A holiday gathering presents a golden opportunity to mine among family and community memories. With a little forethought, perhaps you'll unearth a few golden nuggets of history. Start by setting down on paper two or three dozen questions. Include both general and specific queries, as well as ones applying to family medical history.
The U.S. Surgeon General, Rear Admiral Kenneth P. Moritsugu, M.D., M.P.H., is encouraging families to construct simple family medical-genetic histories to learn more about their family health history. The program is called the U.S. Surgeon General's Family History Initiative. Because a number of serious diseases have been demonstrated recently by medical researchers to have genetic components, charting your health history can help your physician "predict the disorders to which you may be at risk and take action to keep you and your family healthy." The presence or absence of heart disease and diabetes in families are only two of the illnesses that doctors now regularly document in patient histories. Visit the website of the surgeon general for more details on how to complete a diagram, using the free software available at the site http://www.hhs.gov/familyhistory/ .
Be sure to bring with you to the family dinner a small notepad and writing utensil or a recording device. Draw up a plan for presenting your questions. They may be directed to specific family members or addressed to the entire group. Prioritize the list, deciding in advance which two or three you would like to ask first. Don't hesitate to ask questions whose answers you think you know: you may be surprised on this occasion and learn something important. Gently steer conversation back to the questions if family members stray too far afield. If you have some nice old family photos, bring along a few to help generate converation or prompt recollections. This may be a good opportunity to ask cousins or other extended family members to help name unidentified persons in vintage images. Depending on the size of your family gathering and their receptivity to new ideas, you coud even send or give copies of short stories written by Greek-Amerians about their upbringing in Greece or the U.S. in advance. There are a large number of fine publications readily available. Or you could ask if any of them have had the opportunity to see a Greek film, citing any one of a number of fine movies appearing in theaters during the last few years. Click here for a sample list of books and films.
Above all, however, be sure to include questions which are critical to Hellenic genealogical pursuits: ask about the original family surname spelling in Greek and the name of your ancestral village. These two pieces of information are crucial for conducting genealogical research in Greece. For more information about starting your family research, see my online article, "Beginning a Greek Genealogical Search in the U.S." at the URL http://www.helleniccomserve.com/genealbegingrk2.html .
Still at a loss for questions? Try some of these:
- How did your parents and the local Greek community feel about the education of young women?
- What were their views on the use of Greek language at home and in Church?
- What is your favorite family story?
- How did family elders feel about arranged marriages and dowries?
- Were there any "black sheep" in the family?
- Did you see the movie, "(supply title)"? What did you think about it?
- Have you read the book/story, "(supply title)?"
- Describe a Greek-School or Sunday-School experience.
- Share a recollection about travelling to Greece or to an ancestral Greek land.
- How well did the Greek community integrate with the local community? Were there difficulties?
- Were any relatives refugees from the Asia Minor Catastrophe or the Greek Civil War?
- What was your father's first job? Your mother's?
- What were/are the favorite recipes of Yiayia or Papou?
- Who are the family "koumbaroi"?
- Were any relatives founders or members of local parishes or village associations?
- Were there any relatives who died at a young age?
- Has the fmaily name (surname) changed at any time?
- Has anyone family memorabilia concerning immigrant ancestors?
- Does anyone corresponde with relatives in Greece? Has anyone met Greek relatives?
- Who are the people in this photo? (Supply image.)
- Do/did family members belong to fraternal or charitable organizations such as the Order of AHEPA or Philoptochos?
- Has anyone in the family constructed a pedigree or ancestral chart?
Happy Thanksgiving from HCS!