Recently we went to visit my Dad and stepmom and my sister and her family for a long weekend. My Dad and stepmom had arranged for my uncle and aunt to come for dinner one night and what a wonderful time we all had! The two brothers reminisced about their childhood together, comparing memories of growing up on a farm in what is now a crowded suburb of Chicago. They shared remembrances lost to the other, and learned new facts from my aunt who spent time chatting with their mother many weekends while the grown brothers worked on house repairs for her. My aunt, also of Dutch ancestry, turned out to be a treasure trove of memories, knew what questions to ask and even enlightened us about the facts of Dutch immigration to Chicago*. This two-hour session was videotaped and Dad will make DVD keepsakes for all of us kids.
I have before espoused the benefits of interviewing groups of people, especially siblings, because they feel more comfortable in front of a videocamera or tape recorder as a group and can get so involved in laughing and remembering they can easily forget to feel self-conscious with recording going on. We had never seen my normally quiet uncle open up so much! Siblings can also compare notes and they have their own experiences and their own perspectives, sometimes to the amazement of the other. It is fun to get the reactions on film. I highly recommend videotaping family stories at gatherings; not only do you get fascinating history, but fantastic fun, too!
*”Dutch Chicago” by Robert Swierenga is a comprehensive history of Dutch immigration in the Windy City