Saturday, 9 January 2016

Family Oral History Project - Kick in the Butt

Happy New Year to All! Yes it is time to reflect on the year past and plan for the coming year!


It is hard to believe that it is two years since my first post on the Worldwide Genealogy - A Genealogy Collaboration Blog. My involvement with this project has encouraged me to broaden my horizons, to look at my research from a different perspective and to delve into areas that were once foreign to me.

Each blog has pushed me to find something new and interesting to share with our members and readers.  I must admit sometimes this has been a little stressful due to other commitments, however, I always feel a sense of accomplishment once the blog is posted. Of course the bonus is the supportive and informative feedback that I have received from the group and readers. Last year, due to moving house, a family reunion and family illness I missed a couple of blogs, so this year I would like to plan ahead and develop a theme for my 2016 blogs.  

Plan: Development of an Oral History Plan for our Family History

We have all wished we had taken more time to sit and talk to our elders, to capture their stories, experiences and perspectives on their lives and the times they lived in.  Often, we leave this until it is to late and the memories are lost for ever.

Over recent months when I spending time with my mother, I have noticed that she is starting to lose and confuse her memories.  Unfortunately, she had a fall on New Year's Eve while visiting me and has been in hospital for a week.  Each time I visit her, I find she is spending a lot of time recalling memories from her childhood and teenage years.  I am taking this as a sign, or a kick in the "butt" to put a concerted effort into starting to record an oral history for our family.

With this in mind, I started to do a little research on Oral History Collection.  Another Reality Check!

I realised if I was going to do this properly, it wasn't just a matter of sitting down with family members, sticking a microphone in front of them and asking a few questions.  There are so many things to consider.

For example:
can of worms
  • What equipment will I use?
  • Recording of interviews? - should they be audio, by video or both?
  • How will I store/archive the digital files
  • How do I approach the family members I wish to interview?
  • How do I make them feel comfortable with being interviewed?
  • What questions should I ask?
  • What are my ethical responsibilities?
  • What new and exciting apps/programs are now available for recording and storage of oral histories?
You would have to agree I have opened a "can of worms" and that these questions cannot be covered adequately in the space of one blog, so I have decided to follow a theme for my 2016 blogs on Worldwide Genealogy - A Genealogy Collaboration Blog, with each post for this year looking at different aspects of putting together our family "Oral History Project".  

Watch this space! I am looking forward to sharing my learning experience with you all and look forward to your feedback and advice 


  1. Looking forward to reading your upcoming posts. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, I am looking forward to getting your feed back on my posts.

  2. Well done I look forward to reading more in the future x

  3. Well done I look forward to reading more in the future x

  4. I enjoyed this post and it brought back thoughts of when I collected what family history memories my Mother could tell. Even though she was " with it", she found it hard to remember things without some sort of trigger to jog her memory. Don't leave it too late or get bogged with doing it right, just make a start. Photos were a good trigger for some memories, but my Mother couldn't always remember who the faces ir events were. Good luck in your 2016 project

    1. Thanks for the tip re using photos as a prop. How did you record your Mums memories, media file, or did you transcribe them? Or both? I wonder about this because I am aware that when you transcribe memories it is important to consider how you influence the story with your own interpretation.

  5. A can of worms indeed. I recorded some conversations on my phone over the holidays and am now wondering how best to transcribe the contents and link recordings and transcripts.

  6. Yes, this is something that I have been considering as well. Such questions come up? Do you correct their grammar? If you know that they have confused some of the facts? Do you make a note next to this part of the transcript with the facts as you know them? How do you avoid colouring the oral history with your own biases and interpretations. Yes, definitely opening a can of worms!


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World Wide Genealogy Team