Monday, April 15, 2013


I urge you to take the time to visit your elder family members and ask them about their memories of times gone by, before it is too late.

When you start, it may be difficult to get a family member talking, so it helps to have a list of questions to initiate conversation.

I find that old photo albums are a fantastic way to generate memories.   Ask "Open" questions to generate a more detailed response (Why, How, What) or ask them to Describe or Tell you about the photo or people in the photo.  

My Great Grandparents, Mary and Ambrose Walker with Buzz & Silver
Who is the child in this photo?
Where do you think it was taken?  Where did they grow up/live?
How often did you visit your grandparents/did they visit you?  
What did you do there?
What other animals were on the farm?
What do you remember the most about your grandmother/grandfather?
Tell me about your favourite memories about your grandmother/grandfather?
Describe their house.

You will be surprised that most will enjoy reminiscing about the past once prompted and the memories will begin to flow without your prompting.  Your pen will be unable to keep up, so you may want to use a video or recording device so you can review your conversation later (always get permission first).

After many years of prompting, my grandmother wrote her memories in a notebook for me.  Every day over a period of months, she would write for half an hour in the notebook.  It is one of the my most valuable possessions.

Now I need to get started on my own note book of memories, for my children and grandchildren!

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  1. Great post! My mom is the "matriarch" of our extended family since my grandma passed away five years ago. My mom knows most of our family tree and our history. My brother started putting together our family tree (huge!). We asked my parents questions for my 8yo's homework and I learned stuff I didn't know.

    I'm inspired to ask my parents more. My grandpa wouldn't talk much about WWII (was a POW) so I'll have to ask my mom more details. She was a baby at the time but I know she has stories.

    Check out my A to Z! Jen Hemming and Hawing Again

    1. Most of those in the war didn't talk about it. I suppose they didn't want to bring up bad memories. However us researchers would really have liked to hear about and record their experiences.
      Please do ask your parents about their upbringing. Also about things you did when you were little.

  2. Getting a little lost here as I see N up already and I'm still on M. But in answer to the Momory I cam remmber driveing a horse and cart on my Uncles farm in Irland though yours I woul imagen was taken down under, th eguy standing next to Gandfather is a giveaway.

    1. Sorry Bill. Yep I was ahead on my N post. Forgot to schedule it for tomorrow. I have removed it temporarily!

  3. I have vague memories of my father's two horses Punch and Prince but can't remember much. They were replaced by a tractor when I was still very young. Unfortunately we have no photos of them.

    1. Punch and Pinch? Or Punch and Prince? Punch and Pinch seem to go together.

      Were they as big as those in my photo? Buzz & Silver look huge!

  4. That's a wonderful idea! We should all write note-books about photos of our lives.

    My Writing Blog
    My Life Blog

    1. After Gran died and we found her photo albums, I realised that she had used the photo albums to prompt memories. I have been able to turn her writings and photos into a book (for family purposes only)

  5. I have a little book that I picked up years ago: To Our Children's Children by Bob Greene. It is full of questions to answer. I actually started, but have not come close to finishing my story. I just wish I had thought to ask these questions when I was a teen. After that, most of my elderly relatives were gone.