This is not a post about legal issues, but rather about a hobby of mine–interviewing all the relatives in my family, my husband’s family, my ex-husband’s family, etc.–in an attempt to preserve the stories that family members know and that will be gone forever when they die.
Several years ago, my husband bought us a high definition video camera because we had a grandchild on the way. At the same time, my siblings were continuing to send me Christmas presents even though I had tried to impress upon them that we had all we needed and that extra food at Christmas was not a great benefit to us. I decided that I would send my siblings a different type of gift–a DVD of my father and his brother being interviewed together.
In addition to the HD camera, I bought a tripod. I then plopped the camera on the tripod down in front of my father and uncle and began to ask them questions. The result was magical. I heard stories that I had never heard before and that I would have otherwise NEVER heard.
Since then, I have interviewed my dad (who is 91), my aunt, three older cousins, my step-mother and my ex-husband’s aunt and uncle. At Christmas (or sometimes in the middle of the year) my siblings get a Christmas present from me that I hope is valuable, or perhaps will be valued in the future, when these relatives are gone.
You do not need this gear and you do not need to be a lawyer to do the same thing. First of all, there are resources for finding someone else to do the camera work. In Nashville, check with Watkins College of Art, Design and Film or Nashville State Community College. Each of those schools has an excellent photography/videography department and can recommend someone to do the videography for you.
Court reporters in Nashville often either are or use videographers. They will also have suggestions for people who can do the camera work. I also notice that there are websites on creating video biographies.
There are also websites on questions to ask your relatives. Here’s an example of a website that lists 50 questions to ask a family member in an interview: http://genealogy.about.com/cs/oralhistory/a/interview.htm.
Don’t take no for an answer, especially if that no is based on the fear your family member may have that he or she won’t look good, won’t be interesting, etc. We do not judge our family members by their looks and ALL the stories are interesting.
Here’s an example of a story I might never have known if I hadn’t pursued my hobby. I knew that my oldest aunt on my mother’s side had had a tough time being divorced in the 40’s and raising two children alone. Her daughter told me that her mother had worked in a munitions factory in World War II. When I mentioned how brave her mother must have been, my cousin teared up.
During the war, when my aunt was working in the munitions factory, she served as team leader. She needed to make extra money to support her mother, her two little children, and my mother, who was only 16 at the time. My cousin told me that her mother, as team leader, had carried live munitions from one assembly line to another. All the plant workers had been required to fall back, because if my aunt had dropped the live rounds, she and others would have all been blown up.
Recently my husband, who does genealogy on Ancestry.com made the statement that: “I have 4,000 boring relatives.” “No,” I told him. “You have 4,000 relatives whose stories you don’t know. ”
Don’t let those stories get away from you! Contact me if you need more information, I’m quite passionate about preserving these bits of our own history.