Family History During COVID-19

Stories are the threads that tie us together. During times of crisis and anxiety, stories enable us to reach out and share our frustrations, perseverance and moments of inspiration. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we are seeing people share stories of how their lives have changed since COVID-19. Stories are being shared via social media posts, through pictures and videos, and each of these document history as it is happening.

While you are stuck at home now may also be the time for you to record stories of your friends and family. Whether as an audio recording or a video recording capturing memories of the past and the present is a way to preserve those moments. Your recordings can help present a fuller picture of the past as well as how individuals dealt with the current pandemic.

If you have a smartphone you likely have all of the equipment you will need. Find a good voice recorder app and you should be good to go. Make sure to run a few test recordings to make sure you know how far to place the phone away from you and the person you are interviewing to get a good quality recording and then prepare some interview questions.

Here are some questions we ask for Gardner Library Interviews but be prepared for the interview to go in unexpected directions:

Questions for Cumberland County Residents
1) When did your family first come to Cumberland County? Do you remember or know why your family decided to come to C.C.?
2) What did your family do for a living?
3) Describe your family growing up? Presently.
4) Describe a typical day for you growing up in Cumberland County.
5) What was your experience going to school?
6) What did you do to make a living? What was a typical day like?
7) How has C.C. or [specific township/borough] changed since your first memories of the county?

Questions for Occupation based interviews
1) What is/was your main job/occupation?
2) How did you come into that position or line of work?
3) Describe the work you do/did?
a. Potential follow up with impact on C.C.
b. Can you describe specific stories or examples that have stuck with you about the impact of your job on the community?
4) Has or did the job change over time?
5) What was the first day like? What is a typical day like now?
6) Do you and your co-workers have job-related stories, jokes, traditions, or nicknames?
7) What special knowledge or skills are required for your job(s)?
8) What advice would you give someone starting in your field/job?

Questions for Veterans
1) Were you drafted or did you enlist? If enlisted why did you join?
2) What were your first few days like?
3) Where did you serve? Do you remember arriving at your first post?
4) Did you see combat?
5) Tell me about a couple of your most memorable experiences.
6) Were you awarded any medals or citations? How did you get them?
7) How did you stay in touch with your family?
8) How did you entertain yourself while on duty? While on leave?
9) Do you recall when your service ended? What was the experience like knowing the war was ended?

Questions for COVID-19
1) How are you communicating with family, friends and colleagues?
2) Have certain places become more important to you?
3) What is something that has brought you unexpected joy?
4) What steps have you taken to protect your health and the health of others?
5) How has your daily life changed?

End of Interview
1) Depending on the time ask the interviewee if there is anything else they would like to cover, clarify, or that you have forgotten to ask.
2) If nothing else end the interview by thanking the interviewee for their time and their story.

If you would like to include your recording in the CCHS COVID-19 collection and Gardner Digital Library then fill out the linked release form. You can upload the interview and the release form to the Society’s Dropbox account here.

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