Learning from People - Oral Evidence and Memoirs

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Oral History

We can find out about the past by talking to adults about their past. This is called oral history. For example, grandparents might tell us about games they played long ago, about their family and about the work they did when they were young. We can write down what the person remembers or we might make a recording of it. Sometimes, people may remember things as better or worse than they really were. Examine this drawing.

The Irish way of life
Copyright managed by the Library Council

This drawing is by Warwick Goble. It is called 'The Irish Way of Life'. What questions could you ask this older person about life in the early 1900's? The picture should help you think of some.

Tell me more!

We can compare what older people remember to what other people say about that time. This is important because peoples' experiences of the past can vary even when they lived at the same time. Some people might have good experiences and memories, while others might have less pleasant memories.

What is a memoir?

A memoir is a story written by somebody thinking back on their life from when they were a child. To write a memoir, you have to have a good memory. You also need to check with your family and friends who lived then to see whether or not your memories are correct. Some people use diaries to help them remember their life. Memoirs are very useful because they help us to understand what life was like for a particular person at a certain time.

When we compare memoirs we can see how people's lives at any time were similar or different . We can also compare their experences of childhood with our own. Many people write about their school days in their memoirs.