It’s no wonder that genealogy is one of the most popular topics on the Internet — family history can be fascinating, and learning more about it is an excellent vehicle for generating conversation and fostering inter-generational bonds.
Beyond creating a family tree, consider generating a more thorough narrative by conducting an oral history interview with your loved ones.
“Through an oral history, you can capture key life moments and connect the past and future,” says Nancy Rogers, senior vice president of Corporate Responsibility at Lincoln Financial Group. The company is honoring the legacy of Abraham Lincoln and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation through its Lincoln’s Legacy initiative, which includes a call for recorded oral histories conducted by Americans nationwide.
With so much technology now available in the palm of your hand, discovering and capturing your family’s history is easier than ever. From conducting research online to recording and sharing oral histories, take advantage of available tools. Here are some guidelines to make the most of the experience:
• Prepare questions, don’t just wing it. You’ll have a much more interesting conversation if you have a series of open-ended questions ready in advance. For example, “what historical event left the most lasting impression on your life?” Avoid yes or no questions.
• Consider your relatives’ ages and what life might have been like for them during their childhood. Were their schools or neighborhoods racially diverse? Ask your grandparent or older relative to compare life today to that time.
“You may not think about it often, but Americans have not always enjoyed the freedom and opportunities they do today. Talking to older relatives about their lives and the lives of their parents and grandparents can shed light on the struggles and challenges of the past,” says Allison Green, chief diversity officer at Lincoln Financial.
• Use a prop to get the conversation started, such as an old photo or a trinket. These keepsakes can inspire both questions and answers.
• Preserve your interview by recording it forever. Choose a well-lit, quiet area. Use a camcorder or a smartphone — whatever works for you.
• Don’t keep your interview to yourself. There are ways you can share it with the world. For example, Lincoln Financial Group is calling for recordings to be incorporated into an anthology of voices. To upload your conversation or learn more about the initiative, visit www.LincolnsLegacyOralHistories.com.
Everyone has an interesting story to tell and a legacy to leave. Don’t let the fascinating fabric of your family history fade away undiscovered.