This post contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy here. I was provided a greetingStory Memory box from PassItDown for review. My opinions are my own.
A name change.
A forgotten family cemetery.
Each of these pieces of information was found through oral history and served to jump start my stalled genealogy research.
Oral history is one of the most important tools in our genealogy toolbox.
It is also one of the most overlooked tools there as well.
Why use oral history in your research? How does collecting oral history within a family actually benefit your research?
1. Oral History Points You in the Right Direction
Have you had this experience? Your research is progressing nicely and then just comes to a screeching halt. The man or woman in question just disappears in the records. Something was happening in their everyday life to make them do something a bit unusual or unexpected. This was the case when Johnnie Hodies Talbott disappeared from the census and vital records in southern Virginia in the early 1910âs. Most researchers assumed Johnnie died – a logical assumption with no evidence to support the theory. In fact Johnnie Talbott had not died, but had changed his name.
Talbott oral history passed through Johnnieâs grandson revealed that Johnnie H. Talbott did not like his birth name. Sometime in the 1910âs he simply started using the name Boss Henry Talbott. Boss never legally changed his name (he didn’t have to), so there are no records connecting Johnnie to Boss. He just ceased using Johnnie and started using Boss.
Without the Talbott family oral history, there would be no way to confirm two men were one.
2. Oral History Leads to More Family Connections
Coming away from an oral history interview (formal or informal) without names of more family members to interview is rare. As networking in the business world generates business leads for companies, oral history is a form of networking that generates more research leads and more interview opportunities for the researcher.
Interviewing my grandmother on several occasions led to learning the names of her Haley first cousins. Interviewing her Haley cousins by phone and in person led to attending a family reunion where I met other branches of the Haley family whom I have since interviewed.
3. Oral History Leads You to the Physical Locations of Your Ancestors.
Talking to the older generations in a family provides a lot of information on places that your ancestors may have lived or worked. These older family members also often know about the (forgotten) family cemeteries that are located on what used to be the family farm.
Interviewing two Maddox family cousins about the possibility of a family cemetery for the early ancestors yielded negative results initially. The first cousin stated she knew of no such cemetery. The second cousin quickly contradicted her stating they had played hide and seek as young children in the old family cemetery located close to the Maddox home place. Memories were âjoggedâ when interviewing two cousins together. Locating the long forgotten cemetery of Maddox ancestors was only accomplished through interviewing family members.
4. Oral History Generates Family History Interest in the Younger Generations
Attempting to interest the younger generations in genealogy and family history is daunting at times. Weâve all gotten the eye roll at some point when trying share our latest find. Oral history helps to spark the interest of the younger generations. The crazier the family story, the more interesting they find it. These family stories often serve as conversation starters.
Now that I’ve convinced you…….
How do you pull those stories from your relatives?
How do you preserve your own oral history and family stories with future generations?
How do you jog those memories of your family members?
Pass It Down has re-invented the greeting card to capture and preserve a family member’s memories! The possibilities are endless, but let me show you how these nifty greetingStory Memory cards can benefit you as a genealogist. In one card, you capture your family member’s memories and handwriting while connecting (or re-connecting) with a your loved one.
Each greetingStory Memory Box comes with a set of cards (12, 24 or 48). Instead of sending a traditional greeting card you are sending a conversation starter. Each card has a question to spark a memory and plenty of space for your family member (or you!) to write their memory/story. Additional story prompts are provided to help get the story flowing and prevent writer’s block.
Once the recipient completes the story, he/she simply mails the card back to you in a pre-paid envelope. With each card you have the option to digitize & preserve your family’s stories on the Pass It Down platform to share with other family members. The result is a permanent digital memory book!
(Future family historians will thank you!)
I was so excited to see these and immediately began thinking of all the family members I wanted to send them to. Parents, an aunt, and multiple distant cousins! We have a big extended family with a tendency toward longevity. Just think of the stories to collect and connections to make!
I like that fact I can order all the cards at once and send them on my own schedule or I can use Pass It Down’s subscription service to send out cards directly to the recipient spaced out over time.
As your family’s genealogist and family historian, think about this possibilities. These are perfect for sending to collateral relatives to capture the oral history on that side of the family. Are you the oldest generation? Use the cards for yourself! Answer the story prompts yourself and record your own personal oral history.
Your story today is the next generation’s oral history! Preserve it!
(I’m stepping down from my soapbox now. Ahem.)
YOUR Take Away!
- Oral history is important to your research.
- Seek out your family’s oral history from those close to you.
- Seek out distant relatives to interview!
- Record your own stories for future generations!
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