Write It ALL Down
No, I'm not kidding. I have notebooks full of notes I have taken over the years from my Dad's conversations with me. He is like a living, breathing history book! (My Grandpa was born 1866, and was a fairly old man when my Dad and 2 more brothers came along - like 71 when Dad was born!) My Dad used to sit and listen to his Dad tell him about the family history, and how things had changed since he was born. Can you imagine, that by the time my Dad was old enough to pay attention, my Grandpa would have been closer to 80! The things that changed in his lifetime to that point!
Okay, so everything you're told you won't be able to prove. That's true. Even if Cousin Bertha tells you that great-grandma Myrtle made tea out of deer droppings, doesn't mean she really did! Now Cousin Bertha may even swear on her grandchildren's heads that what she tells you is true, well, always take it with a grain of salt. But record it anyway. Keep a few notebooks for your oral family histories. Who knows, you might one day come across great-grandma Myrtle's recipe book, and find in there that she made a tea out of deer droppings, just not for human consumption! She made a tea of deer droppings to pour onto her garden. Manure tea is rich in nitrogen and helps to replenish the soil of its loss. So, technically, Cousin Bertha didn't tell a falsehood. She simply didn't know the whole story. And suddenly you can put the two pieces of information together and can make an informed note in your genealogy program regarding the deer droppings tea. (Oh, and by the way, Google it and you'll find that deer droppings really can be used for adding nitrogen to your garden! But purchasing fertilizer is a little more convenient!)
I have notebooks that I use for general notes. This notebook I carry in my handbag, or backpack all the time. It goes with me everywhere. You never know when you'll run into someone who can tell you something new! Once I get home, I transfer that information into a special notebook. I keep notebooks for each of the family lines I research. After I transfer the notes into their proper notebooks, I then take a red pen and draw a line crossways over the note. That lets me know that I have transcribed it into the proper notebook.
I do have some notes that have never been transcribed, simply because I wasn't sure where to make a notation of them. Such as, someone once me told that they knew someone with the same last name as mine, and wondered if we were related. I followed up with the phone number that I was given, but the number was no longer in service. Still, I held onto the note, as it gave me a name, and a reference for time frame, and where the person had lived as a child. Should the name ever surface in my research, I'll be able to cross it off in my general notebook.
This is the kind of notebook I purchase. You can get them cheap at a Dollar Store for $1 each. But if you watch at some of the big box stores, you can pick them up for around 50¢ each. (Last fall I bought a whole case for $12.00.)
Okay, so I know this sounds like a lot of handwriting. But if you're good with texting on your SmartPhone, you might be able to simply take a note down in OneNote, or Word, and then send that to either your printer, or, start a file system on your computer. Then you could simply download the note into the correct file folder on your computer. Just make sure that you continue to back up your computer monthly to prevent losing your notes!
Sometimes, at family reunions, I feel like I haven't really had a chance to mingle with everyone, as I'm running around making sure I get photos of everyone, and writing my little notes down! Family reunions are a great time to get information! It would be much better to simply take a digital recording than writing down the information. Again, your SmartPhone or iPhone can do this quite well. Simply record the note, and then transcribe it once you get back home. Of course, how many recordings you can make will depend upon how much memory is in your SmartPhone or iPhone. If you are also taking photos with your phone, you may have to choose between which is more important to you, photographs of everyone attending, or notes! Which is, again, why I always carry a notebook!
If it seems sublimely ridiculous when someone tells you something, don't automatically take it as an impossibility!
My Dad told me that when he was a boy, his Dad did not own a car. (He'd had one once, when they were first available, and had a bad accident with 2 of his children in the car with hi, and everyone was injured to some degree or another.) So, Dad told me that when they went to church, or traveled to see anyone, being in a rural area, his Dad would hitch the old horse to a wagon, and the boys would ride in the back, while his Mom and Dad rode on the only seat. Dad said he would get so embarrassed riding past anyone's house, especially other boys home's where the family owned a car, that he would hunker down in the back of the wagon, and hope no one could see him. Well, I'd heard that story so much as a kid that I just couldn't imagine! We're talking the 1930's and 1940's here! Well, low and behold, my very first job as a nurse had me working with a woman who later told me that she grew up with, and went to school with, my Dad. She started laughing one day, and when I asked what was so funny, she told me that her best memory of my Dad was when his family would ride past her house. She said, my Dad would try to hide in the back of the wagon so she wouldn't see him.
Okay, so I learned my lesson! Everything isn't always the truth. But sometimes, what you think isn't the truth, is the very thing that turns out to be factual!
Regardless of whether you choose to take notes, or do digital recordings, get those verbal stories saved! You will find most of them are priceless!
Who knows, you might even be able to write a fantastic book one day and get those memories down for future family members. What a great way to get to know your ancestors!