Keys to opening your Family History Part 2

Listening to our older family members talk about their childhood or special stories passed from generation to generation is a great way to research the family tree or for your next book. They may be hesitant to share their stories with the world. We need to be sensitive about family privacy so be sure to ask their permission to record their memories for your own record, to share with other family members or to use in a book or documentary.

If they are willing to share their stories, sometimes one must “jar their memory.” Have you ever noticed that when you smell disinfectant it reminds you of a hospital or doctor’s office? And that eating a cone of chocolate chip ice cream can conjure memories of early childhood. Music and the sense of touch can also stimulate memory. Remember what that silk lined fur muff felt like when you were a child? I do and it felt great!

I don’t know about you, but the smell of the original scent of Jergens Lotion reminds me of my Grandmother, Isabel. I can also remember the scent of Old Spice as Granddaddy held me in his arms when I was a small child. Funny how our five senses can bring back things we have long since forgotten. Women used to make quilts from swatches of their children’s old clothes. They knew what every square represented and could tell stories about “the day Johnny wore that shirt, he caught his first fish!” or “Barbara Jane was wearing this dress the day she took her first step.”

When you visit your great-grandmother or great Aunt Molly, you may want to jog their memory by bringing a cake or cookies freshly baked using the family recipe. A bag of penny candy is a wonderful way to bring back memories. Perhaps Uncle Ralph was a marble champion in his day. Grandma Suzy might even teach you how to make Jacobs Ladder with a string.

Bring a recorder – or better yet, set up a video camera on a tripod. It will give her an excuse to have her hair done or an opportunity to wear that lovely outfit you gave her for Christmas! Not only will you have research for your book but memories told in her own voice, with a twinkle in her eye as she tells you about the day she met your great grandpa. What a legacy to leave to your children or grandchildren!

A wise young lady at our Church is interviewing World War II Veterans in order to preserve the stories and to capture the patriotism of these fine, brave men. Time is short. Don’t let the opportunity to know your loved ones better pass you by. Give them the opportunity to share their memories before it is too late.

Send me your favorite childhood memory, a family story, a mystery uncovered, an unsung hero by the end of January 2012 and I will draw names for a book give away.  Just add your story to the comment section or if you wish to remain anonymous, send me an email at  (I will not use your story in a book. It’s your story.)

Have fun gathering information and unlocking memories!


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