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7 Tips for Capturing Your Family History from Elderly Loved Ones

When it comes to your family tree, how much do you know? Have you tried to gather information from your elderly loved ones to document family history? Family reunions and other family gatherings present perfect opportunities to capture their memories. The whole family can benefit from this and a legacy is left for future generations.

Here are 7 tips to help you gather information from your elderly loved ones and document your family history:

Make Advanced Preparations

  •  Make a list of the questions you want you want answered by your loved ones.
  • Purchase or plan to use a video camera, digital camera, digital recorder, and/or notebook paper to capture the information.

Explain Your Plans in Advance

  • Let your loved one know that you will be making a video, using a tape recorder, or writing down the information shared with you so to avoid surprises when you start the interview.
  • Recognize that some loved ones may be reluctant to talk and you’ll have to ease them into detailed conversation by starting out with generalities. Outgoing relatives may have no trouble talking about themselves and other family members so consider letting them know that you will be talking to them for 30 minutes or whatever time frame with which you feel most comfortable.

Videotape the Interview

  •  Using a video recorder will allow you to collect, document, and preserve the most information to pass down to future generations. Be sure to get your loved one’s permission prior to videotaping. Most people are not comfortable being on camera, so place the camera where it won’t be obvious to encourage your loved one to stay focused on you.
  • If videotaping is not an option, the next best alternative would be a digital recorder.

Make Audio Recordings

  • If you don’t have a way to videotape the interview, then make an audio recording. Allow plenty of time for questions to be answered and elaborated on.
  • As the comfort level rises, sometimes the interview will lead to new and fascinating family information. Plan ahead for this and have extra memory handy for your recording device just in case.

Get the Information in Writing

  • Just in case you want more information than time allows, write down all your questions in advance. Depending on your loved one’s age and ability to express themselves in writing, share the written questions, and let them provide the answers in writing.
  • Most likely this method won’t be as popular since the specific content you’re seeking can be overlooked or misunderstood.

Don’t Get Discouraged

  • Determine in advance the best way to get the knowledge you’re seeking. Trying to flesh out family secrets may be met with resistance. In fact, you may even be confronted by some relatives who try to sabotage or ignore your efforts.
  • Sometimes resistant relatives will come around if you are gently persistent in your efforts. Make it clear you plan to work with other relatives who will be more cooperative.

Use Genealogy Experts If You’re Stumped

  • Most communities have organizations that will assist you with gathering information about your family history. They can also advise you on how to approach your elderly loved ones with questions.
  • You can also find experienced genealogists online who you can ask for assistance or guidance.

Getting facts about your family tree and history can be a challenging adventure. Stay strong and persevere; there are huge rewards to learning your family history. Not only will you benefit from the interview experience, but you’ll also leave a legacy for generations to come.