Older relatives (relatively speaking) provide tremendous insight into the past. This is a source of information that is commonly overlooked as we are searching the library for dates from centuries ago. This website is all about getting the story of relatives and going “beyond the date” and conversation with the living is an excellent way to do that.
It not just “the elderly” but also about “the interesting”, both have their purpose in your genealogy. The goal is about documenting the story for your interest but also for future generations when they decide to take an interest (and that could be a while).
First the elderly are a window into the past and their stories will not be here forever, if you don’t get the stories now they may take them with them when they go. Anyone who has been doing family research has regrets about stories they would have liked to have heard about or questions they would have liked to asked to older relatives. Even simple questions like “Did you have any aunts or uncles” could have answered many questions had they been asked. But some relatives take extremely useful(from a research perspective) answers with them or simply forget over time. So getting to them as soon as possible it necessary.
Depending on your age you may be the oldest living relative if that is the case thats ok, write down your childhood memories. Did you remember your parents? your grandparents? what were they like what memories to do you have of them. Family stories about the great- great grandfather who was in the Civil War would never wear a grey suit. Or the Great uncle that never wore shoes. These kind of stories need to be written down or they won’t get passed down.
If you are not the oldest who is, what do they remember? Everyone is different, some people have sharp vivid memories while others forget information shortly after hearing it. Everyone is important and you might need to ask many people to get the full stories. One might have a general idea and another might have a fuller picture but there is also the chance that a third person will say that the first two were wrong.
Make time and use technology (modern and old fashioned) Its all well and good to want to get these stories but the holder of the stories could live many hours or states(or countries) away. These stories are still valuable and still obtainable.
The interesting, its not all about the elderly that have stories to tell. Most people have fairly typical current stories to tell they were married in a certain year they have 2.5 children and have worked in a particular field for so many years. These stories are important and need to be documented, but the interesting stories a the atypical ones that should be documented more in depth. This category is the one that falls out of the norm. Is there a half-uncle in Alaska? How did he end up there and why did he stay? Is there an uncle that was a cook on cargo ships for 20 years? What memories does he have of that experience? Some of these stories can be turn out to be sad but sometimes they turn out to defining experience in the lives of the people you are talking to.
The elderly in the interesting have stories to tell we just need to get to them and get them documented before they forget them or take them with them.
My next post i will offer 10 tips for interviewing the living for genealogy purposes.