It’s not only genealogists and family historians who look forward to Family Stories Month in November. Around the country, as people sit down to Thanksgiving with their nuclear and extended families, they take advantage of the opportunity to tell old family stories, solve puzzles about family history, bond with family members over shared history and learn about your ancestors.
SlotoCash, your online casino slots real money casino,reminds you that, as stories are shared, it’s a good idea to record them, either by video or writing, to ensure that your family’s stories will be shared with future generations.
The current era has seen amazing strides in people’s abilities to learn about their family history. Advances in DNA research now allows individuals to discover origins, ethnicities and previously-unknown family members which allows anyone who submits to a mouth swab the ability to develop a family narrative that may have been buried for decades – even centuries. That knowledge isn’t just incidental. Knowing about your family…..it’s history, its stories and its people is an important way for you to build your own story.
Sara Duke, a psychologist who works with children who have learning disabilities notes that “The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.” Her husband, Marshall Duke, a psychologist who teaches at Emory University in Atlanta tested his wife’s theory with a 2001 research project in which he compared test subjects’ knowledge of their family history to the results of a group of psychological tests.
He reported that the results were conclusive – the more children knew about their family’s history, the higher their self-esteem, the more successfully they believed that their families functioned and the stronger was their sense of control over their lives.
Duke concluded that the amount that one knows one’s family history is the best single predictor of a child’s happiness and emotional health. They also saw that the children who knew the most about their family’s history were more resilient in the face of stress. The reason, they theorized, has to do with an individual’s sense of being part of something bigger.
According to psychologists, every family has a unifying narrative. Some narrative focus on the positive (“we worked our way from nothing”), some on the negative (“we lost everything”) but most have elements of both. Duke believes that children who have a strong “intergenerational self” that tells them that they belong to something bigger than themselves have the most self-confidence.
To build this sense of shared history, Dr. Duke recommends that parents emphasize activities that build memories including family meals, getting together for family holidays, doing family vacations, etc. Family traditions are important, especially those around the holidays, because those will likely be handed down from one generation to the next. “These traditions become part of your family,” says Duke
Starting the Conversation
When you see an opportunity to share family stories, be ready with pen and paper or a recording device. That means that you should plan ahead so everything is prepared in advance. The best way to get the conversation moving is to ask questions so you should have some questions prepared ahead of time.
Some things to remember while you’re asking your questions include:
- Prepare yourself as much as possible so the person that you’re speaking to will feel more of a sense of rapport and interest on your part. Things that you already know and can add to the conversation may also help to job the interviewee’s memory and keep the conversation moving smoothly.
- If you will be asking questions while others are in the room, instruct the other people to be as quiet as possible while the person speaking completes his/her thoughts.
- Ask questions that may lead to robust answers. Some suggested questions include: Who were the older family members that you remember? Did your parents/grandparents tell you stories about the older family members that they remembered? Did you have family members living with/near you when you were a child? Did your parents/grandparents speak of family members who lived with them when they were children? What was your family’s religious affiliation/religious customs and traditions? What events do you remember from your childhood? Do you remember any special family recipes or food dishes?
- When asking questions, use words like tell me about, describe, what do you remember about, etc in order to elicit open-ended responses. Avoid “closed-ended” questions (Were you there? Did you like that?) that can end in a yes or not, or single fact.
- Focus on personal experiences – What did you do when? What did you feel when? As opposed to hearsay or stories about others. Keep the focus on personal experiences.
- As the interviewee is speaking, give feedback as appropriate – Really? I can imagine. That must have been stressful - to encourage the person to speak freely. Another tactic is to repeat something that the interviewee said in order to encourage him/her to expand on the original statement.
- Review the interview shortly after you finish so that you can determine any follow-up questions that you want to ask or memories that you want to clarify.