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Oral Family History

Story-TellingThe authorities at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D. C. had stated that “it only takes three generations to lose a piece of oral family history.”

Our ancestors, especially because they many times did not read or write, had only oral history as a method to hand down family events, names and stories. So it was common to tell such family stories many times over, so everyone learned it by heart.

True, family stories having been passed along, become more tales or legends and can contain many errors. However, most of the time there is some basis of truth in each story.

What is not being done today are sharing the true events and happenings of just the last one or two generations – your parents or grandparents. Have these stories been written down and told to children and grandchildren??

Generally, it is today’s adult children, those in the 40s and older who can relate events about their parents and grandparents for future generations – generations not even born yet.

For example, I just shared an interesting little event related to my niece when she was born. It was something only I knew and she was quite thrilled to learn about this intriguing item. So even if it is not written, I have now share and passed on some oral history.

Recent research by Bruce Feiler in 2013 showed “that children who knew the most about their fore-bearers—who they were, where they grew up, illnesses they struggled with, and tough trials they went through, had the greatest self-confidence and dealt with personal stress better.” Amazing!

Tell stories

Learning of some of the personal trials and experiences our parents or grandparents went through can offer some inspiration to their children, grandchildren and beyond.

When starting such a project, use old family photos, documents, journals and especially newspaper articles. A great event I had located in the family hometown newspaper was about my mother. She was the first female to run for the Maryland State Legislature. I located articles of when she was added to the ballot, her campaigning and the final results on election day in 1938. Unfortunately, she came in third in a field of six candidates, but being the first to do something can be an uphill battle.

So start now, just a little at a time, one ancestor or pair, such as grandmother & grandfather and see what you can come up with.


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