Do you want to learn more about your family history when you get together with family members over the holidays? Here are some tips for getting the conversation started!
Belle Serbin Fields and family enjoy a meal prepared from recipes from Mrs. Fields' cookbook, entitled Gefilte Fish and Lobster Sauce: The Contemporary American Jewish Cook's Book. Image from The State Newspaper Photograph Archive.
Prepare a family recipe
When I was little, my dad would often joke about the food he cooked being an “ancient family secret,” and to this day, that’s one of many fond food memories I have from my childhood. Do you have any food memories from your childhood? Or maybe there’s a dog-eared cookbook you got from your grandmother’s kitchen? Find a recipe for a dish from your childhood and share it with your family during the holidays.
Need some inspiration? You can browse some historic local cookbooks in the Walker Local and Family History Center, or check out a selection of digitized cookbooks on the Local History Digital Collections to get some ideas.
While you’re waiting on dinner, take some time to pull out any family photo albums. Do you have an older relative there who can tell you about the pictures? I love to listen to my grandmother tell stories about the pictures she shows me. Or maybe you just want to scroll through your pictures on your phone and reminisce about the good ole days with your siblings?
Better yet, dig up some old high school yearbooks and check out the wild hairstyles of days gone by. Can you find your own best—or worst—hair day in a yearbook picture? If you or your ancestors attended a local school, visit the yearbook collection in the Walker Local and Family History Center, or find some selected yearbooks online on the Local History Digital Collections. You can even find high school yearbooks on Ancestry Library Edition using your library card.
Ask questions about family members you find in pictures
Do you have any pictures of people you do not recognize? Sometimes there might be names on photo album pages or written on the back of the photos, but if not, be sure to ask relatives who the people in the photos are. I have quite a few pictures of people I cannot identify because I never asked my deceased grandparents about them. Take the opportunity of visiting with family to ask.
Now that dinner is served, spend some time sharing stories with each other. Are you curious about a particular ancestor? Ask your relatives what they remember of them. Did members of your family grow up in a different place? Ask them about what their childhood was like there. Need an ice breaker? Share a story of your own, such as what your high school was like or how you met your significant other.
Consider recording your conversation
If you want to listen to these conversations again later, see if your family members are okay with you recording the conversation with your phone. You can use an audio recording app to record the conversation. Create a new family memory that you can share and enjoy for years to come.
Want to do some preliminary research on your family before the big day? Check out Ancestry Library Editionfree with your library card!