One way to make sure this big project got done was to delegate a family historian to be in charge of communicating with the entire family. Cousin Susan was a huge help and my number one contact. When I had a question, I would go to her and she would try and find the answer. Here are the steps in which I had her help.
1. Email the Family Questionnaire with a deadline of three weeks to have them returned (three weeks seemed long enough and a month it was too easy to forget about).
2. Have the family email them to her when they were finished.
3. She proofed the questions before forwarding them on to me, just in case she saw something that needed to be clarified.
4. I used quotes from the questionnaire to match with the correct family photos I had scanned and created an album. She proofed the album to make sure my work was correct.
There of course wasn't enough room in the album to include everyone's life stories. So, I started a Blurb book, placed everyone's stories inside, and printed a paperback. Just like that, everyone's story has been preserved!
A few good tips of advice learned through out the process:
- Have a back up plan for those family members that do not type well on the computer. Delegate a family member to type up their written answers for you.
- Have a friend that is an editor? Send them the full copy text via email to proof for you. Reading an email is different than holding a book in your hand. The words and sentences need to flow better in a book. It is also better for a non family member to proof the text so that generations later will understand the abbreviations, nicknames, and family humor.
- Set a deadline for your final copy to be finished.
- Be sensitive to those family members that might have hard feelings toward other family members. Keep your questions "neutral" while also giving an open ended question for the family to share more if they want to. If you know of family members that might be offended, remove questions that might bring up bad memories for them. Have your delegated family member proof your questions first before emailing them out to the family. When you receive the answers back, if there is more you would like to know about something specific, ask that family member directly.
These photographed aren't just faces without names. Now our family
legacy lives on through the stories that were preserved for today's
and tomorrow's generation.
Here are the questions I asked the family. Feel free to use these questions to kick off your own family questionnaire!
Questions for Petterson/Weisenbeck Family
Robert Florence Margaret Grace Golda Sammy Dorothy Gussie Billy
How are you related? Please write an auto biography of YOU, your marriage, children, grandchildren.
Please identify and write about the other siblings and write specific memories of them, IE. Gussie, Dorothy, Golda, Florence etc. No memory is too small, writing something about them all would be wonderful, just identify who you are writing about.
What do you remember about your family relationship, Christmas’ traditions that were passed down through the family, stories of things you did because they were tradition?
Do you have a piece of clothing or jewelry that holds significance to you?
Do you remember hearing stories how it was like for them to live through the Depression?
Do you remember stories of their first car ride, electrical appliance etc?
Do you remember what their early married life was like/challenges?
Were there family vacations?
Wedding day memories?
Chores you loved/hated?
Describe a typical family dinner, what was a favorite family meal?
Talents and hobbies?
Recipes that could be passed down?
What is the first family picnic you remember?
What picnic or picnics are the most memorable?
Did your family go every year, if not why?
What is the last picnic you attended?
Write anything you feel would be of interest to the history of this family.
Create Well: Preserving your family's history doesn't just bless the family you are doing it for. It will bless your children and their children. It is something you will do in your lifetime that will never be forgotten.