It may come as a surprise, but the best source for family history isn’t ancestry.com. It’s your family. In Local & Family History Services, we often hear our patrons lament the fact that they never asked their relatives about their lives while they still could. Many perplexing family mysteries might have been solved by a simple discussion.
This Thanksgiving, as you get together with your family around the dinner table, ask parents and grandparents a few questions about their lives. Instead of hearing your uncle tell the same old joke, ask him to tell you what your father was like as a boy. Ask your parents how they met. Ask your grandparents about their grandparents. They may appreciate the chance to reminisce, and you may learn something new.
If talking isn’t your family’s style, try instead to pass on a tradition, or a treasured keepsake, or the recipe for aunt Mary’s kiefle’s.
If you need help knowing what questions to ask, The Oral History Workshop has great questions in a range of categories. Catching Stories: A Practical Guide to Oral History can help you plan the project. If you feel ready to start writing it down, try One Memory at a Time: Inspiration and Advice for Writing Your Family Story. For the tech savvy, you can record a family interview. For help, check out Touching Tomorrow: How to Interview Your Loved Ones to Capture a Lifetime of Memories on Audio or Video.