Family History Interview: A Treasure Trove

When I was taking history at California State University, Fullerton, the professor gave me a challenging assignment. It was an assignment I approached with trepidation: how interesting could this be? The assignment was to interview a family member on tape about family history. I’d been hearing the family stories for years, I thought. Did I really want to subject myself to them again? What would this assignment accomplish?

I finally decided to do it with my Grandma Ethel Melson (Mom’s mom). I prepared a list of questions and took them with me when we visited her over the holidays, sat down with her and the trusty old tape recorder she always loaned me when I was there. What happened next was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. She spoke for over two hours, answering every question with insightful recollections. Often she told things in ways I’d never heard them or offered details she’d never mentioned before. When my mother heard the tape later, she said Grandma was telling stories she’d never shared before, not even with my Mom.

Grandma passed away a few years later, and I have since transferred the tape to CD and given it to the family. I cannot tell you how awesome it is to hear her voice, her laugh, etc. when you start missing her or feeling you’re forgetting. Even better, we can share it with people she never met, like my wife, or our kids.

Since then, I have encouraged so many people to do this with their families. I wish we’d done it with my Grandma Schmidt before her dimentia got bad. And I wish we’d done it with a lot of others as well. It is a cherished gift, and you should consider doing it yourself. You’ll be surprised and blessed and it will be something you’ll never forget.

For what it’s worth…

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