Tips & Tricks

Get Together & Gather Stories

By Katie Derby

The holidays are a great time to reconnect with family, recount old family stories, and take a stroll down memory lane. With a little bit of preparation, these special moments can be captured and included in your own family history projects.

Gather Information

The first step in any genealogy research is to identify what you and other family members already know and gather any family documents. This information can be quickly transferred to pedigree charts and family group records and then expanded upon later with more research. There are several places online where you can print off free blank forms to get you started. Here are just a few:

Arrive at family gatherings prepared with printed charts to fill in as you ask questions of your relatives. Start with your oldest relatives first if possible. Record complete dates and place names whenever possible.

As you fill in the charts, be sure to ask if there are any documents to prove the information - things like birth, marriage, death certificates, journals, military records, letters, scrapbooks, wills, etc. Better still, ask family members to bring documents and photo albums ahead of time. Remember you can quickly scan any documents with your phone and then upload those images to your FOREVER Storage accounts to digitally preserve them. Include as much information about them as you can including where the document came from and who holds the original copy.

Identifying Photos and Home Movies

Another frequent pastime at holiday family gatherings is looking at old photo albums and home movies. This is a great time to make note of the people, places, and stories behind these images. Label photos carefully on the back with pencil or an acid free pen. Include full names (not just “Grandma” or “Uncle Tim”), and places, as well as the date. If the exact date isn’t known, do your best to have people narrow it down as much as possible. More information about photo identification can be found here:

Recording Family Stories

These activities and discussions will inevitably lead to recounting family stories. Take out your phone and use the voice recorder to capture these stories. It is a great reference as you identify photos and videos so you can go back and type up more of the details shared at a later date. It is also a priceless treasure to preserve these stories as told in your family members' own voices. For more tips on oral histories, including a list of great questions, try:

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