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A Genealogist In The Archives: Remembering with Oral Histories

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Remembering with Oral Histories

Today, December 7, 2016, we remember the 75th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor.....

One way Pearl Harbor and all of WWII has been remembered is through oral histories. Many archives, historical societies, genealogical societies, university archives and museums have collected and preserved oral histories of the survivors of Pearl Harbor and other veterans of WWII.

As genealogist we search for paper records but are you seeking out oral histories? They can come in the form of audio, video or transcriptions or a combination of any of these. Many local communities took it upon themselves to record the recollections of local war veterans to preserve for future generations.

WWII Oral History Transcription of William Halon Cobb, Houston County, TN. Archives 

Finding oral histories is not that difficult but actually finding one for your ancestor might be a bit daunting. It is quite possible your ancestor never did an oral history but it's always a good idea to check repositories for the possibility of finding your ancestor recorded.

WWII Oral History DVD of Leslie Roland Roby, Houston County, TN. Archives

Start at the local level where your veteran or ancestor lived. Possibly the local historical society asked them to tell their story of their service in the military and any experiences they had during wartime. Check online catalogs for local genealogical societies, county archives and libraries. Then move to the state level and the State Archives. Many of the states have their catalogs online and will list what they have as far as oral histories go. Many times oral histories were recorded at the time of an anniversary of a certain war or possibly an archives received grant money to do an oral history project.

After you have tried the local level then the state level, next would be the national level. Check with the U.S. National Archives, the Smithsonian Institute just to name a couple of possibilities.

WWII Oral History DVD of Wayne R. Richardson, Houston County, TN. Archives

Don't think that oral histories were done just for WWII. Other wars and conflicts were also remembered and documented by oral histories. If you ancestor was in the Korean War, Vietnam War, etc. there could possibly be an oral history archived somewhere.

Also, if you have living family members that served in the military and especially if they served during war time, sit them down and record their recollections and remembrances of their service. This is great for your own genealogy research and family but I would suggest that you donate a copy to the local archives, historical or genealogical society so their voice and stories can be remembered.




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