Fast Forward to the Past - Listen to your family's history

The Yorkton branch of the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society invites you to their next general meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. in the History Room at the Yorkton Public Library. If you have been contemplating getting started on family research, make it this winter’s project! New members are always welcome, no matter what your stage of family research.  

Many stories of the early settlers and pioneers were never written down; they were stories shared in conversations between people gathered around the small flickering flame of a lantern in a soddie as the winter winds howled and growled outside the door. They were stories shared from mother to daughter, father to son, elder to children. They were the stories that imparted information, taught practical skills, passed on legends, explained family genealogy, and kept culture and traditions alive. These stories were “oral history.”

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Log onto a fascinating site,, and connect with the Oral History Centre at the University of Winnipeg.  Click on the “About” tab, and read a description that includes the following, explaining the importance of oral history: “The practice of oral history is universal: we all engage in oral history practices in our everyday lives, in telling our stories or listening to others. At every step, oral history is grounded in local knowledge and is connected to global experiences…. Oral history has become a powerful tool for indigenous peoples, women, migrants, working people, minorities, communities, organizations, and other groups to find out about their own past, to tell their stories, and to “write” themselves (back) into history.”

Click on the “Learn” tab, you will see some upcoming workshops that may be helpful to you in your family research.  The “events” tab lists lectures and workshops in the near future. If your travels might be taking you to Winnipeg, you may be interested in attending. Even without an actual visit, the website provides fascinating reading, with ideas that could spark new questions as you are interviewing family members.

Another helpful site is  Click on “articles”, then type in “oral history” and then hit “search”.  There is a very informative article entitled “The Importance of Oral Histories” by Lyman D. Platt. The article points out the importance of preserving oral history of a family because the keepers of this knowledge are older family members who in time may lose these stories in their memory or will pass on. This is a very good point, because as anyone who has done any family research knows, it is never too early to start research, but it can sometimes be too late.

Make your “oral history” interview time count: prepare a list of pertinent questions so that conversations stay on track. Do not restrict your questions only to marriage, birth, or death information. Questions such as “tell me about what you did each day” or “how did you grow a garden” provide a personal and fascinating view of what your ancestors’ daily lives were like, encompassing the challenges they faced that we can’t even imagine today. By writing down this information, you are preserving information that is not only family-related, but also relates stories not recorded in general history. Truly information that is important and interesting!

Every family has a story; discover yours with the Yorkton branch of the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society!

submitted by
Debbie Hayward  

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