Family is important during the holidays. If you are going to visit with elderly family members this season, it would be a great opportunity to record some history. If your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles still have keen memories, perhaps you can persuade them to sit down for a tape-recorded interview. With the family together, get out the camcorder and record some footage of all your relatives, carefully reported so future generations can put a name with a face. Perhaps older relatives could assist you in identifying unknown faces in old photographs. A visit with an elderly relative can be very helpful in preserving precious information that would otherwise go with them at death.
Preparing ahead of time is an important part of getting quality information out of your visit. Have a partial list of questions ready that you'd like answered. A lifetime is a lot to talk about; therefore, you might want to focus on a specific time period, such as the Depression, or a specific aspect of life. Make sure to ask open-ended questions like, "What do you remember about your father?" or "What did your father teach you?" instead of "What was your father's name?" and "Did you like him?" Open-ended questions allow the individual to expound and give more detailed information. Allow plenty of talk time without distractions. Turn the television off and leave the room full of screaming children. If your relatives don't mind, you may want to record your conversations with a tape recorder or camcorder.
Even if you are only able to briefly visit with your relatives, record what you learn. Just ask questions, and they will probably be thrilled at your interest. Try to learn about the lives of your living ancestors while you have the chance. A vast amount of information and history might be lost otherwise.