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The holidays provide the perfect opportunity to get kids and grandparents alike involved in collecting family histories.
Holidays are a time of family gatherings, which often involve reminiscing and remembering. Before the details of your family’s stories become lost or forgotten, get different generations involved in preserving the memories—and perhaps you’ll create some in the process, too.
Your grandparents might not have been world famous, but undoubtedly each had a claim to fame in the community or family. Have the kids interview family elders (make audio recordings of camera-shy subjects). Try to elicit funny stories and anecdotes that reveal individual personalities, unique interests and talents—you might be surprised to find that your nephew has the same passions or quirks as his great-grandmother. Here is a list of questions to consider asking, with pointers about how to record your family’s history.
Do you hear howls of protest if you threaten to try a new recipe for Thanksgiving? Make sure future generations can enjoy culinary traditions by creating a personal cookbook of favorite recipes. Find out stories behind beloved holiday objects. Was the menorah among the few items your ancestors brought from their homeland? Where did a favorite Christmas ornament come from? “When my parents downsized, they divided some of the Christmas decorations among my siblings and me,” says Amy Smith. “As we decorate the tree, I tell my kids about each ornament, whether someone gave it to them, or to me—or even where their grandparents or great-grandparents got it. I know they remember, because now they tell me the stories.”
Whether your family snapshots are in boxes, photo albums or scanned onto computers, make sure you’ve identified the people in the images, as well as recorded dates, events and locations. Transfer old home movies to DVDs and send copies to family members as a holiday gift.
You can start with an ancestor and list all of his or her descendants, or start with yourself or your children and trace back on both sides of your family tree. Some branches may be leafier than others, but try to include as many full names and important dates as possible. You can find templates and information online, or have family artists or calligraphers create a family heirloom to copy and frame for everyone.
Now that you’ve assembled all these great family histories and objects, house them all in a keepsake box so you’re sure not to lose track of them. Over time you can add to it, and it will be a wonderful chest of treasures to pass on to succeeding generations.
To find out how VNSNY can help you care for your family member, please call 1-800-675-0391.