Family Records: Preserving oral history

Family Records: Preserving oral history

One way to document and preserve family history is recording oral history interviews with relatives. This really brings our family trees to life, as it reveals the lives and memories of our family members in ways that dry facts, records or even photos cannot.

You may learn the story behind a family event captured in a photograph, emotions surrounding life events, and the names of previously unknown relatives  in photographs. Video recordings reveal how our relative sounds and what he or she looks like. We can get a genuine feel for their character.

In a recent article in the Examiner, archives technician Aaron Holt at the National Archives Fort Worth (Texas), said, “It only takes three generations to lose a piece of oral family history.” Holt continued, “It must be purposely and accurately repeated over and over again through the generations to be preserved for a genealogist today.”

Family history has to be passed down properly to younger generations, and recorded properly to save the legacy. Family stories are often altered over the years as they are passed down from parents to their children. There should be a strong oral history or a document to back them up.

This is why it is so important to interview older family members, to record their stories and preserve family memories. It is vital to ask the right questions that encourage the older generation to open up and discuss the family stories.

Start interviewing your family members today! Check out our 10 Tips for Interviewing Family Members.

Have you learned anything new from interviewing family members? Let us know in the comments below!


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  • Brenda Benefield Abbott

    January 15, 2014

    A year ago I had the opportunity to speak to my husband’s last living relative of his father’s siblings. I asked questions about his life his childhood and got 40 minutes of a wonderful life story of him, that no one had on the family. I wasn not able to visit him in person so we did it over the telephone. This was the first time we had ever spoken, and I told him who I was and treated him like we had known each other for years. He acknowledged me the same way. I did this in January 2013. I sat at the computer putting together in story form everything that he had said in front of his daughter to me over the phone and I sent the story to her via email and was so happy to have it. Later in the my husband’s uncle passed away, and everyone in the family was so thankful that I had taken the opportunity to sit down and talk to him and record his story so that it would never be lost from the family. I have sense sent it via email to everyone in the family and also have this story in my family trees online.

  • Claudette

    January 16, 2014

    Thank you for sharing that family story. I need to talk to my great aunt and I will do it today Thank you again. Claudette Floyd .

  • rita burton

    January 21, 2014

    Claudette how great was that of you. i bet he was equally delighted to talk also and impart his family history to you all.
    talking is great we should all do more of that thing dont you agree?