Video Taping Grandparents Discussing Memories and Past

Updated on June 29, 2015
J.D. asks from Flower Mound, TX
17 answers

I have been talking to my mom about creating a sort of family documentary. Primarily video taping her and my dad talking about their childhood, their parents, grandparents. Anything that comes to mind. I just think it would be neat to be able to show this to my kids, eventual grandkids and for my parents. My mom regrets not documenting more of her parents past and my dad is now pretty far into the progression of parkinson's disease. It will become harder for him in the future to verbalize.

I guess I am looking for suggestions on what kinds of things you would ask if you could? Have you ever created a short video like this and do you have any advice.

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So What Happened?

You guys are full of great ideas. Thank you so much!! I talked to my sister last
night and she is excited and has a professional video camera to use. My mom is really excited about the idea too. Looks like we will start this in October. Thank you everyone!

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answers from Phoenix on

I have a list of questions that you can ask them. They are in chronological order of their life. It is amazing what they will remember and come up with when you just ask questions. I did this with my Mom many years ago, and now it is on a CD. You can go to online sites about - google family history questions - and I think it will come up with questions. Don't wait to do this, and good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from New York on

We did something similar with my great grandmother, except we bound it and each member of the family has a copy and it has been such a blessing! We asked each member of the extended to send a question that they would like to know the answer to. We also invited them to send old family photos that we incorporated into the book.

Some of the questions we received were:
- What were your thoughts the day I was born? She then talked about the day each of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren were born and the first time she held each of us.
- What is your earliest childhood memory?
- How did you meet grandpa & how did he propose to you?
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
- What were your parents like when they were younger?
- When/how did you come to this country (from Poland)? Do you remember anything about living in Poland?
- What was the most challenging aspect of moving to a foreign country? We thought it would have been learning a new language, but she said it was actually (for her) getting used to new foods

Lots of questions about "favorites" and comparisons b/w now and then. It was a great experience and we all have a copy of her life story. She passed away five years after we did the book and we have now started doing the same with the grandparents so that we have volumes on each generation as we go!

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answers from Austin on

We did this with great grandparents it was awesome..
We asked them about their family members and where each person was born and how their parents met.

We asked them how they met each other.
When was the first time they saw an airplane.
First time they rode in a car.
The story about how they eloped (scandal).

What was a typical day in their childhood.
About the different people that lived with their families during the depression.
What their memories of their parents, grandparents and great grandparents.
What types of things did they get in trouble for as children.

What are all of the jobs they had.

It was pretty organic. As they spoke about things, we asked them to try to remember the years they were speaking about and where they were when these things happened..We each kept notes and came up with questions we wanted answered based on what they had spoken about.

We also spread these sessions out over time, because it takes a lot of energy to talk that whole time. Have them gather photographs that you can also film with dates, and names.

Also do this with your children at different ages.. Ask them who do you like to play with? what is your favorite toy? What happens when it is time for bedtime? What is your favorite food? What hurts your feeling?. Sing your favorite song. Tell me a joke. Continue to do this every few years. they are very touching and can also be a hoot..

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

I can't help about the video part. I want to learn that myself! But I can suggest this for the "interviews," and it's short and sweet: Ask the DETAILS!

What is it you would want to know if you were a first-grader?

Adults tend to gravitate to the big moments, the big things, and that's valuable. But the liveliness of anyone's personal history comes from the little things. What do you remember about your own grandparents? How did they live? What did you eat for breakfast when you were little? What were your favorite toys as a little child, and as a big one? What were your brothers and sisters like? Did you argue? What did you wear to school? What were your teachers like? What subjects did you like most/least? What sort of games did you play after school? What did you do on weekends? What chores did you have? What did you do that was naughty? Did you have bathrooms and kitchens like we do today? How did you celebrate Christmas/Easter/birthdays? When did your house get a television/computer/whatever? Do you remember where you were when you heard that President Kennedy had been shot? When you heard about Challenger? What would you do when you went on a date, and what did you wear? What was your first date like? What was your first job like? What was your first car like?

Think about different life stages and ask little-kid questions. The big things will come out by themselves.

I wish I had done something like this with my dad! But after he died, I spent several evenings making my mother talk into a tape recorder (anybody remember tape recorders?). She fussed about it initially, but once she started she really enjoyed telling about her life. The questions helped her, and we didn't have a lot of structure - I just wanted her to keep talking! And she did. We ended up with at least eight full tapes. A friend transcribed them and I sent printed copies to many of my cousins. I'm so thankful I did it! I hope to do the same thing with my mother-in-law when she visits next. Maybe not with cassette tapes, but...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on


Break it into segments: childhood, money advice, family histories, school memories, world events at the time, careers, etc......

What a wonderful thing for your kids to have

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Little Rock on

We don't do video's, but we have been after the uncle and aunts on my husbands side to record their stories. We have been at family reunions and family Christmas parties and hear them swapping memories and stories and have asked them to record on tape for their children, grand children and great grand children. All of my husbands Grand Parents have passed away, so all we really know about them are the stories that we hear from the uncles. They are all older, they range from my MIL who is the youngest at 76 and the oldest living in his late 80's. We lost one uncle at about 89 years just 2 years ago. I have connected with my husbands family better than I have my own family. I really would like to have a recording of their stories. My suggestion would be to get them to start talking about childhood memories, young married life, memories after kids, etc. You might get them started by bringing up a story you have heard them tell in the past asking them to tell it again. It may lead into other stories. Personally, I think a video camera in their face may make it harder for them to tell their story. It might be easier to make a audio recording instead. You can always take plenty of pictures and make a documentary on your computer combining pictures (past and present) and the audio recording.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

My mom did that..i wasn't there for that one unfortunatlely. but the questions she asked, was favorite birthday decade for you. one thing you didn't do that you wish you did. something funny to you stuff like that, try not to ask questions that will make them show favorism of anyone, unless that person asks them something that is their favorite about them..that way no pressure and no feelings get hurt, etc.



answers from Houston on

This is a great idea and I'm hearing more and more of my friends wanting to preserve their parents and/or grandparents history/memories. is getting ready to launch this as a service. Their wedding videos are amazing!!!



answers from St. Louis on

I know this is late. I did this a lot with my grandma and some great aunts. It is helpful if you can also have something that will evoke memories. I went to a storytelling workshop and they talked about even using pennies with specific dates on it. I used a lot of personal items - scrapbooks, pictures, etc. Somethng personal like jewelry is good. I went through all my grandma's old jewelry with her. Anything that will help bring up thoughts and stories and helps prompts memories.

Good luck. This is a fun and rewarding project.




answers from Harrisburg on

I have had that idea and tried to get parents together to do it and never got around to it. Now my dad is passed, I regret not acting quicker. I would do it ASAP. I think it's such a valuable gift.



answers from Dallas on

There are books that moms, dads, and grandparents can fill out that give a history of their life. You could buy one of those and use that for ideas for questions.



answers from New York on

I love finding the answers to questions wrapped around historical events. Like do you remember where you were and what you were doing when J.F.K. was shot or when Nixon was impeached.

It helps to make history relevant for me and the kids and it also helps us to see that even our stories are important in the scheme of things. I try to keep it as candid as possible.

Good luck to you and great project.


answers from Dallas on

I always like to hear the romance stories. How did they meet? What was thier 1st date? What was thier 1st place? Did they live with family or get an apt. 1st job. What was the greatest gift they ever got from each other. Ask what memories they have of thier parents. I also like to hear about the hardships - what did they do to get through The great depression. Any war stories? Also, where were they when..... Kennedy was shot. MLK was shot. Space shuttle disaster, etc



answers from Redding on

I think this is an awesome idea. I really do.
My grandfather was born in 1903 and lived 85 years. My grandmother lived to be 94. They told the most amazing stories and I so wish I had them recorded.
Both of my grandparents talked about wooden sidewalks and not having indoor plumbing or electricity. Oh....the stories they could tell about everyone gathering around the radio before television and needing wood to cook on the stove with.

One thing I know about my family members, even my father in law who suffered from dementia and couldn't remember he put his hankie in his left pocket 5 minutes ago could remember what he liked to do when he was a kid.
Start with those kinds of things.
Ask questions about how things have changed so much in their lifetimes.

Best wishes to you and good luck with your amazing video journal.


answers from Dallas on

What a GREAT idea!!! I've thought of doing something similar with a letter to my grandparents. I remember some of the stories my grandma has told me and every once in awhile she'll tell a story when she was a little girl. I think a video would be great because writing is sometimes hard for older people. I would want to know about childhood, playing with siblings, cousins, going on vacations, going to school. Of course meeting their spouse, also what advice would they give their grandchildren...
Wonderful Idea!!!



answers from Wichita Falls on

We did this years ago at a family reunion. We set up a room on the side and taped hours of grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles taking turns talking about their childhood. Mostly they just told stories that came to mind, but occationally one of the kids would ask a probing question about a family member who was gone or an event (like how you met or where were you when...). Grandpa died two years later and the stories he told were unreplaceable.

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