Resources for Capturing Oral History


One good resource book to check out if you're planning to gather family stories is The Oral History Workshop: Collect and Celebrate the Life Stories of Your Friends and Family by Cynthia Hart and Lisa Samson.
Publisher's notes for the books say "The Oral History Workshop breaks down what too often feels like an overwhelming project into a series of easily manageable steps: how to prepare for an interview; how to become a better listener; why there's always more beneath the surface and the questions to ask to get there; the pros and cons of video recording, including how your subjects should dress so the focus is on their words; four steps to keeping the interview on track; how to be attentive to your subject's energy levels; and the art of archiving the interview into a finished keepsake."

Other resource possibilities include:

Catching Stories by Donna DiBlasio, Charles Ganzert, David Mould, Stephen Paschen and Howard Sacks (2009).

Doing Oral History by Donald Ritchie (2003) - customer reviews on rate this book 4 stars.


If -- even after you read these books and follow their great instructions --you don't feel like you have the skills to write down these stories or record them digitally, there are other options. You can find out about a national history project at

Since 2003, these StoryCorps "storycatchers" have collected interviews with more than 60,000 participants. These conversations are recorded on CD and preserved at the American Folklife Center at the U.S. Library of Congress. You can set up appointments through their site for your family members to be interviewed . The interviews are 40 minutes long and at the end, the person being interviewed gets a copy of a broadcast-quality CD to take home.

That way, even if you lack confidence in your technical skills, your family members can record their stories for posterity. And so can you!