RootsWeb - Oral History Questions
Preserving Your Photographs & Documents
How-to get started on your Family History
Tips for recording oral histories & other genealogy how-to articles
When you begin genealogy, the first thing you should do is talk to the older members of your family. Find out what they remember about their parents and grandparents and ask them about their own lives. Get out the old family photos and ask about them. Have copies made and preserve the negatives. These are the things you should do before you spend a lot of time digging through the records in the libraries and county court houses. The records will probably be available for years to come, but your loved ones will not.
We all know that everybody dies sometime, but we act as if we donít really believe it will happen, as if the people who are important in our lives will always be there. Make it a priority to begin recording the life stories of your parents and grandparents and of your own life. Donít put it off. Begin today.
I would like to briefly share my story:
My father, Johnnie Lee Wilkins, grew up on a farm in Southern Illinois. His grandmother lived with the family until her death in 1936 when Dad was 5 years old. Dadís uncle, Mark Bethel, who was about 14 years older than him spent a lot of time on the farm and lived with them for a time. When Dad was seven years old, his father died of TB. My Uncle Mark was with him when he died.
Uncle Mark used to speak with great respect about my grandfather, his brother-in-law. I always intended to sit down with my uncle and record some of his stories. He remembered so many more things than my father did because Dad was so young at the time of his grandmotherís and his fatherís death. Unfortunately, I put it off until it was too late. Uncle Mark died of cancer in November of 1990. All the untold stories and wonderful memories died with him.
After my uncleís death, I realized how important family history was to me and I decided to record everything I could and to pass the stories on to my grandchildren. I began by interviewing all the older members of the family and making copies of all the old photos.
One of the things I did was to interview my father. We sat at the kitchen table and I asked questions and listened. Mom wrote everything down in shorthand and later transcribed it for me. I typed it up and gave Dad a copy which he made a few corrections on. I also remembered a couple of questions which I had neglected to ask and he wrote these down for me also.
I will always be grateful that I took the time to do this because just a few short months later, my dear and wonderful father was dead. He died very suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 62. Dad was an extraordinary man and I want my grandchildren to know that he existed and that his life made a difference to so many people. I want them to know at least a little part of who he was and what he did in his life.
I encourage everyone to make this a priority. Recording your story and that of your older family members will be a priceless treasure to pass on to future generations. Leaving something undone can cause great regrets.
"Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation." JOEL 1:3