I had the experience of talking with a woman at a local nursing home recently. She was hard of hearing and difficult to understand at times. What she said did not always make sense in the conversation.
She started talking about her grandmother.
Her face lit up. Her eyes became brighter. And the stories began to flow.
She told me:
· What her grandmother was best known for cooking.
· How many children she had. (A lot!)
· Twins ran in the family (and who had the twins).
· Where her great grandmother was from.
While oral history is often subject to the errors of one’s memories, truth and/or clues to the truth are often embedded within these histories.
What this gentle woman taught me was despite her cognitive deficits associated with her old age, she was still a valuable resource to the family historian or genealogist. Do we sometimes overlook the opportunity to interview a relative simply because her memory is slipping?
If we do, I think we may be missing out on a lot.