Recording Cherished Family Memories

My husband and I were blessed with 2 beautiful children.  Our first child, our son, was born 28 years ago and our daughter was born almost 5 years later.  There were 4 grandparents, 4 great-grandparents, and one very lively great-great-grandmother who shared their young lives for many years.  Our children got to know these special people along with aunts, uncles and cousins.

During my journey to explore our family trees, we learned about many experiences that had not been shared until I asked!  I only wish I had started asking sooner before many loved ones were gone and their stories were gone.  Knowing dates and places are great, but it is fascinating to know more about the journeys your loved ones have taken!

Something that is mentioned a lot in genealogy circles is taping or at least writing down personal stories.  Sometimes people are hesitant to share family stories because of embarrassment, or concern over social or illegal behaviors.  Reassure them that the reason for sharing is only for personal use, and these special memories for them make them special to those that follow behind……   These stories may even help one of their loved ones to understand who they are and who they were along their journey.



  • If your loved one agrees, video them talking, answering your questions and telling stories.  Keep it informal so they won’t get nervous and clam up!
  • People remember fun stories when reminiscing with other family and friends.  I hear better stories with more details if 2 or 3 family or friends are just talking. Try video taping them while they talk naturally.
  • Family REUNIONS are great times to get a few family members together and talking!  If they agree, video them talking and remembering!
  • Have a list of questions or topics that might get them started.  I usually take some written notes if a major family story is brought up, but their words make it more real!
  • 2 or 3 people are going to remember different versions of a story, and that’s great!  It’s more real and more interesting!
  • If you have an old-fashioned hand-held tape recorder, you can use that, too, so you have a back-up.  You might hear something that you didn’t notice in the video.
  • If someone really refuses to be taped, jot down some topics, and questions and interview them.  But keep it relaxed and informal.  This might be better with one person at a time.  If they go off on a tangent, let them finish their story.  You might discover a gem of a story you did not expect!  Let them talk and lead the conversation instead of “grilling” them with lots of questions.
  • Try using topics to get them started, like “did you like school, have any favorite teachers or interesting bus rides?”.  That kind of question usually lets them bring up stories they haven’t thought about in a while.
  • I have asked direct questions, when the person could not think of anything to say, but when a natural conversation mentions a familiar person or place, then I would hear a long detailed story about them.
  • Most important, get permission to share their stories!  If you are planning a “family only” notebook or tree, usually there is no problem.  If you want to formally publish something to distribute more widely, make sure they understand where it’s going…….
  • For my family tree binders (see post from 5-6-13), I asked each of our siblings and children to write memories of our parents.  Some were paragraphs, some were 2-3 pages, and some were lists.  They were all great memories that reminded our parents of special times with their kids and grandkids.  They ALL brought tears and smiles!
  • Don’t wait till someone is gone before you let them know how important they are to you…….AND how much their story —  their journey — means to you!!

For more ideas and information, you can check out any number of genealogy websites, many for free!  A few resources I’ve used……..

Most libraries have a great collection of genealogy information and resources, with free access to genealogy websites.  Check with your local library for more information on those services!



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