02 October 2013

Grandparents and grandchildren -- oh the stories they can tell ... a way to celebrate National Family History Month

Here's my mom with her father, paternal grandmother and paternal great grandmother -- I wonder if when she was older, if she interviewed any of them?
Copyright 2013 Diane L Richard

As we celebrate Family History Month, let’s talk about some ways to take advantage of this month-long focus on family + history.

Let’s start with opportunities for children and grandparents (or great grandparents or even parents) to engage and learn the stories of the older generations.

I was reminded of this when I read One listened, one spoke, two drew closer in my local newspaper in August.

The Legacy Project’s National Listen to a Life contest as mentioned in the article is currently underway.  Full details are here.

In fact, a high school project is what got me started with my own personal genealogy research, please read this post on Upfront with NGS, Dreading the Family Tree Assignment to see my first family tree.  Unfortunately, my grandparents lived in England and Virginia at the time – equally un-accessible back in the 1960s!  Though I wrote letters to my Gran (in England), I didn’t know enough to ask the right questions and hence didn’t always get the most detailed responses. Though, when I did visit her, I also found the same reticence to talk family .  The same was very true for my Grandma who lost her mother as a child, her husband while young, and had a father commit suicide.  Talking about the family was a non-starter.

Fortunately (and I was thrilled) when my kids were in Girl and Boy Scout troops, they each worked on a merit badge that was about family.  Because of that, they interviewed (via e-mail) their three surviving grandparents (who live across the country) and learned some really neat stuff.  With so many templates out there on questions to ask, it is now easier than ever for grandchildren to interact with their grandparents. One such list to get you started is Fifty Questions for Family History Interviews:
What to Ask the Relatives (Kimberly Powell, About.com Genealogy).  And, feel free to vary from those listed.  The key is to remind the grandchildren to not ask questions that can just be answered Yes or No!

Nowadays with all the technology, even if grandparents and grandchildren don’t live near one another, they can still conduct an interview and record it.  Read Recording Interviews When You Are NOT in the same room? What's a Genealogist to Do? for some suggestions on how.

Might such an interview lead us to the next generation of genealogists?  My high school assignment got me started and then after college I picked up the reins and I haven’t looked back since!

Have the grandchildren in your family interviewed their grandparents?  What worked? What didn’t work?  What was the “neatest” or most “unexpected” thing a grandchild learned?

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