilySearch blogger posted a list of 52 Questions that focuses on using 1 question a week for 52 weeks to get your life story.
And this doesn’t just apply to others. Take time to gather your own photos, and answer these same questions about yourself.
When it comes to preserving family legacies, perhaps nothing brings family history to life like hearing the voice or the laugh of a grandparent or cousin.
“Inviting a loved one, a friend, or even a stranger to record a meaningful interview with you just might turn out to be one of the most important moments in that person’s life, and in yours,” said David Isay, founder of StoryCorps in a 2015 TED Talk.
Share The Stories With Family Members
Family stories should be shared. After documenting your own history or the life of a relative, find a way to share it.
“When you think about family history from the perspective of more than just names and dates, capturing images and video can be a great way to move forward,” says Taylor. “You could even create videos or audio about your research experience. Have your own Who Do You Think You Are? or Genealogy Roadshow episode. Build your own for your kids and put it out on YouTube.”
Whether you decide to create a family YouTube channel, or a family Facebook group, use the platform to preserve the memories.
“It isn’t just necessarily about the genealogical, the family history documents. It’s really about the stories,” said Taylor.
How are you preserving the histories of today? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Tweet us @RootsTechConf.
This is the fourth and final article of a series exploring how to build a genealogical toolbox. For more tips and tricks, attend the RootsTech, the world’s largest family history conference. To register, click here.