Make a Permanent Recording
Unless captured on audio or video tape, oral histories are ethereal...words are gone
as soon as they are spoken. With a taped oral history you have not only the sound of
the person's voice, but their inflection, gestures, and so on. A recorded oral history
is a powerful piece of information: the personal interpetation of events can give
researchers much information. Make no mistake, however, in assuming that the oral
history will be subjective, or even true!
This lesson will deal with the type of oral histories conducted by genealogists with
the goal of gathering biographical or family history information. Generally speaking,
the younger generation interviews older family members, although that situation can be
reversed. The interviewer will prompt the interviewee to answer questions designed to
give either specific information, or to evoke memories. A good interview question does
both. Most oral histories are either recorded on audio tape or video tape. After
the interview, the oral history can be transcribed to a written document, saved on
the recording medium for further reference, or both.