Message in a bottle
August 22, 2011 11:46 PM   Subscribe

What would you ask your grandparents/family to record in a message to your future?

I think I'm going to ask my grandparents to record a few videos for me as a "gift from the past". The specifics are a little fuzzy, but I've thought they could record a few messages for me intended for certain times, occasions, or decades in my life, that I should watch only when I get to that age/event. I think it'd be a nice "time travel" gift from the past.

Have any of you done something similar, with good or bad results? Would you suggest I have them talk about anything in particular?
posted by mcav to Human Relations (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I would also ensure that it's recorded in an open format that can be transferred forward as computers develop. Avoid the BetaMax problem.
posted by dougrayrankin at 4:11 AM on August 23, 2011

Have them tell you stories. My last living grandparent died when I was in my teens, and I really regret now not being able to recall the details of stories she told me about her childhood and about Civil Rights-era North Carolina and about that crazy thing my mom did that one time.
posted by decathecting at 4:36 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

What they were doing when they were the age that they're recording for! Stories, their life happenings, thoughts that they were having, who their friends were and stories about those friends, what foods they were cooking...the possibilities are endless!
posted by 200burritos at 5:45 AM on August 23, 2011

I wish I knew where exactly my grandparents' families came from. I think their parents were the generation that came to the U.S., and now that my grandparents are gone, all we have are guesses as to what countries they came from.
posted by troywestfield at 6:03 AM on August 23, 2011

I have audio recordings of my great grandmother singing nursery rhymes to me. I wish my mom had asked her to record real memories. She was born in 1881 and simply asking what the biggest changes in her lifetime were would have been awesome to hear.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:15 AM on August 23, 2011

I'd have them reach back and record memories of their own parents and grandparents, both for the longer reach back into history and to give greater context for their own lives. My mother's father wrote this about his grandfather and it's one of my favorite things:
My grandfather on my mother's side was Captain Walter Scott Jennings. He raised the Davidson Grays, and saw service at Chattanooga, and was in the defeat by Buel at Nashville. I remember his cavalry sword hanging on the wall at his house, and used to plague him with wanting to know how many Yankees he had killed with it. I used to examine the blade carefully for traces of Yankee blood. His invariable response was: "None, I hope to God, son."
posted by nicwolff at 9:38 AM on August 23, 2011

(Yeah, I'm joking but also not because this would kick ass.)
posted by Su at 10:17 AM on August 23, 2011

Go to and look around at the questions. All kinds of questions appeal to me, but especially:
* Definitely: Name all of the relatives they know, where they were from, what profession they had (my parents are gone and it's really hard to track down that info especially if they are from another country)
* What do you think your talents/best qualities are? What are other people in the family known for? (I always think this is fascinating, like when someone says that grandma Leah was also know for her sewing and fashion sense, something my daughter seems to have inherited. Great grandpa was a very honest man ie. the time he returned a large sum of money to the bank, etc)
* What was childhood like for you? What was a typical day?
* how did you meet grandma/grandpa?
* Looking back, what do you wish you had taken less seriously? more seriously?
* How would you reinvent yourself?
* What is your greatest accomplishment?
* What advice have you given your children about love?

Lots of great ones on Proust.....
posted by hellochula at 10:46 AM on August 23, 2011

I think it would be really cool if your grandparents outlined your current family tree/timeline, with memories of when new family members were born/adopted or married into the family (maybe including first and current impressions?). This way, you have a really personal story of how your family grew from the viewpoint of your grandparents, and each relative gets an appreciative shout-out memory.
posted by desertface at 11:49 AM on August 23, 2011

First: having them record anything is awesome, and sufficient. Even if it is just a minute of "Hello, this is [name] and [name], it is [date], and we are in [location] recording this message to you in the future."

Second: if there is one thing that everyone in the future spends a surprising amount of time doing, it is researching their family tree. You have a lot of knowledge in your head about who married who and who begat who and who moved where from where; if you can summarize it neatly and perhaps include close-ups of the family tree as you know it, you will likely end up making future generations quite happy.

Third: don't just show you. Show your house. Show your car. Show your bicycle. Show your street. Show some places you like to go. Show your school. With specifics (address for locations, make and model and year for the car.) Things that are transient and potentially fascinating (transportation) as well as things that may or may not still be there in the future (locations, buildings.)

Finally: think "what don't I know about the life my grandparents lived", and include those things.
posted by davejay at 12:12 PM on August 23, 2011

Oh, and perhaps you should create a gift for your extended family, and don't make this specific to you -- make this something you can spread around. Perhaps three generations later, all the copies will be lost except one, but then they'll be glad to have that one.
posted by davejay at 12:12 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

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