Honor your Oldsters
Life is short and precious.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious life privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” ~ Marcus Aurelius
I have always been one to honor my elders, especially my parents. I love to talk to the elderly because of their wisdom and they always seem to have the best stories to share.
I have been blessed with the ability to spend quality time with my Mom because I am self employed. We have traveled to several countries and had a wonderful time doing so with family friends, or new friends we make along the way on our travels.
Before your parents die, I believe it’s important to hear about and document their stories for future generations, especially family history. Once your parents are gone, their stories die with them.
An oral history is a wonderful tool to get your parents to begin talking. Here’s an example of some questions you may ask:
- What is your full name? Why did your parents select this name for you? Did you have a nickname?
- When and where were you born?
- How did your family come to live there?
- Were there other family members in the area? Who?
- What was the house (apartment, farm, etc.) like? How many rooms? Bathrooms? Did it have electricity? Indoor plumbing? Telephones?
- Were there any special items in the house that you remember?
- What is your earliest childhood memory?
- Describe the personalities of your family members.
- What kind of games did you play growing up?
- What was your favorite toy and why?
- What was your favorite thing to do for fun (movies, beach, etc.)?
- Did you have family chores? What were they? Which was your least favorite?
- Did you receive an allowance? How much? Did you save your money or spend it?
- What was school like for you as a child? What were your best and worst subjects? Where did you attend grade school? High school? College?
- What school activities and sports did you participate in?
- Do you remember any fads from your youth? Popular hairstyles? Clothes?
- Who were your childhood heroes?
- What were your favorite songs and music?
- Did you have any pets? If so, what kind and what were their names?
- What was your religion growing up? What church, if any, did you attend?
- Were you ever mentioned in a newspaper?
- Who were your friends when you were growing up?
- What world events had the most impact on you while you were growing up? Did any of them personally affect your family?
- Describe a typical family dinner. Did you all eat together as a family? Who did the cooking? What were your favorite foods?
- How were holidays (birthdays, Christmas, etc.) celebrated in your family? Did your family have special traditions?
- How is the world today different from what it was like when you were a child?
- Who was the oldest relative you remember as a child? What do you remember about them?
- What do you know about your family surname?
- Is there a naming tradition in your family, such as always giving the firstborn son the name of his paternal grandfather?
- What stories have come down to you about your parents? Grandparents? More distant ancestors?
- Are there any stories about famous or infamous relatives in your family?
- Have any recipes been passed down to you from family members?
- Are there any physical characteristics that run in your family?
- Are there any special heirlooms, photos, bibles or other memorabilia that have been passed down in your family?
- What was the full name of your spouse? Siblings? Parents?
- When and how did you meet your spouse? What did you do on dates?
- What was it like when you proposed (or were proposed to)? Where and when did it happen? How did you feel?
- Where and when did you get married?
- What memory stands out the most from your wedding day?
- How would you describe your spouse? What do (did) you admire most about them?
- What do you believe is the key to a successful marriage?
- How did you find out your were going to be a parent for the first time?
- Why did you choose your children’s names?
- What was your proudest moment as a parent?
- What did your family enjoy doing together?
- What was your profession and how did you choose it?
- If you could have had any other profession what would it have been? Why wasn’t it your first choice?
- Of all the things you learned from your parents, which do you feel was the most valuable?
- What accomplishments were you the most proud of?
- What is the one thing you most want people to remember about you?
You might be surprised to hear what you learn. This line of questioning also might open a whole new area of conversation you can get into in the future.