Do You Know Your Parents’ Stories?

family sitting together and sharing conversations

3 Tips for Preserving Family History This Grandparents Day

In many Native American tribes, it’s traditional to gather and tell stories. These tales of the tribe’s achievements and the wisdom of its elders are handed down from generation to generation. They remind the tribe of who they are, where they came from, and what makes them unique. As the Oklahoma Historical Society describes it, this tradition is “an affirmation of community and individual well-being and identity.”

This month for National Grandparents Day (Sept. 12), we have a suggestion for you: Create a tradition of storytelling in your family! You don’t have to do this around a campfire. Your living room will work, too. Just be sure you bring all of your family’s living generations together and encourage the grandparents to share their stories.

Seniors have long memories, and they’re the only ones with the charm and magic to relate family history in a way that will inspire your kids. Many of us assume children aren’t interested in history, but when it’s told with detail and nuance, they’re almost always fascinated! Kids love asking questions and learning new things, and you can help them do it. Here are three tips for preserving your family history.

1.) Don’t Forget to Press Record

Trust us — you’ll want to remember these stories! You can record your conversation on your cellphone (which should come preloaded with a voice-recording app), an iPad, or a digital recorder. Just remember to test your device first to make sure it works well.

2.) Set Aside at Least 40 Minutes to Talk

In its guide to oral histories, the Hege Library says the ideal length for an interview is 40 minutes to an hour. Make time for at least that much uninterrupted storytelling. If you’d like to continue, take a break at the hour mark!

3.) Come Prepared with Questions

Storytelling is easier for some people than others. To encourage your parents to talk, work with your kids to create a list of questions like, “What games did you play when you were young?” and “What were mealtimes like in your family?” These will inspire them to reflect. (The Smithsonian Institution Archives has a long list of suggestions.)

To read more, check out this month’s newsletter!


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