Chapter 11 - Building Your Rich Family History:
Revisiting the Past, Reviving the Memories

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A few families keep exquisite records. They keep, and regularly update, albums full of pictures, scrapbooks of mementos, or journals that record day-to-day thoughts and feelings. But most of us have only jumbled boxes of photos, a few precious Christmas cards and a birth certificate or two, leaving us wondering: Who is that person standing next to grandma, anyway? Glorious memories and the histories they represent are kept randomly--if at all.

Knowledge helps us to understand. Many cultures are replete with oral histories. Parents put their children to bed every night with wondrous stories of their larger-than-life ancestors. Most of us don’t even know the first names of our great-grandparents, the number and names of their siblings or what they did with their lives.

Are there family stories that you remember from your childhood that make you smile? What do you really know about your own parents? How did they meet and fall in love? What were the dreams they shared? What was the hardest thing they ever had to do? What was the best joke they ever heard?

Because you are visiting our Toolkit, you are probably intimately involved with one or more of your parents on their aging journey, a situation that inevitably requires some difficult conversations. We’ve designed the Toolkit to ease your burden by suggesting a series of interview questions that we believe will lighten the mood, strengthen your family bond and produce a rich family history that you and the generations that follow will treasure.

This interview may be self-administered. Answers can be written or recorded. Perhaps a child may wish to conduct a series of interviews and memorialize the information gathered as your family chooses. Our personal favorite is a voice recording with an accompanying transcript. We have found that some aging parents don’t want to be filmed because they would rather to be remembered as being young and vital. Fortunately, for the most part, our voices are timeless. We can imagine the speaker at any age and that pleases us and them.

Here’s a place to start recording your family history, your priceless memories:

Family History PDF

These Histories May Come in Handy!

Create scrapbooks, memory books and make the organization of those boxes of old photos a family activity. These treasures become not only family heirlooms, but can serve as an invaluable resource for families with a loved one stricken with Alzheimer’s or other memory loss.

Sadly, visitations in memory care facilities often wane as patients fail to recognize family and friends and can no longer converse. These visitors begin to feel that their visits serve no purpose and besides they leave feeling empty and depressed. Memory often recedes as it was created-- short-term leaves and old memories linger.

Create these albums and then leave them in the rooms of your loved ones. The people and events they represent will provide material for hours of great conversation and needed patient stimulus. The conversations may be repetitive, and your parent may have no idea who you are, but you will both benefit from the experience. Happy scrapbooking!

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