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Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Mar 2, 2003

LESSON 5: Oral History: A Voice From Our Past
By Karen Clifford, AG, FUGA

Over 30 ago, my husband's grandmother passed away. We were left with fond memories of her life and how her gentle ways filled us with such appreciation for her, but after all this time we had all but forgotten her voice. We were newlyweds when we last met with her and now we were grandparents ourselves. Imagine our surprise this past Christmas, when a cousin sent us a CD filled with her voice recordings, an oral history of her life. It brought tears to our eyes as we remembered her voice and all the memories that went with it. It was the best Christmas gift ever.

My husband and I listened to it over and over. How had this come about? Over 33 years ago, my husband's grandmother had taken part in an activity in which people in the community recorded the history of their lives. They spent time putting their notes down in chronological order and then read from the note cards into a microphone. Each tape had been recorded with a date. Early last year the tapes were found among the effects of her deceased daughter. With today's technology, all the tapes could fit on one CD and was easily copied for other family members. Even though her voice sounded like she was reading a script, there were times on the recording when she went outside the parameters of the little note card and started to talk as we had remembered her. This was a good reminder that even though the oral history wasn't fancy or without flaws, it was extremely memorable.

Sometimes individuals find it easier to record their memories if someone else will ask them questions. The interviewer would be wise to write the questions in advance and design them so they must be answered with more than a "yes" or "no." These types of questions are called "leading questions." If this method is done for about an hour at a time for several sittings, more information is recalled.

Another approach to stimulating memory recall is to just let the interviewee talk without interruption. Under this approach there will be times when the interviewee will get distracted and begin talking about some unrelated event so it might become necessary to steer them gently back to the subject of their lives and experiences.

While interviewing be sensitive to the fact that talking about certain events may be difficult or embarrassing, or the interviewee may fear that it sounds too much like bragging. A bit of gentle coaxing might be necessary to get them to open up. It might be helpful for the interviewer to share their own memories of the success or tragedy to help the interviewee talk more freely.

Be sure to obtain the best quality microphone you can find for your recording sessions. Carefully label the tape with the date of the session and the name of the individual. If you are taping directly into your computer, have someone handle the technical issues of recording while you encourage the interviewee to embellish their stories. Pauses in the dialogue aren't all bad, it may even allow the opportunity for a visual to be inserted if the computer is being used.

It is quite important to transcribe the tape very soon after the interview so that the memories are still fresh in the interviewee's mind. Obtaining oral histories not only can provide information for an introduction to a family history but also may be the start of an entire book on a person's life. We all enjoy the opportunities to hear a "voice from our past."

How can MyTrees.com help family members share their stories? Recently added to the MyTrees section of the website is the Family News feature. This allows the administrator of the MyTrees account to post any kind of news relating to their family. If you are the administrator and have already uploaded your family tree, go to MyTrees.com and click "Free Login". After logging in, click "Edit My Family News" under "My Account" in the menu bar. Be sure to share your family password with relatives, so they can participate in the family news, and view the information you've added to your site. Tell your relatives to go to MyTrees.com After logging in using your account number and the family password, and selecting a pedigree, have them click "View My Family News" Under "My Account" in the menu bar. Now they will be able to view the family news that you have added on your family. A history of a person's life cannot be complete without hearing the "stories" from various viewpoints. Utilize this new feature to stay in touch, and to share those "voices from your past."

Article written by Karen Clifford from Genealogy Research Associates. Sponsored by MyTrees.com.

Copyright : 2011 Karen Clifford. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Mar 2, 2003

LESSON 5: Oral History: A Voice From Our Past
By Karen Clifford, AG, FUGA

Over 30 ago, my husband's grandmother passed away. We were left with fond memories of her life and how her gentle ways filled us with such appreciation for her, but after all this time we had all but forgotten her voice. We were newlyweds when we last met with her and now we were grandparents ourselves. Imagine our surprise this past Christmas, when a cousin sent us a CD filled with her voice recordings, an oral history of her life. It brought tears to our eyes as we remembered her voice and all the memories that went with it. It was the best Christmas gift ever.

My husband and I listened to it over and over. How had this come about? Over 33 years ago, my husband's grandmother had taken part in an activity in which people in the community recorded the history of their lives. They spent time putting their notes down in chronological order and then read from the note cards into a microphone. Each tape had been recorded with a date. Early last year the tapes were found among the effects of her deceased daughter. With today's technology, all the tapes could fit on one CD and was easily copied for other family members. Even though her voice sounded like she was reading a script, there were times on the recording when she went outside the parameters of the little note card and started to talk as we had remembered her. This was a good reminder that even though the oral history wasn't fancy or without flaws, it was extremely memorable.

Sometimes individuals find it easier to record their memories if someone else will ask them questions. The interviewer would be wise to write the questions in advance and design them so they must be answered with more than a "yes" or "no." These types of questions are called "leading questions." If this method is done for about an hour at a time for several sittings, more information is recalled.

Another approach to stimulating memory recall is to just let the interviewee talk without interruption. Under this approach there will be times when the interviewee will get distracted and begin talking about some unrelated event so it might become necessary to steer them gently back to the subject of their lives and experiences.

While interviewing be sensitive to the fact that talking about certain events may be difficult or embarrassing, or the interviewee may fear that it sounds too much like bragging. A bit of gentle coaxing might be necessary to get them to open up. It might be helpful for the interviewer to share their own memories of the success or tragedy to help the interviewee talk more freely.

Be sure to obtain the best quality microphone you can find for your recording sessions. Carefully label the tape with the date of the session and the name of the individual. If you are taping directly into your computer, have someone handle the technical issues of recording while you encourage the interviewee to embellish their stories. Pauses in the dialogue aren't all bad, it may even allow the opportunity for a visual to be inserted if the computer is being used.

It is quite important to transcribe the tape very soon after the interview so that the memories are still fresh in the interviewee's mind. Obtaining oral histories not only can provide information for an introduction to a family history but also may be the start of an entire book on a person's life. We all enjoy the opportunities to hear a "voice from our past."

How can MyTrees.com help family members share their stories? Recently added to the MyTrees section of the website is the Family News feature. This allows the administrator of the MyTrees account to post any kind of news relating to their family. If you are the administrator and have already uploaded your family tree, go to MyTrees.com and click "Free Login". After logging in, click "Edit My Family News" under "My Account" in the menu bar. Be sure to share your family password with relatives, so they can participate in the family news, and view the information you've added to your site. Tell your relatives to go to MyTrees.com After logging in using your account number and the family password, and selecting a pedigree, have them click "View My Family News" Under "My Account" in the menu bar. Now they will be able to view the family news that you have added on your family. A history of a person's life cannot be complete without hearing the "stories" from various viewpoints. Utilize this new feature to stay in touch, and to share those "voices from your past."

Article written by Karen Clifford from Genealogy Research Associates. Sponsored by MyTrees.com.

Copyright : 2011 Karen Clifford. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Mar 2, 2003

LESSON 5: Oral History: A Voice From Our Past
By Karen Clifford, AG, FUGA

Over 30 ago, my husband's grandmother passed away. We were left with fond memories of her life and how her gentle ways filled us with such appreciation for her, but after all this time we had all but forgotten her voice. We were newlyweds when we last met with her and now we were grandparents ourselves. Imagine our surprise this past Christmas, when a cousin sent us a CD filled with her voice recordings, an oral history of her life. It brought tears to our eyes as we remembered her voice and all the memories that went with it. It was the best Christmas gift ever.

My husband and I listened to it over and over. How had this come about? Over 33 years ago, my husband's grandmother had taken part in an activity in which people in the community recorded the history of their lives. They spent time putting their notes down in chronological order and then read from the note cards into a microphone. Each tape had been recorded with a date. Early last year the tapes were found among the effects of her deceased daughter. With today's technology, all the tapes could fit on one CD and was easily copied for other family members. Even though her voice sounded like she was reading a script, there were times on the recording when she went outside the parameters of the little note card and started to talk as we had remembered her. This was a good reminder that even though the oral history wasn't fancy or without flaws, it was extremely memorable.

Sometimes individuals find it easier to record their memories if someone else will ask them questions. The interviewer would be wise to write the questions in advance and design them so they must be answered with more than a "yes" or "no." These types of questions are called "leading questions." If this method is done for about an hour at a time for several sittings, more information is recalled.

Another approach to stimulating memory recall is to just let the interviewee talk without interruption. Under this approach there will be times when the interviewee will get distracted and begin talking about some unrelated event so it might become necessary to steer them gently back to the subject of their lives and experiences.

While interviewing be sensitive to the fact that talking about certain events may be difficult or embarrassing, or the interviewee may fear that it sounds too much like bragging. A bit of gentle coaxing might be necessary to get them to open up. It might be helpful for the interviewer to share their own memories of the success or tragedy to help the interviewee talk more freely.

Be sure to obtain the best quality microphone you can find for your recording sessions. Carefully label the tape with the date of the session and the name of the individual. If you are taping directly into your computer, have someone handle the technical issues of recording while you encourage the interviewee to embellish their stories. Pauses in the dialogue aren't all bad, it may even allow the opportunity for a visual to be inserted if the computer is being used.

It is quite important to transcribe the tape very soon after the interview so that the memories are still fresh in the interviewee's mind. Obtaining oral histories not only can provide information for an introduction to a family history but also may be the start of an entire book on a person's life. We all enjoy the opportunities to hear a "voice from our past."

How can MyTrees.com help family members share their stories? Recently added to the MyTrees section of the website is the Family News feature. This allows the administrator of the MyTrees account to post any kind of news relating to their family. If you are the administrator and have already uploaded your family tree, go to MyTrees.com and click "Free Login". After logging in, click "Edit My Family News" under "My Account" in the menu bar. Be sure to share your family password with relatives, so they can participate in the family news, and view the information you've added to your site. Tell your relatives to go to MyTrees.com After logging in using your account number and the family password, and selecting a pedigree, have them click "View My Family News" Under "My Account" in the menu bar. Now they will be able to view the family news that you have added on your family. A history of a person's life cannot be complete without hearing the "stories" from various viewpoints. Utilize this new feature to stay in touch, and to share those "voices from your past."

Article written by Karen Clifford from Genealogy Research Associates. Sponsored by MyTrees.com.

Copyright : 2011 Karen Clifford. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

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