Book Review – The Oral History Workshop

One thing we must all strive to do when researching our family history is interview people. We are taught this from the beginning. We are given lists of questions to ask. We are referred to books and websites for more questions. We are told to record the interview via tape recorder, video, phone, or the camera on our computers. That is all fine but let’s examine this from a different angle.

How about interviewing YOURSELF?

The book The Oral History Workshop by Cynthia Hart with Lisa Samson, walks you through the entire process of setting up an interview, preparing for the interview, the do’s and don’ts of interviewing and provides many chapters full of interview topics and questions. The appendix also holds forms you could create to get permission to interview, hold copyright, and use the information acquired.

You can also use this book for yourself. Start out with the questions that deal with childhood. Work through them in a journal or on your computer. Move into youth and young adult life. And gradually move into other areas. Use the various subjects like school, sports, hobbies, travel, military, holidays, hopes and dreams, and other topics to expand the short stories you write. Use those to explore areas of your life you may not have thought about in years. Use those to discover new hopes and dreams, hobbies, and paths to take in your life.

As you write, think about which pieces you can pass to your descendants or share with living family members. Think about how you wish to preserve these memories. On video, on tape, through a photo book with stories, a written family history or an auto-biography or memoir. Create a plan to do this project and stick to it. Find a buddy to hold you accountable.

As Mary Oliver once said, To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.

Isn’t that what we do as family historians?

© 2013, Sort Your Story, Sonoma, California


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