Saturday, May 20, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun -- Then and Now - Oral Interviews

 Calling all Genea-Musings Fans:

It's Saturday Night again -
time for some more Genealogy Fun!!

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along - cue the Mission Impossible music!):

1)  Then and Now - Did you ever conduct oral interviews of family members or friends and neighbors about your ancestors over the years?  Who did you interview, how did you record the interviews, and what did you learn from them?  Please share your experiences.

2)  Write your own blog post, or leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

Here's mine:

Even before starting real work on my genealogy addiction "hobby" in 1988, I was keenly aware of my paternal Seaver and maternal Carringer ancestors.  I met my paternal grandmother only once, in 1958 when she visited us in San Diego when I was 14 years old.  I visited New England in the 1966-1968 time frame on business, and met my father's siblings and their families.  My father started talking on the telephone with most of his five siblings in about that time, and each of them came to visit us in the 1968 to 1972 time frame.  However, I did not write anything down or record conversations with them.

In 1980, my father's sister Marion (Seaver) (Braithwaite) Hemphill came to visit and I made a cassette tape recording with her in our living room talking about her family memories.  Aunt Marion died in 1999 at age 99.

Linda and I and our two daughters (ages 8 and 5) visited New England on vacation in the summer of 1982 and saw almost every relative still in New England.  I took a cassette tape recorder with me this time, and captured my uncle Edward Seaver's family memories on tape.  I eventually transcribed the tape recording of Uncle Ed.  On this trip, we also spent a fun and wonderful week in a cabin on Lake Cobboseccontee in central Maine with my aunt Geraldine and her husband.  

I never sat down and recorded my father's life memories before he died in May 1983.  He was very jealous that we took "his trip" to Massachusetts but he was dying of prostate cancer in the summer of 1982. 

After several "I should do my genealogy" thoughts in the 1980s, I started in earnest in the summer of 1988.  My brother Scott and I went to Massachusetts in August 1990 to enjoy uncle Ed and Aunt Janet 's 50th wedding anniversary party that almost all of his living relatives.  We had a ceremony in the Leominster church they were married, stayed in the hotel they spent their wedding night in Sterling, and had the party at the place they had their wedding reception.  The next day, I  described for the extended family the research I had performed over the two years since I started, and encouraged them to write about their memories.  My father's sister, Ruth (Seaver) Fischer, wrote several pages about her family memories.  Aunt Ruth died in 2000.

My father's youngest sister, Geraldine (Seaver) Remley, made a series of four hour-long tape recordings in 1991 that extensively outlined each family member in much detail.  She had been very close with their mother over the last 20 years of her mother's life, and had many memories of them.  I transcribed these tapes after receiving them.  Aunt Gerry died in 2007 at age 90, and that was the last time Linda and I visited Massachusetts.  I have Aunt Gerry's tapes in my desk drawer but don't have a working tape recorder any longer.  The family generously gave me Gerry's family photograph albums and some of the family papers and artifacts.

Unfortunately, my father's sister Evelyn (Seaver) Wood died in 1978 and I did not have the opportunity to interview her.  I did talk extensively with her daughter, Virginia (Wood) Soule who lived with her children in Salem, New Hampshire and shared memories of her mother's life during our visits.  Virginia died in 2016.  

Unfortunately, I have only the printed transcription of each of these letters and tape recordings in a "Seaver Memories" binder.  I don't have a digital transcription of them, and it's on my to-do list and I need to do it soon.  I could scan them and then OCR the scans but it's about 60 total pages of typing, and I just haven't done it.

From 1989 through 2010, I sent out a yearly genealogy newsletter, called the "Seaver- Richmond Family Journal" to my living Seaver relatives.  In the later issues, I transcribed and included some of Gerry's memories from the audio tapes in the newsletter, so I have at least some of it digitized.

On my mother's side, her parents (Lyle and Emily (Auble) Carringer) died in 1976 and 1977, and left a treasure trove of papers, letters, photographs, records, and artifacts of their lives and the lives of their parents.  I was acquainted with my grandmother' lifelong friend Gladys (Nolan) Taylor, and her daughter Edwina (Taylor) Goddard, both of whom were longtime San Diego Genealogical Society members.  In about 1995, Edwina arranged for me to talk to her mother at her mother's home, but I did not record it.  

My mother, Betty (Carringer) Seaver lived in the Carringer home on Point Loma after her parents died and shared the papers and photographs with me in 1988 when I started doing my genealogy research.  However, I never did a formal interview - she didn't want to but I certainly wish that I had.  Linda and I visited her almost every week after my father died in 1983.  We did go through the papers and the photographs on many occasions.  She was interested in the family stories I found.  My mother died in January 2002 and I received all of the genealogy treasures we found in the house.


The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2023, Randall J. Seaver

Please comment on this post on the website by clicking the URL above and then the "Comments" link at the bottom of each post.  Note that all comments are moderated, so they not appear immediately.  Share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest using the icons below.  Or contact me by email at


ByAPearl said...

Here is my take on oral interviews.

J. Paul Hawthorne said...

Yes, I interviewed my paternal grandparents in 6th. grade. My mom took notes as we both asked questions. This was a year after "ROOTS" came out... it could be the reason, but I was always interested in everything at that time, which continues today.

Janice M. Sellers said...

I interviewed several family members when I was 13.

Linda Stufflebean said...

Here's my contribution: