Interviewing The Past


I bumped into a person the other day who made my mind wander about the past. He was a lifelong friend of my maternal granddad and he remembered him fondly with the words, “he was the best person. I miss him a lot.” This frank admission made me hope that I would live such a life that people would remember me in the same way.

What this meeting also got me thinking about was my granddad’s childhood. I want to know how it was, what school he went to and how his father managed to save up enough money to pay the ship’s fare to England. I want to know whether England matched his expectations or whether life was more difficult than he imagined. I want to about all these things but I can’t ask him. I was far too young to think of these questions when he was still alive. 

Now I have an idea. Perhaps it is time to do a bit of family research. Perhaps I could interview a few of his friends, they were an extremely close-knit group after all. They were all the best of friends whilst their wives were too. His friend told me how every week they would meet as couples and whilst the menfolk talked, my grandma would chat away to his wife, freeing whatever worries were on her chest.

As he remembered this, he gave the following advice: “Always have a smile on your face, be friendly with everyone and give in charity.”

My granddad is not the only person I would have liked to interview. My paternal grandma passed away at the old age of 85. She had many stories to tell but I never acted on my impulse to write them down when we went ‘back home’ for a holiday, although we were quite busy with two weddings! What this meant was that I missed out on the opportunity to discover the history of my family as she was one of the only people who had the complete history of how life was for our family sixty or so years ago. The struggle they went though was immense but it is amazing what they managed to accomplish.

I guess I need to find out another way to learn about the fascinating history of my family. Which family member would you most like to interview? IF they are still alive, then I suggest you seize the moment otherwise you may end up regretting it, like me.

Also, have you interviewed a family member and what has been the most interesting thing you discovered?

Until Next Time

A Worried Student

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15 thoughts on “Interviewing The Past

  1. I’ve become very interested in my family history too recently. My parents are not very cultural at all. Well actually, yes they are. I think the word is patriotic. They don’t like follow the news and force us to go back home every year like I’ve noticed some other families do. They never taught me my own history. I didn’t even know about New Year’s Day or Independence Day until last academic year. Recently I went home by myself even though I hadn’t been in over 10 years and could barely speak the language because I really wanted to get in touch with my roots. It was amazing and the stories my nan told me about my mum growing up and about me when I was a baby are priceless! Some of them even bought me to tears.
    If I could interview one person it would probably be my paternal grandad (may Allah bless him) who is no longer with us. His family is super interesting and I’ve also been told my so many people what a loving person he is. For example my mum’s dad told me when I went back that if they went to their house he would not let them leave all day. My mum told me how she once had a headache and he massaged her head for her until she fell asleep. When she woke up he was still massaging her head. I have met him and I am blessed even for this but at the time I didn’t understand the value of it tbh.
    Anyway great post – got me thinking too!

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    • Yes it is amazing to get back in touch with your roots especially as you become older. I think families who have migrated have two stories to tell. The one of their life back home and then their journey onwards.
      I definitely understand your sentiments in not realising the value of the company of the elders until its too late. On the day we were due to come back home after a holiday, it just hit me that I would most likely not see many of the ‘Grannies’ who I just spent a month with and that I should have taken more benefit.

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  2. I think I would have liked to interview my relatives in the distant, distant past. 1700s. 1600s. Or maybe to go forward – my Great granduncle Richard, who died in the First World War. My granddad Jim, who died before I was born.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow 1700s! Hmm I can hardly imagine my family then, especially because there are no records of them!
      Do you have anyone a who grew up with your granddad and who would be able to tell you more about him when he was a young man?

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  3. I would have liked to interview my paternal granddad, but all grandparents come with their own wonderful stories. It’s regretful that there’s a language barrier between me and my grandparents though!
    Hope you manage to find out more about your family history 😀

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    • Haha yes I forgot to mention the language barrier! On my paternal side, the language barrier was greater since my grandmother remained in India but my maternal side was much easier. Although we remember fondly my grandmother’s odd English phrases!

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      • That’s exactly the same as my family! My paternal side remained in Pakistan and my maternal side moved over here in the 60s.
        Grandmas have a great way of speaking! Once my grandma wanted to order a taxi and it took a while to arrive, so she rang back and simply said “Taxi bit late!”

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  4. I love this idea, I would absolutely encourage you to talk to your grandfather’s friends. My grandmother is 89 and is one of my greatest role models. I’ve always thought it would be awesome to write down some of her stories, but haven’t actually done anything about it. It be cool to hear some more stories of raising my dad, but also more on why she married my grandad, growing up in the midst of segregation in America. Lots of things. Hmmm

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  5. I never knew my grandparents. My grandmas died about 15 years before I was born, one of my granddads died about five years before I was born, and the other two weeks before I was born. His name is my middle name. My mum has always said he was very excited to see me and couldn’t wait, but that’s not sad for me because that means I made his last month’s happy. That’s something, I guess.

    I’ve been very lucky to learn all about them. My dad has done a lot of family research. His grandparents were born in Italy, in Florence and near Rome. We know the exact street were grandma grew up, but her house is gone. Italian census records are a bit crap, so we were lucky to find her street.

    They came to England with all their brothers and sisters in the mid-1800s with the intention of going to New York. And they did. Apart from my great grandparents who stayed in England. And had a lot of children (typical Italians). One of them, my granddad, met an Irish girl and the rest was history.

    They also had a lot of children. All twelve of them…

    Granddad was in the army. He didn’t fight in World War II though because of his Italian heritage. So he left the army.

    In typical Italian fashion, he opened an ice-cream shop. I don’t know where it was, though.

    But I do get the draw. I’ve been to New York and we found most of my great relatives in the records, which means they got there. We’ve even contacted one of their descendents, living in Canada. As for me, I’d love to go to Italy and find out where everyone came from.

    There’s a real strong urge to find that sort of stuff out. I say do it. You’ll never regret it.

    Liked by 1 person

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