Tributes & Video Biographies
Sharing Life Stories, Connecting Generations, Preserving Legacies

Holiday Ideas for Creating Family History Projects


Flickr photo: Alexcentric

This is the time of year when we gather with our families and close friends and community to celebrate the holidays. It’s a special time of year often accompanied by many traditions, some of them passed down many generations, some of them new as we blend families or add new family members who may have come from other cultures. The cool thing about traditions is that we’re the ones that get to pick how we’re going to celebrate; what foods we’ll eat, what games we’ll play, how gifts will be distributed and what stories we will tell.

Another annual tradition is me writing a blog, a newsletter article or speaking publicly about how important it is to take advantage of the fact that friends and family are together and you have the perfect opportunity to work on your family history now!

Believe me, I understand how easy it is to get swept up in the shopping, and cooking and celebrating. Taking time to actually create opportunities for family members to talk about their past or their futures takes a bit of planning. But honestly, it’s not that much work and there’s so many great things that you can do.

So here are a few of my favorite ideas:

  1. My favorite thing is to get kids involved in documenting family history. Buy a bunch of disposable cameras and give each child (obviously not the very young ones) a camera and a pad of paper and pen, and assign them a relative to photograph and interview. Perhaps mention something they may have in common with that relative. If your son is into football and your grandfather was the high school quarterback, let your son ask him questions about his sports career and how that shaped his life. You may need to coach each kid and give them some specific questions to ask their assigned interviewee but I guarantee you that by the time they are done, each will know and understand the other a bit better.
  2. Even better is to use an audio recorder or video camcorder to interview people. Setup a video recorder in a bedroom and throughout the day, have people drop in to be interviewed. Ask them to talk about a specific memory from a previous holiday. I was at a party last night and we went around the table and said what our most memorable holiday gift was that we had received as a child. It was fascinating.
  3. Have some of the elders interview the younger generation. Ask them questions about how they see their role in the family, what they want to be when they grow up and why, what holiday traditions they really enjoy and perhaps what ideas they have for introducing new holiday traditions into the family. These interviews will become priceless as the years go by and when these kids are adults, they will look back fondly on these interviews!
  4. Watch some of the old family films and be intentional about identifying all the people and the locations in the videos. Sometimes, once the elders pass on, important family films get tossed out because they are full of unidentified people.
  5. Ask everyone to bring a copy of a photo from previous family gatherings, memorabilia from something you’ve all done together or a short story about your family and put these all together in a family scrapbook. You can even create a new tradition where family members add to this scrapbook every year.

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking. If your family is doing something creative, leave a comment and let us know.

Have a warm and wonderful holiday season everyone.

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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