Triggering Memories

Author: Mark W. Swarthout
Published on: December 31, 2002

Well, the year is coming to a close and this will be my last article for 2002. It has been a good year for me and my genealogy research. But some of the most interesting things have happened in the last couple of days. This article is the results of a Christmas gift I received. My January article will discuss the other occurrence!

In a previous article, Family Bonding Time, I talked about the importance of taking advantage of family holiday gatherings to collect information. Perhaps the biggest challenge of doing this is trying to get conversations started and figuring out what direction to take the various threads. One of the packages that was under the tree with my name on it was a game. The Family Lore Game proved to be a great way to jog memories and get the conversations started.

The game is a basic trivia type, complete with 800 question cards. What makes the game unique is that fact that only 240 of the cards have questions on them. The remaining blanks are for you to fill out with questions specific to your family. Even without the customized cards being filled out, you can quickly trigger a lot of fun reminiscences about the family. The customized questions are designed to be filled out and completed during the course of the game, so after playing a few times, you have a deck of family specific questions. At that point, you can remove the seed cards if you wish.

There are twenty categories of questions including Ancestors and Relatives as well as Pets, Vacations, Schools, Homes and Traditions. We sat down to play the day after Christmas with all of the family present, a thing that only happens about once every two years. It was fascinating to watch the ‘Patriarch’ (or alternatively the Matriarch, the oldest participant, who serves as the final authority for whether a question has been answered correctly or not) being surprised by the memories that others brought up and shared.

We even had our share of controversy was created when trying to compare the different sides of the family to determine who the “Oldest living ancestor known by any of those present during their lives.” Side conversations sprang up about various vacations we had taken. I was delighted to sit and listen to the various threads that branched off the main questions and the tidbits that were shared. The things that were important to one of us where not even remembered by others.

Even the game markers are designed to be customized by pasting pictures of family members onto the pieces. With the randomness provided by the roll of the die and the occasional Serendipity Card, the game took about an hour or so to play, the ‘in-laws’ that participated learned about the crazy family they had married into. While one of my daughters was a participant, the other served as the question asker and token tracker.

If the opportunity to play the game arises again, I shall turn on a tape recorder! Some of the knowledge is captured by the creation of the customized cards. The biggest disadvantage to the game is that in order to use it with the ‘other side’ of the family, I’ll have to buy another set of cards, since the customized questions are going to be aimed specifically my side of the family. One possibility is to use different colored inks to split the customized questions between the branches, so that the branch specific ones can be skipped.

You can find out more about the game at their web site, The discussions that carried on even after the game was over, lead to some other interesting discoveries. More about them next month!

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Updated on 10/25/2005