Nora Walsh Kerr
Tips for Life Story Excavation
Some people love to talk about themselves. We all know them! They have stories for days and love to have a willing audience. They hold court at the dinner table, and their anecdotes become the stuff of family legends. These are easy stories to capture! But what about the quieter members of our families, our introverts who on the surface seem like they don't have much to say, but are a wealth of knowledge about earlier generations. They have immigration records, or remember how your parents met. These stories are also worth saving, but may just take a little more planning. Consider it a mission of excavation! (Put on your miner's hat.) Explore your own personal history with the people you love. Here are some tips to get the best stories down for safekeeping.
Get their buy in. This is critical. Share why their stories are important to you and what you plan to do with it.
Do some pre-planning. Think about the stories or time period that you'd like to hear about and reverse engineer the questions to pull them out. Old photos are a great conversation starter.
Carve out some 1:1 time with family members in a quiet place. Be mindful of their health, hearing and other limitations. Setting aside 90 minutes is a good timeframe for conversation.
Bring your phone and ask to record. I take written notes as well. While you're with them, take the time to caption any photos that are not labeled. You will appreciate this someday!
Sit back and enjoy! Be curious and ask follow up questions. You may need a second conversation or more, which is a great opportunity to clarify any details or fill in any gaps.
Are you planning a DIY project? Let us know how it goes! This is such important work. Of course, if you need assistance, we're here to help.