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Preserving Memories Through Oral Histories

For my dad’s 75th birthday a few years ago, the family celebrated by going away to a hotel in Pennsylvania for a weekend filled with fun, food, family and…did I mention food?

We thought that a great way to stamp the event in our memory would be to videotape my mom and dad talking about their lives so we could have an oral history. Sure, they were healthy and happy now, which is why we wanted to tape them now, as they were. Nobody knows the cards that life will deal you. Nobody knew that a year later my dad would fall while bowling and break his hip, and after two surgeries recover, but without the same stride or vigor he had before the accident.

So, how did we do it?  As a writer and a journalist, and designated interviewer, my task was to create a script of questions that I asked my parents. My questions covered the gamut from their birth, early days growing up, how they met, their marriage, kids, their plans for the future, advice for future generations and what they feel is their legacy.

My brother in-law, David Margolis, videotaped them with a camera on a tripod and edited the film down from four hours to a little over two hours.

I think getting an oral history of your parents or grandparents is a wonderful way to capture a moment in time for all eternity that you can share with your family now and for generations to come. Each time I watch the video, I’m glad we did it.

Have you thought about capturing your parents’ or grandparents’ oral history on video? If so, how did it turn out?

Estelle Erasmus

Estelle Erasmus is an award-winning journalist, author, and former magazine editor who has been published in hundreds of publications, including Marie Claire, Working Mother, Mamapedia, Vegetarian Times, Project Eve, The Broad Side, National Geographic Traveler,, and Kveller. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post, What the Flicka and, and writes about family, travel, beauty, fashion, relationships and her transformative journey raising a young daughter in midlife on her blog Musings on Motherhood & Midlife. Estelle is co-author of Beautiful Skin: Every Woman’s Guide to Looking Her Best at Any Age (Adams Media), and has contributed to several anthologies, most recently My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends (HerStories Project). She is a 2014 National Geographic Kids Insider, a 2014 Disney Social Media Mom, a BlogHer Voice of the Year (2014 and 2012), and a Circle of Moms winner (8th place) for Best Family Blog by a Mom. Estelle has spoken about publishing at B.I.G., iRetreat14, ASJA and the Folio Conference. A past president of the Board of Directors of Mothers & More, Estelle is a member of Mother & More’s advisory council and was recently invited to join the board of Bloganthropy. She was a reader of her original essay “And She Danced” at the inaugural 2012 production of Listen to Your Mother in New York City. Instagram: EstelleSErasmus

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Tuesday 2nd of December 2014

Kathy, You should definitely carve out the time to do it. Can't wait to see it. Estelle

Kathy Radigan

Wednesday 26th of November 2014

What a wonderful idea!!! My sisters and I have spoken about doing this for years but we really do need to get on it, especially since my parents are doing great now. Thanks for the gentle push!!

Suzanne Fluhr

Tuesday 25th of November 2014

Doing an oral history with my parents is one of those things that was on the list of "things to do" that has never gotten done. Now my 89 year old mother is, as my niece put it, the last one standing of all the grandparents. We recently attended a memorial gathering for one of my parents' friends. At the event, they showed an oral history that one of his nephews had done. It was wonderful and covered the life events you mentioned along with his experiences as a World War II bomber navigator and as someone active in the 1960's civil rights movement. Our son has a GoPro camera. No excuses.


Wednesday 26th of November 2014

I hope you do it sooner than later Suzanne. Best of luck with it. Estelle

Carol Cassara

Monday 24th of November 2014

Having been in the process of researching family history way too late in life--my parents are both gone--I do see the need for this and hope that those who have children do it!


Wednesday 26th of November 2014

Thanks Carol. I wish more people would take advantage of the technology available to them today to preserve memories. I'm sorry you didn't get the chance with your parents. Estelle


Monday 24th of November 2014

Thanks Sharon and Anne for featuring my piece on the site. I hope it helps people to decide to make their own oral histories.

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