Reluctant to interview your relatives? Maybe you haven’t considered all the benefits. Oral historian Anita DeFelice offers these six reasons to interview family members — either long-distance or in person:
1. An interview can strengthen intergenerational bonds and bridge the generation gap. Most elders welcome the opportunity to share their memories and their wisdom with younger generations — and the young usually enjoy listening to them.
2. Studies show that reminiscing is an important endeavor for people as they age. An interview encourages them to reminisce and provides an opportunity to awaken long-forgotten memories.
3. Because an oral history interview provides an opportunity to reflect on one’s life and make sense of the past, it can be an enlightening — and possibly a life-changing — experience.
4. It also can create a special bond or connection that lasts long after the interview is over. This can hold true even when you interview people you don’t know.
5. By learning more about your family — especially your parents — you’re likely to learn more about yourself, as well. As a result, you may understand your family, and yourself, a little better, too.
6. An oral history interview can really bring history alive. It can make us feel as though we’re “sitting in on the past.” It’s a truly wonderful way to gather firsthand knowledge of historical events.
A version of this article appears in the February 2004 issue of Family Tree Magazine.