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Expert Elder Care Guidance
Expert Elder Care Guidance
Creating an oral history of your family is truly one of those gifts that keep on giving. You’ll never regret taking the time and effort to create one. The act of creating an oral history is just as valuable for you, the interviewer, as you develop a personal connection to their past. But where do you start? Our guide will help.
What is an oral history?
The truth is it can be whatever you want it to be. Fundamentally it’s the telling of a family’s history, expressed in any number of ways. It used to be the information was captured on a tape recorder. But nowadays it’s fairly easy to capture and edit video, and intersperse it with photography and other footage to tell a story. Be creative! Just keep in mind that this needs to be fun. So take on only as much as you’re capable of to make sure you’re pleased with the outcome. Keep in mind, too - if videos aren’t your thing, a lovely scrapbook can achieve the same goal.
Capturing the story
A family reunion presents a perfect opportunity to sit down with older members of the family and ask them about how things were “back in the day.” Most of them will love telling stories about their childhood, how they learned to make a living, raise a family and overcome obstacles along the way. They relish being asked to pass down some words of wisdom to the younger generation and the mere act of asking them about their life story allows them to feel valued.
It’s best to have a series of questions prepared ahead of time. It’s even better if you’re able to send the questions out to everyone before the reunion. You might also suggest that family members bring memorabilia to display on a table.
Besides individual interviews, you’ll find that trading memories among family members can also be fun. For example, you could record an exchange between aunts and uncles about particular family events or what life was like growing up with their parents or grandparents. You could film them looking at old photographs while they tell the stories behind them; include a shot of the actual photo or some other memorabilia, such as a piece of jewelry, documents, ethnic dress or family Bible, that becomes a focal point for discussion.
What to ask
How to Tape Instant Oral Biographies by Bill Zimmerman is a nice, easy-to-use book that lists some questions – beyond the typical fact-finding ones – you can use to get great stories for an oral history:
The bottom line
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