Did you know there is an official National Day of Listening in the United States? It is the Friday after Thanksgiving. It’s a day when Americans are encouraged to spend time talking with their families and recording their stories. Certainly, it doesn’t have to be an American day only. Anywhere you live and anytime you get together with your family, you have an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about your family and your family history. Memories of living individuals are called living memory or oral history. This is the history we are in most danger of losing. Celebrating a Day of Listening can help save this history for generations to come.
There are new ways to help you preserve living memory. Several FamilySearch libraries now have oral history rooms. The San Diego California and Riverton Utah FamilySearch Libraries have rooms with comfortable seating and state-of-the-art equipment that makes a digital recording and saves it to a flash drive. Families are bringing in grandparents to interview. One group of granddaughters brought in their grandmothers to tell family stories. Sometimes a family group will come and tell stories to each other about a relative who has passed on. One family brought in a child for his birthday and told stories about the child! These recordings become treasured keepsakes.
The Logan Utah FamilySearch Library has carved out a room under the stairs, a room that used to be a closet! The Brigham City Utah Family History Center has a portable oral history room. They purchased a digital video recorder and some lights and borrow the furniture from the local church foyer. The Logan and Brigham City centers have agreements with their local adult care centers to make recordings for residents who would like to share their stories. But usually it is families who make appointments for an allotted amount of time to use the room and equipment.
While digital recordings are amazing, you can simply use your Day of Listening to do just that—listen and write! If you don’t know where to start, there is a great guide to creating oral histories on the FamilySearch Wiki. Another resource is StoryCorps, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide people with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve their stories. StoryCorps and the FamilySearch Wiki offer extensive lists of possible interview questions and tips on their websites. Also, check with your local family history center. They may have equipment or ideas to help you with your Day of Listening.
During this time of year when we spend so much time with our families, consider setting aside part of one day and celebrate a Day of Listening. Record or write down living memories, and preserve your family stories for generations to come.