“It seems that my early childhood years was one crisis after another. Shortly after Easter, in my eighth year, I decided to play with my toy cork gun. Unfortunately, I was on the ground level and the gun was in a third-floor room. After several minutes of strenuous yelling, Grandmother Steinbeigle answered my call. I asked her to lower the gun in my Easter basket. Good old Grandma was always a willing accomplice. The gun did not fit the basket too well. As she was lowering the basket, gravity took over, the basket tipped and the gun toppled out. As the gun plummeted in my direction, grandma yelled for me to move. However, having more confidence than good judgement, I was determined to catch the speeding missile. With outstretched arms I confidently prepared to catch the gun. The gun came closer and closer looking bigger and bigger. Thud! I felt a sharp pain above my right eye. You guessed it, I missed! I sheepishly grinned at the two ambulance attendants who were beginning to think their main purpose in life was to mend my damaged body. Six stitches later I was on the road to recovery.”
This is a story taken from my father’s biography. I am one of the lucky ones who had a dad who recorded stories from his life. Many were funny like the one I just repeated, some were tender as those during the depression, some were intense as those during the Korean War, and others inspirational with his religious devotion and service.
If you don’t have stories from your father, grandfather, and beyond, you might want to spend some time asking questions of them if they are living, or of those who knew them or of them, if they are deceased. If you haven’t recorded your own history, you may want to spend time recording your own stories.
The remainder of this blog will be filled with questions you can ask. They will be phrased in the first person, but can be changed if asking yourself or talking to someone other than Dad or grand-dad etc.
“I keep six honest serving men
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who”
- Who are you named for?
- Who are the oldest family members you remember? Do you have stories of your interactions with them or stories told by them?
- Who were the relatives you remembered the most? Do you have stories of interactions with them?
- Who were your childhood and teenage friends? What made them special? Are you still in contact with them?
- Who are your siblings? What are your favorite memories of time with them?
- Who was your favorite teacher and /or coach? Why?
- Who was the most influential person in your life?
- Where did you live as a child and teenager? Are there special memories associated with these places? Can you describe your house, neighborhood, town?
- Where did you go to school? How did you get to and from school?
- Where did you go on family vacations?
- Where is the farthest place you ever visited?
- Where was the most interesting place you saw?
- Where are your ancestors from? Did your family have traditions from those places?
- Where did you meet Mom?
- How would you describe your parents—their personalities, sense of humor, way of raising children, work ethic, moral ethics, religious beliefs?
- How are you different from your parents? How are you the same?
- How did you deal with difficulties in your childhood and youth? Then, later as an adult?
- How do you feel about religion?
- How do you feel about world conditions?
- How do you feel about your family then and your family now?
- How would you generally describe your life as a child? As a teenager? As a young adult? As a young married? Was it happy and care free, filled with worry and stress, filled with obstacles and challenges?
- When did you learn about Santa Claus?
- When did you play your first sport, played first instrument, or other extra-curricular activities?
- When did you figure out what you wanted to be when you grew up? What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
- When have you cried?
- When have you been scared or worried?
- When have you laughed so hard you couldn’t stop?
- When have you felt the most religious?
- Why did you choose the profession you are in?
- Why did you choose Mom?
- Why do you live the life you live now?
- Why do you feel the way you do about God?
- Why do you feel the way you do about patriotism and country?
- Why did your family live in the place where you grew up? If immigrants, why did they choose this particular area? If not immigrants, has the family been there a long time? Did occupation, climate or other factors have anything to do with the place where you lived?
- What is your earliest memory?
- What is the funniest (scariest, saddest, most embarrassing, most dangerous, happiest) thing that happened to you as a child?
- What is your favorite quote?
- What is your favorite Dad-joke?
- What was your favorite book, song, movie growing up?
- What was the most important thing you learned from your parents?
- What are your skills and talents? What do you wish you would have learned?
- What do you most regret?
- What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment (besides getting married and having children)?
- What do you most treasure besides your family?
There are many places on line that you may find for other questions to ask. But the most important thing is to just start. Start with one question, record it and then ask another one. Little by little, the story of your life, the life of your father, grandfather or beyond will unfold. Then, your posterity will have stories to enrich, bless, strengthen their lives or even to chuckle about.