Family Records << Teacher's Guide <<
| Objectives |
Main Idea No.1 |
Main Idea No.2 |
Printable Version |
IN THIS LESSON, YOU'LL
- RECORD your place in history
- PLAN to conduct an oral history interview
- GATHER family stories
This lesson includes opportunities for class discussion, a video presentation and activities. Vocabulary words are included at the end of the lesson, though not specifically brought into the lesson in the form of an assignment. Resulting measurable assignments include notes or an audiotape from an oral history interview. While the lesson's main ideas logically build on one another, the activities and assignments suggested can be adapted or omitted according to your needs.
MAIN IDEA NO.1
MANY FAMILIES KEEP RECORDS OF FAMILY EVENTS.
Why do you have your own last name, and not someone else's? Why do you speak the language you speak? Why is your hair brown, or blonde, or red? The answers to these questions have to do with events that happened in the lives of the people who came before you. Your ancestors. Perhaps your ancestors didn't realize that the choices they made would effect so many people. Just by living their lives, they created history.
What about you? What choices do you make every day that will affect your children, and your grandchildren? You, too, are creating history, even as you live it.
VIEW ANCESTORS EPISODE 202: "FAMILY RECORDS"
ANCESTORS: FAMILY RECORDS asks the question, "What clues to your family history lie in your house, and where will these clues lead you?" Meet Suzanne Ballard, who began her search for her roots with nothing more than a few memories and a scrap of paper with some writing on it. The paper had been lost for years, but was found in her mother's attic. With this piece of paper, she used library and online resources to find out more. Eventually, she uncovered a fascinating piece of her family history in a set of diaries written over 150 years ago by her great-great uncle. Her uncle, a simple farmer, wrote every day and created a record that is a unique look into the life of the working and farmer classes of the nineteenth century in Ireland.
How might you identify people in photos when you don't know who they are?
What did James Harshaw record in his diaries about his neighbors?
Where should a person begin finding information about his/her family?
What kinds of things can be found at home?
ACTIVITY: GATHER FAMILY HISTORY CLUES AT HOME
Go home and play detective. Look for clues to your family's history. Consider anything that has names of family members on it, dates or places where members of the family may have lived or worked as a good clue. Gather your clues into a large box. You can even decorate the box if you'd like, and name it "THE FAMILY BOX" or anything else that comes to mind. (JOHNSON FAMILY TREASURES), for example.
USE CAUTION! Many of these items may be old and delicate. Touch old photos on the edges only. Be careful when handling old books or papers. If your parents or relatives are worried about your handling these items, ask them to look at the items with you and help you write down the names, dates and places you find.
Some of the things you might find include:
- Baby book
- Wedding Announcement
- Account Books
- Newspaper Articles
- Written Personal Histories
- Social Security Card
- Bar/Bat Mitzvah Records
- Family Bible
- Union Records
- Land Grant
- Letters Engraved Dishes Hunting/Fishing License
- Naturalization Papers
Don't be alarmed if you don't find many of these items. A lot of families move and lose important things. It may be that your relatives have records and artifacts that would be helpful to you.
ACTIVITY: ASK RELATIVES FOR FAMILY HISTORY CLUES
Call or write your grandparents, aunts, or uncles and ask what they might have at home. If your family has one person who keeps most of the family history information, contact that person first.
Arrange for a visit, if the person lives in the same city or town. If not, ask the person to itemize some family history information they've found on family artifacts and send it to you by letter or e-mail.
MAIN IDEA NO.2
GATHER FAMILY STORIES
If you had to prove an event on your timeline happened to you, what would you use to prove it?
As you search for artifacts and records that list events, places and dates, you'll probably find that your Mom or Grandpa or Aunt will want to tell you family stories. As a good detective, you'll recognize that these stories contain more clues to your family history, so you'll want to gather these stories the way you would a newspaper clipping or an ancestor's diary.
But how do you "gather" a story?
ACTIVITY: PLAN AN ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW
When you talk to your relatives about family history artifacts, think about which one of them might have the most family stories to tell. Usually, this is the oldest relative, because they have lived through more family events than anyone else has.
Choose a relative to interview. Write a letter or call the person and set up a place and time for the interview. Explain what you want to do and why you want to do it.
You will need to plan well. Follow these guidelines.
During the interview:
- Think about the questions you want to ask and write them down.
- Plan on the interview taking about one hour.
- Record the interview, either by taking notes or using a tape recorder. If you use a tape recorder, make sure to test it before the interview so that you're certain it works properly.
- Make sure that you have fresh batteries, or that you can plug the recorder into an outlet.
- You may even wish to use a video camera, but if you do, take another person with you to run the camera so that you can concentrate on asking the questions.
- Start with easy questions. Get some background information first.
- Don't feel uncomfortable if your relative stops speaking and there is silence. Sometimes the person is just thinking about what to say next. Just wait patiently, and you'll find that they begin speaking soon. Don't be too quick with another question. Allow the person time to think. Try not to interrupt.
- Remember that thinking back on the past will sometimes bring sad memories. Be sensitive and kind. If the person looks very uncomfortable, ask if he or she would like to continue talking on the topic or go on to another question.
- Thank your relative for the time and the thoughts that have been shared with you.
SAMPLE ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
What is your birthdate?
Where were you born?
Tell me about the home you were raised in.
Tell me about the kind of work did your parents did.
Tell me about your school days.
Tell me what you did for entertainment when you were young.
Tell me about family vacations when you were young.
When you were young, what was transportation like?
What were your ambitions when you were young?
How much schooling did you complete?
Tell me about dating your husband/wife.
Where you married?
What was the date of your marriage?
Tell me about changes you've seen because of technology.
WHAT HAVE I LEARNED AND . . .
After gathering family history information at home and from relatives, you're probably going to need a way to organize your information.
. . . WHAT'S NEXT?
In the next lesson, you'll learn how to organize and chart your detective strategy with pedigree charts and family group records. You'll also learn about compiled records and meet a woman who found over 400 years of family history buried in the ground.
Oral History: A conversation with someone, such as a parent, grandparent, uncle or friend, in which open-ended and close-ended questions are asked to learn information about a person or family.
Open-ended questions: Questions that can be answered with a free response, such as the answer to an essay question (e.g., 'What do you remember about growing up on a farm?").
Close-ended questions: Questions that can be answered with a very short, specific response, usually about some fact (e.g., "What is your maiden name?", "What year did your grandfather die?")