Quick Tips for Interviewing Family Members About Historic Events

By Maureen A. Taylor

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Every year my Mom marks December 7th with a remembrance. It’s not intentional. She was 12 when the events of December 7, 1941 occurred. It’s stuck in her memory. It was a key moment of her childhood.

We all have historic events that remain in our memories long afterwards. You’re a walking talking history book and so are your family members!

How to Help Trigger Memories of the Past

Dates are one story trigger and photographs are another. This image of a young boy selling newspapers might get a family member talking about how their lives changed that day or how that was the first car they owned. There are clues in this picture that act as devices to refresh someone’s memory. The newspaper. The car. The headline. The clothes. Each one of these has the power to release a remembrance too.

Photo Detective Interviewing Family Historic Events Share History

Have you interviewed someone in your family about the historic events they’ve experienced?

Here’s all it takes:

  • You can use a timeline of history to help you pinpoint historic events they experienced.
  • Search on the Library of Congress website or the National Archives website or images that represent a significant time in their lives. You might even have images in your collection that you can use as story triggers. Show the image to a family member.
  • Ask them what they see.
  • Ask them what they remember about that time period. Memory is an odd thing. It’s our mind’s filing cabinet. You’re sure to be surprised by the recollections.
  • Record it using the voice recorder on your phone or with a tape recorder. If you don’t want to transcribe the story yourself, take advantage of sites like that do the transcription for you.

Audio clips, scrapbooks and stories all make great presents for the holiday season.