September 21, 2017

Remembering 9-11, And Why You May Recall It So Clearly

Sixteen years ago, nearly 3,000 people died in events so horrific that the date itself has been seared into world memory: “9-11.” Today, we remember those who suffered on September 11, 2001. And we explain why many can recall that day with startling clarity: it’s a “flashbulb memory,” the kind that produces lasting, vivid impressions in our minds.

flash bulb memories

Remembering 9-11

Me with my new little baby Jeremy, a month after the September 2001 attacks.

Sixteen years ago today, I was sitting at my desk in a research office at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio when a co-worker informed me that airplane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. Within minutes, someone had set up a television in our common area. So several of us were watching the news when another plane hit the second tower–and we realized this wasn’t a horrible mistake. It was an attack.

I responded instinctively, calling my husband at work and then my babysitter to check on my two-month old infant, Jeremy. As the general panic and confusion rose, I couldn’t think of anything but my baby. Before long, I left the office, swooped up my son from the babysitter’s house and fled the city. I drove toward my home in the suburbs, glancing up at the Cleveland skyline constantly, not knowing whether our city would also come under attack.

Gradually I learned, along with the rest of the world, about the full scope of the attack, the losses of thousands of lives and the heroism of those who helped others in harm’s way. I felt a little foolish for having seized little Jeremy and run when there was no actual danger to us. But that protective urge I felt was so powerful that I still remember it clearly, 16 years later, as my personal response to a day the world changed forever.

Why We Recall 9-11 So Vividly

Several years later, while researching the nature of our memories for the first edition of Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy, I learned about “flashbulb memories:”

“Flashbulb Memories are memories for the circumstances in which one first learned of a very surprising and consequential (or emotionally arousing) event. Hearing the news that President John Kennedy had been shot is the prototype case. Almost everyone can remember, with an almost perceptual clarity, where he was when he heard, what he was doing at the time, who told him, what was the immediate aftermath, how he felt about it, and also one or more totally idiosyncratic and often trivial concomitants.” -Roger Brown and James Kulk in Cognition (Vol 5, Issue 1, 1977, pages 73-99; quoted from this abstract online)

In other words, surprising and life-altering events can leave vivid and lasting impressions in our minds, like the bright flash of an old-fashioned camera flashbulb that captures a moment forever. Kennedy’s assassination and 9-11 are just two examples. What others come to mind for your own lifetime? For example, I recall with startling clarity the moment a teacher burst into my middle school classroom in 1986 to tell us that that Challenger shuttle had exploded in mid-air with school teacher Christa McAuliffe aboard. I recall other moments of personal significance with that kind of clarity, too. It doesn’t have to be a world-altering event to produce a flashbulb memory–just one that affects your world.

Write your memories down

Write Your Memories Before They Fade

Recently, I read that our flashbulb memories don’t remain as bright or crisp as the moment they were captured. Psychology Today reported a 10-year study of people’s memories of 9-11.

“All survey participants still had memories of how they found out about the event, who they were with, what they were doing, how they felt, the first person they talked to and what they were doing before finding out about the attack. That means that all of the survey participants had memories that would quality as a flashbulb memory. They were generally highly confident in the memory as well.

Despite their memory confidence, when the details of their memories were compared to the initial survey taken within 10 days of 9/11, there were significant inconsistencies. A year after the event, only about 2/3 of what people remembered was accurate.” – Art Markman, PhD (click here for full article)

Now, remembering even two-thirds of an event after a year has passed is quite good. And that accuracy remained strong for 10 years. The same report states, “By 10 years after 9/11, people were still about 60% accurate. Thus, although flashbulb memories are not like videos of the event, they are probably more accurate than memories for most events that took place 10 years before.”

What are your flashbulb memories? Write them down. Try to be as accurate as possible: return in your mind not to the last time you told that memory, but to the actual experience of it. Walk yourself through it slowly. Why? The Psychology Today article includes this warning: “If someone added an incorrect detail into their memory for the event, that misinformation was likely to be repeated in later accounts rather than corrected. This suggests that one reason why flashbulb memories remain so vivid for people is that they are recalled over time. Extra information that emerges when someone recalls a memory can get incorporated into that memory later.”

This is also an excellent reason to write down your memories as soon as possible after all important events in your life. Your recollections of even your most precious and positive events will fade. So if you want to keep hold of more than 60% of that once-in-a-lifetime trip you just took, write it down as soon as possible. Even if time has already passed, go ahead and write them down. Then use memory-jogging exercises to flesh them out, and do a little research to confirm hazy details. In my book, Story of My Life, I include these strategies along with hundreds of writing prompts to get your memories flowing. Note: Recalling particularly traumatic events may most safely and productively be done with the guidance of a professional counselor.

If you haven’t already done so, why not take some time today to write your own memories of a “flashbulb event” or another important memory in your life? You may learn something from doing so, as I did about the strength of my own maternal instincts on 9-11. Or you may simply find the walk down memory lane to be meaningful, full as it is with loved ones, lessons and life experiences.

Tour Your Childhood Home with Google and Google Earth

Ever thought of visiting your childhood home? Here’s a story about people who are actually buying theirs back. For the rest of us, here’s how to use Google and Google Earth to revisit your childhood home and relive some memories–without spending a dime.

Tour Your Childhood Home with Google and Google Earth

Your childhood home–or perhaps another beloved family home–is your own personal address on Memory Lane. Who wouldn’t love to stroll up to its doors and recapture some memories?

The image above is of my husband’s great grandfather’s home in Winthrop, Minnesota. It’s a home that I have many photos of, have researched, and have come to feel personally connected to although I’ve never seen it in person. It’s one of many ancestral homes that I yearn to visit one day. So as you can imagine, I really enjoyed this report from The Wall Street Journal about a few lucky folks who are living the dream of not only visiting, but owning and restoring, their childhood home.

Even if you’re not interested in buying back an old family home, many of us are curious about the houses we used to love. Are those houses still there? What do they look like now? What else can we learn about them?

Let’s explore three ideas to help you stroll down memory lane. Then, I’ll share a discovery from a Genealogy Gems Premium podcast listener who recently dropped me a line.

1. Find the address for your childhood home

If you don’t recall the street address of your favorite family home, ask a relative or look it up. For U.S. addresses since 1940, you might start with the U.S. Public Records Index, searchable in part or full at Ancestry.com (volumes 1 and 2 for 1950-1993), FamilySearch.org or MyHeritage.com (click here to learn more about that database). Look also in records such as:

For U.S. addresses from 1880-1940, look to U.S. census records, which include street names and house numbers. In the example below from the 1930 census, you can see “Cedar Street” written vertically by the red arrow, and the house number written for each household entry, as shown in blue.

From the 1930 US census, Ancestry.com.

If you can’t find an address on an old record, but you think you could navigate yourself there on a map, it’s time to go to Google Earth and fly yourself there!

2. Use Google Earth to view your childhood home now

Learn all these Google skills with step-by-step tutorials and video demonstrations in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox book and Google Earth video tutorial. Click here for a special price on the bundle!

Google Earth is your on-ramp to your own personal Memory Lane. Go to the site, enter an address, and watch yourself “fly” to that address. If you don’t know an exact address but you know where to look, enter a street name or even a city. Then zoom in to the neighborhood and street section of interest. Activate Street View, if it’s available. Not sure how to do that? Watch my free Google Earth for Genealogy Video Class to get started.

Once you’ve found the location, take a close look. Is the house still there? What does it look like now? How has the landscape changed? The neighborhood?

You can use Google Earth to revisit your own childhood home or another family landmark, such as an ancestor’s homestead or burial place. (Click here to read about one genealogist’s virtual trip to an ancestor’s business using Google Earth’s Street View, and click here to see how another genealogist used historical map overlays in Google Earth to identify an old home’s location.)

3. Google the address of your childhood home

Googling the address of your family home may produce unexpected and interesting results like these:

a) Sale listings. If your house has been on the market in recent years, you may be able to find a listing with great details, and even pictures of the inside today. Top Google search results from specific addresses often bring up real estate websites with varying degrees of information, such as square footage, current estimated value, year built, most recent sale date and price, and more. Weed through these entries to see whether Zillow or another similar site shows a current or past listing for sale or rent. These may contain more details and may even have interior and exterior pictures of the house as it is now.

Watch closely—Google may bring up houses nearby, not the one you’re looking for. But even a neighborhood listing for a house built on a similar floor plan may jog your memories of the home and may give you a sense of what the area is like now.

b) Historical information. A Google search result may bring up historical news coverage or obituaries from digitized newspaper websites like Newspapers.com (a subscription may be required to view these in full). Or you may find something really fascinating, like a discovery made by Genealogy Gems Premium member Heather. After listening to me talk about this subject in Premium Podcast episode 141 (click here to subscribe), Heather wrote me this email:

“I love listening to the podcasts while driving to and from work, often sharing my own thoughts with you.  This happened yesterday while listening to the latest Premium Podcast episode on family homes. I decided that I had to write and share what I managed to find! Since I have deep family roots in Connecticut back to 1650s, I managed to find a few family homes, but I started searching with the more recent generations and addresses that I knew. The two homes where my great-grandparents (Inez Hart and John Milton Burrall) and my great-grand aunts (Mary and Lucy Burrall) lived were written up in an application for the National Register of Historic Places!

The National Park Service is working on digitizing these applications. I found the application with a narrative description of the home and pictures of the interior and exterior. I have found other applications that have also included some genealogy of the family who lived in the home. Here is the website for the National Park Service and the database search page.”

Thanks for sending these in, Heather! And for sending along copies of the applications she found. The multi-page applications (more than 10 pages each!) include historical background on the buildings and former owners, as well as photos and site maps. Above is a photo–and below is an excerpt–from these applications.

When you’re ready for a full-fledged Google education, take a look at my top-selling book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, and my companion video tutorial series, Google Earth for Genealogy. You can save by bundling them together for the ultimate Google-for-genealogy education!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase (at no additional cost to you) after clicking on these links. Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

 

 

Discover Your House History: “If These Walls Could Speak”

house historyA “house history” can tell you more about the house you live in–or your ancestor’s home. Here’s how.

Are you curious about the history of the house you live in, or would you like to trace the history of a family property? The online article “How to Research Your Home’s Past” by Charity Vogel has some great ideas. It’s not written for family historians, but I like some of the ideas it suggests:

1. Pull a full history of home ownership off your deed. (Historical deeds may not have these. But each deed does represent a link in the chain of property ownership: you should be able to move forward and backward in time in deed records until you’ve listed all owners.)

2. Use census records to learn more about other folks who lived in your home. Remember you’ll be able to see how many people lived there, and, for some census years, whether they owned or rented.

3. Watch for unusual patterns of ownership. For example, a deed showed sisters co-owning a home in the 1930s. Additional research showed that the sisters were nurses and ran the house as a community hospital. How cool is that to know about a house?

4. If it was a grand or unusual home, see whether the newspapers covered its construction. The author of the article found an 1898 article that detailed the entire five-month building process of her house!

Last year I shared an applicable research strategy in my blog post A Shocking Family Secret, and 3 Powerful Newspaper Research Tips about researching our ancestors and where they lived. By searching on their home address, and not including their name,  you can uncover “a kind of house history set of search results, revealing who lived there before, descriptions of the home and its contents and who moved in after your ancestors left. In my case, I located an article about the Cooke home (by the address) being up for sale several years before they owned it. That article included a fairly detailed description of the property. The final article found in the British newspapers was also found only by address (as the Cooke name wasn’t mentioned) and it detailed the contents of their household up for sale. The auction was held in preparation for their move to Canada.” (Click here to learn more about finding your family history in newspapers.)

While looking for more on this topic, I came across a great newspaper article about three researchers who specialize in house histories. They said that in addition to the personal satisfaction of knowing about a family home, “A bit of history and story makes it much easier to sell: it attracts a certain buyer.”

Here are a few more helpful resources, if you’d like to research your house history:

google earth for genealogy landmark findMore House History Gems: Researching a Family Residence

Ancestral Landmark Discovery with Google Earth

How to Find a Family Address: 4 Steps to Using Google Earth for Genealogy

Was This My Ancestor’s Neighborhood?

Ancestral Landmark Discovery Using Google Earth for Family History

google earth for family hsitory and genealogy landmark findThom learned how to use Google Earth for family history after watching my free Google Earth for Genealogy video, and then made a landmark discovery: his ancestors’ pond, business and a photo of his family at work.

This Using Google Earth for Family History success story was recently sent in by Thom, a young genealogist who blogs at The Millennial Genealogist. Be sure to click on the picture that goes with his story–it’s really neat.

“I am writing to share with you a TOTAL (and entirely unexpected) success in using Google tools for my research. By way of introduction, I am a young genealogist (age 21) from Massachusetts. I recently discovered your podcast and have been working through the archived episodes on my daily 1.5 hour commute. I watched your Google Earth presentation last weekend, and had some time to try your tips out after work today.

My family has strong roots in North Attleboro, Bristol County, Massachusetts. So I decided that my first task would be to find a good historical map to overlay. A quick Google search yielded a 1943 USGS map of the greater Attleboro area on the University of New Hampshire website. Some quick adjustments left me with this great result:

attleboro map overlay google earth for family history

My curiosity having been piqued, I began exploring the map. I know that two sets of my second-great-grandparents, Bert Barrett and Grace Freeman, and James Adams and Elizabeth Todd, all lived near Oldtown Church (presently the First Congregational Church). I zoomed in:

Attleboro topo map google earth for family hsitory

Looking at Google’s current street names, Oldtown Church is right by the intersection of Mt. Hope and Old Post (you’ll note the small cross). Now keep following Mt. Hope Street – do you see what I see? Todd’s Pond! I just knew this couldn’t be a coincidence. So I went straight to Google again:

attleboro google search
And the very first result, a page within a Google Book on the history of North Attleboro, was astonishing:

In the days before electric refrigeration, North Attleborough’s homes and stores relied upon ice harvested from either Whiting’s Pond or Todd’s Pond (depicted here). By the time this 1906 photograph was taken, farmers George, Henry, James, and William Todd found selling ice more profitable than farming and founded the Oldham Ice Co. Todd’s Pond was located on the westerly side of Old Post Road near the corner of Allen Avenue. The Oldtown Church is visible in the background.  -from North Attleborough by Bob Lanpher, Dorothea Donnelly and George Cunningham (Images of America series, Arcadia; click here to see the picture that goes with this photo, along with other pictures he found with a follow-up visit to the area)

The ice trade around New York; from top: ice houses on the Hudson River; ice barges being towed to New York; barges being unloaded; ocean steamship being supplied; ice being weighed; small customers being sold ice; the "uptown trade" to wealthier customers; an ice cellar being filled; by F. Ray, Harper's Weekly, 30 August 1884. Public domain image, Wikimedia Commons. Click to view.

The ice trade around New York; from top: ice houses on the Hudson River; ice barges being towed to New York; barges being unloaded; ocean steamship being supplied; ice being weighed; small customers being sold ice; the “uptown trade” to wealthier customers; an ice cellar being filled; by F. Ray, Harper’s Weekly, 30 August 1884. Public domain image, Wikimedia Commons. Click to view.

Mentioned by name are great-great-grandmother Elizabeth’s four brothers, George, Henry, James, and William Todd. What a spectacular find! I plan to reach out to the local museum that prepared the book to see if they can provide a better copy, and even additional media should I be so fortunate.

In short, I wanted to take a moment to say THANK YOU so very much! Had I not been exploring Google Earth at your suggestion, I’m not sure if I ever would have ever noticed “Todd’s Pond.”

I hope you are using Google Earth for family history! Paired with Google Books and the rest of rest of Google’s genealogy tool box, it can help you unearth fascinating facts about your family history. Here’s an image I found (using Google Images) that shows the process of harvesting ice, a profession long gone with the age of modern refrigeration.

Resources for Using Google Earth for Family History

In my book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, I’ll teach you how to use Google Earth for family history, along with Google Books, Google Images and more. Bundle it with my Google Earth for Genealogy video tutorial series for your complete Google Earth for family history education. Both are packed with step-by-step instructions and examples from my own family history research to inspire you. Google and all its powerful tools are FREE. Why not invest some time in learning to harness its power?

More Google Earth for Family History Success Stories

Alvie Discovers His Unknown Childhood Home: 4 Steps for Using Google Earth for Genealogy

Was This My Ancestor’s Neighborhood?

 

Look-Alike Family Photos: These Relatives are 80 Years Apart

season look-alike photosDo you have any look-alike family photos? Check out these uncanny resemblances–and more ideas for what to do with old family photos.

Recently I heard from Season. “Thought you might enjoy a photo of my 87-year old grandmother at age 18 and my daughter now age 7,” she wrote. They are 80 years apart–but they could be sisters (or even the same girl).

Season’s photo reminds me of a blog post I wrote last fall about a new app that uses facial recognition technology to see “how related” they think are people in two different photos. Check out that post and the look-alike photos there!

In recent months, lots of look-alike relative photos have appeared online. I like this article that shares several sets of photos submitted to Pinterest as part of a look-alike contest by MyHeritage.com. Here’s another link to some relative look-alikes among celebrity families, from daughters of Meryl Streep to brothers Luke and Owen Wilson.

facebook family history crowdsource memoriesWhat Else Can You Do with Family Photos? Gems to Consider

Use Facebook for Gathering Family History

Make a Family Calendar

Family History Photo Display with Mementos

 

This Ancestor Wrote a Poem like “Where I’m From”

Recently Genealogy Gems podcast listeners penned their own versions of a family history poem, “Where I’m From.” This listener found that his ancestor wrote one, too.

Recently I got a lovely email from Scott, a Genealogy Gems Premium website member whom I’ve heard from before. He said:

where i'm from version by evelina bailey“We’ve chatted before about some of the letters that have been passed down to me. Your segments on the ‘Where I’m From’ poems reminded me of a very special poem that I have.  Evalina Belmont Hill was born in 1802 in Mecklenburg County, Virginia.  She married Francis Baker Bailey there in 1819.  Shortly after that, they moved across Virginia, then into Pope County, Arkansas before Arkansas statehood.  After Francis died, she lived with family in southern Missouri. This is a poem she wrote in 1819 shortly after the married and moved away from home, thinking that she would not see her family again. I thought I would share it as a part of ‘Where I’m From.’ Best regards.  Thanks for all you do for us.”

In case you can’t read it easily, here’s a transcription, which includes her unique spelling:

Home

There is a lovely spot of earth
To whitch I cling with fond delight
It is the place that gave me birth
Where first my eyelids dorn the light
I little thought my wandering feet
From that dear spot so soon would rove
My waywood fate alone to meet
Far far away from native home
Fare from the friends who’s gentle care
Did all my infant pains beguile
No more I view that home so dear
No more on me those friends shall smile
But there’s a place for Souls oppress
And when life sickly dream is over
Beneth the verdant sod shall rest
These wandering feet to rove no more.

Thank you to Scott for sharing his ancestor’s poem. How homesick she seems for the past–I’m sure many of us have felt that before.

In case you missed our special series on family history poetry, click the links below. In the free Genealogy Gems podcast, you’ll hear from Kentucky poet laureate George Ella Lyon, whose original poem “Where I’m From” has inspired thousands of people around the world to write their own versions. We recently invited podcast listeners to share theirs, which you’ll find in recent and coming episodes of the Genealogy Gems podcast.

More ‘Where I’m From’ Gems

GGP 185Genealogy Gems Podcast #185 with Poet George Ella Lyon (FREE!)

Where I’m From Video and Contest Results

More Writing Ideas: 7 Prompts to Help You Write Your Family History

A “Where I’m From” Video and More from Our Poetry Contest

where i'm from kay littleHere are the results from the Genealogy Gems “Where I’m From” poetry contest. They include this fantastic short video version. Check it out!

During the last quarter of 2015, we ran a family history writing contest inspired by a poem by George Ella Lyon called “Where I’m From.” George Ella, the poet laureate for Kentucky, joined us on the Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 185 to share her poem and tips for others to write their own version (click here to listen–it’s free!).

Kay wrote in with this Gem: “When I heard your podcast interview with George Ella Lyon, I just knew that I needed to write a ‘Where I’m From’ poem. Since I am fortunate to have many family photos taken by my dad throughout the years, I decided to add photos to my poem and make a video. I finished it last night, and wanted to share it with you and your listeners.” Kay has posted it on her blog, Just a Little Detail, but you can also watch it below:

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and PodcastIn addition to this marvelous video, I received eight audio-recorded entries. Truly, all of them are absolutely wonderful. I had planned on randomly drawing one winner, but I changed my mind. ALL entrants will receive 1 year of Genealogy Gems Premium website membership (if they’re already members, I’m adding on a year). Taking the time to think about their personal history, writing the poem, and then overcoming nerves and recording it to share with really does show above-and-beyond dedication to family history and to our family history community!

Congratulations to the winners you’ve heard from already: Kay Little (above) and a few whose poems have already been shared on the free Genealogy Gems podcast: Kathie Duke, Wanda Stone and Dee Guyre. You’ll hear from more winners in coming episodes.

Feeling inspired? Here are more gems on writing your family history:

cousin bait where I'm fromWHY and HOW to Start a Family History Blog

7 Prompts to Help You Write Your Family History

Easy Project to Write Your Family History: Publish a Q&A

 

 

 

 

 

Heritage Recipes – Aunties, Sprinkles and the Santa-in-His-Cap Cookie Cutter

heritage recipes cookbook

I’m blessed to have oodles of oft-used and much loved heritage recipes and cookbooks from the ladies in my family who came before me. But I’m not the only Lisa who does. I’ve invited my good friend Lisa Alzo to visit with you here on the Genealogy Gems blog. Lisa is the author of Baba’s Kitchen and a well known genealogy lecturer. She’s also the newest addition to the Genealogy Gems Think Tank, the “live” version of Genealogy Gems. We’re taking Genealogy Gems on the road in 2016 and bringing our Think Tank to conferences around the country. First stop will be Rootstech in Salt Lake City. Click here to read more about it. Now, let’s get back to heritage recipes and yummy holiday treats!

In today’s post, Lisa Alzo is  generously sharing one of her mouthwatering holiday heritage recipes, and, most importantly, the loving genealogical story behind it. So preheat your oven, pour a glass of eggnog, and spend some time with Lisa and her Aunties:

 

lisacookies-01 holiday heritage recipes“I’ve been thinking a lot about family traditions lately.  Perhaps it’s because I have been spending the majority of this year sorting and organizing family treasures, or maybe it is the approaching holiday season that makes me feel sentimental about food, family, and special times.

Each December, one of my favorite traditions is baking Christmas cut-out cookies, using this recipe that my dad’s sister Betty (“Auntie B” as I called her) passed down to me.  I have many fond memories of baking these cookies with another “Auntie”—my father’s other sister (Sister Camilla) when she came home for the holidays to Pittsburgh from the convent where she lived in Texas.

holiday heritage recipes : Lisa Alzo and Sr. Camilla Alzo making Christmas cookies in December 1972.

Lisa Alzo and Sr. Camilla Alzo making Christmas cookies in December 1972.

To be honest, my mom would do most of the hard work of preparing the dough and rolling it out into large ovals on the wood cutting board dusted with flour. Auntie and I were in charge of the frosting and decorating, which in my opinion, was the best part.  After all, Santa needed a big plate of these cookies when he dropped by. The recipe has always been a favorite in our family because it is not just a plain sugar cookie, but has a hint of almond that provides extra special flavor.

For me, the holiday season is not complete until I make these cookies. So, every year I play holiday music, make the dough, use the Santa-in-his-cap cookie cutter (I still have the original), and sprinkle the red crystallized sugar on top of the powdered sugar icing on the freshly baked cookies. Inevitably, my mind always wanders back to the wonderful Christmas memories my aunts created with me.

babas kitchen heritage recipesTraditions are a part of our family history. This tradition stayed with me so much that I included the recipe for Auntie B’s Cookies in my book, Baba’s Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes & Traditions.I’m pleased to share it with Genealogy Gems readers.”
– Lisa A. Alzo

Thank you, Lisa! I’m definitely going to whip up a batch of these and I’m sure I can entice Davy and Joey to do the sugar sprinkling!  Happy baking and Merry Christmas.

More Holiday Heritage Recipes Inspiration

Heritage Cookbooks: Recipe for a Sweet Family History

Little House on the Prairie: A New Cookbook (and Old Documents)

Cooking with the Toastite: Check out this fun retro recipe video below with me and the author of From the Family Kitchen: Discover Your Food Heritage and Preserve Favorite Recipes by Gena Philibert Ortega, whom I interviewed in the free Genealogy Gems podcast episode 137 and 138.

 

Is that Memory Real? Understanding Relatives with Dementia and Memory Loss

"Old Memories," by H. Bullock Webster, 1881, via Wikimedia Commons. Click to view image.

“Old Memories,” by H. Bullock Webster, 1881, via Wikimedia Commons. Click to view image.

When a loved one suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s, it can be difficult to gather their memories–or to understand how “real” the memories are. Lisa gathered some great advice from an expert!

Many of us have (or will have) loved ones who Alzheimer’s or dementia and memory loss. When they start to become memory-impaired, can we still gather and preserve any of their memories?

Lisa Louise Cooke posed this question in a special interview with Kathy Hawkins, a therapist and Master Trainer with Timeslips Creative Storytelling. Kathy explains that it depends on how advanced their condition is. Meanwhile, we can definitely do some things to improve the experience of asking memory-impaired loved ones about the past. For example:

  • When asking questions about the past, don’t use the phrase, “Do you remember?”Ask instead questions like “who, what, where,”….etc. People may shut down when they feel like they’re being given a memory test. So don’t put that kind of pressure on them.
  • Your tone of voice and overall approach are so important. Don’t be sing-songy or condescending. Treat them like an adult.
  • The emotional integrity of someone’s story is still often intact, even with memory-impairment. Meaning, the emotion attached to a memory or a person will likely be real. But the chronology or details may get confused with other similar events that were also true. Whenever possible, verify facts (especially dates) with other sources.
  • Don’t make every conversation (or even most of them) about what they remember (or don’t). Be interested in who they are now: their thoughts and creativity.

Kathy Hawkins head shotYou can listen to Lisa’s entire interview with Kathy Hawkins in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 186. Kathy also shared some information about the organization she works with, Timeslips Creative Storytelling. Click here to see a pdf with some creative storytelling and arts materials created by TimeSlips.

More Family Memories Tips from Genealogy Gems

How to Interview Your Family. Listen to a free interview with an expert in the Family History:Genealogy Made Easy step-by-step podcast series.

Publish a Q&A with a Relative (Transcribed Oral History Interview)

How to Reconstruct Early Childhood Memories and Stories

www.geneaogygems.com

Is there someone to whom you should send this article? Thank you for sharing it via email or social media!

 

Newly Published! Free Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 186

Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 186Inspire your holiday season with tips on interviewing older relatives, using DNA for adoption research and more in the Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 186!

Kathy Hawkins Genealogy Gems podcast episode 186

Kathy Hawkins, Therapist and TimeSlips Creative Storytelling Master Trainer

The free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 186 is now live. This month, we celebrate upcoming holiday family time with relatives with a special interview. Guest expert Kathy Hawkins shares suggestions and encouragement about capturing memories from our oldest relatives. I especially appreciate her insights about understanding the memories of those who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Also in this episode, our resident genetic genealogy expert, Diahan Southard, offers her thanks for DNA connections that are helping her (and others) fill holes left by adoption in her family. Don’t miss her stories!

You’ll also hear about:

  • a great new resource from MyHeritage for connecting with other researchers,
  • family history poetry from two of our Gems listeners,
  • letters from the Gems mailbox and
  • an excerpt from our new Genealogy Gems Book Club interview, which will appear in full later this month in the next Genealogy Gems Premium podcast.

GGP thanks for sharingClick here to listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 186! If you enjoy it, thank you for sharing it with your friends and family by email and through your social media channels. We appreciate it when you help us spread the word about the free Genealogy Gems podcast and website!