After reading an article by Kevin Cool, a mathematical equation of sorts seemed to evolve when writing about families. It boils down to: 1 + 1 + 1 = Truth . Another way to write it is: a+b+c = A More Realistic Picture of the Past.
Kevin Cool, the editor Of Stanford Aumni Magazine tells of his adventure in writing the truth about his dad and grandfather in the May/June issue. His equation adds up as follows:
a) ‘. . . a soft-focus version ‘ that casts his dad and grandfather living on a small farmstead with a meandering stream surrounded by pretty meadows with nearby forest full of woodland creatures. Sort of like a Currier and Ives painting.
b) the ‘ grittier version’ of the small 2 room house with no indoor plumbing, water or electricity with grueling winters. Kevin states that both of the descriptions are accurate BUT neither of them is really true. It was only after an interview with his father that he ‘grasped the complicated reality of his childhood. . . It was a hard life. And it was a happy life.”
c) “To reveal how people lived . . . you need more than accumulated facts. You need perspective.
The equation’s variables become: soft lens+grit+perspective=Real Family History.
One way to discover the ‘real truth’ of our own kindred heritage is to begin interviewing our relatives. Probably the more experienced, older relatives would offer more perspective of times past than the rising generation. Identify who they are and seek to find out about them. Face to face interviews rate high but telephone, ‘skype’, e-mail and letters can be very informative and can reveal details that might be overlooked in conversation.
Some things to consider in an interview:
- Be prepared with a few open ended questions to encourage dialogue.
- Explain to your kindred your interest and appreciation for their experience and perspective.
- Ask if you can record what they say. Review recording with them before sharing with others.
- Interview on different days and circumstances to get a better understanding of your kin.
- If appropriate, ask to take pictures of them, artifacts, documents, and old pictures to enhance the interview. Note: do not share or publish sensitive documents of the living.
- Be respectful and grateful to your relative.