This year promises to be one unlike any other for the holidays. Many families will get together virtually this season, an unfamiliar way to gather for many of us. Despite the different circumstances, this season can still be a time to share stories of family history. Here are ten questions to ask relatives during this year’s Zoom holiday.
1. What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
Questions like this really open the window to the past and make it easier to connect to different generations. I recently learned that my grandmother wept when she heard that Elvis Presley died. I never knew that about her.
2. What games did you play as a child?
This is another window into the past. Listening to your grandparents recount their childhood memories may teach you something about your own.
3. Why did you choose your children’s names?
You may learn that certain names are passed down within your family. This information will prime you for research after the holidays.
4. Do you have any recipes from your parents or grandparents?
Food and food culture are one of clearest ways family history resonates in your life. You may even be served one of those time-tested dishes during your holiday.
5. Were you ever mentioned in the newspaper?
Maybe you will learn that your grandfather played in an amateur baseball league. Or you will learn, like I did, that your great-grandmother spent her summer days bottling and selling dandelion wine in her backyard.
6. What was the first job you ever had?
The nature of work has changed dramatically over the past few decades. It was shocking to learn that my grandfather worked for ten years before he earned his first vacation week.
7. Did you ever get into trouble with authorities?
Everybody will want to know if there is a story here.
8. Did your parents speak a foreign language?
I always knew that my great-grandparents were from Italy, but I never actually thought about my grandmother speaking to them in Italian. It was interesting to learn that she did.
9. Did you sail across an ocean?
You’ll learn your ancestor’s tale of immigration, their war service, or of any vacations they took.
10. Which parent did you identify with most?
You may learn which side of the family your parents spent time with. Just make sure both of those parents are not present when you ask!
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