One of my interests is genealogy. I have been looking for information on my Dad's side of the family for almost 20 years and it is still hard to find information, although the internet has definitely improved over the years, or maybe I have just learned how to use it better. In this blog I will share some of my experiences with finding family information.
All my life I have craved for information about my Dad and his side of the family. When I was 4 months old he died, so I was never able to get to know him or remember him. I am pretty sure this is what sparked the curiosity I have for wanting to know my family history. I didn't really know anyone else on his side of the family except my Grandma Emily and her sister Esther and husband Jim. I also had 2 half sisters that I did not remember, because I was just a baby the last time we had been together. Right before I graduated from high school my mom found my sisters and as my graduation gift, I was able to fly out to meet them and stayed with them for 2 weeks. It was a lot of fun and I found out that we had a lot in common, yet in a lot of ways we were different. My Grandma Emily died, then the next was my Aunt Esther, which really left no one of the older generation to answer any questions. I started looking online for information about my family and I kept running into road blocks and put it on hold for about 8 years, until recently. My second cousin Glenda emailed me, as she had found my email address on a genealogy message board. She had been going through stuff from her mom's house and had found pictures and documents and had finally found the internet and got the itch to research the family tree. She passed the itch to me and now I am addicted completely, again. I have also decided to research my Mom's side of the family, as well as my step-dad's (the one who is my Dad) side of the family. I have recently started helping a friend research his family tree. For someone that flunked history in high school, I sure am addicted to it now! So anyway, what I was leading to, is that I realized that there were still people on my Mom's side of the family that are alive! I finally had what a great trainer shared with me, called a 'flat forehead moment'! Why not postpone the research on the people who are no longer alive and ask questions of the one's that are still here on earth with me? So, I asked my Grandma and her husband if they had any birthdates, marriages dates, death dates, of any family members. I took my laptop and typed everything as they spoke. My Grandma had all of the birthdays in her address book, imagine that! I didn't have to search the internet for hours on end, all I had to do was sit down with my Grandma and enjoy a conversation with her! Once I got all of the dates recorded, I then asked if I could ask some questions about their childhoods. They couldn't imagine there would be anything that interesting to talk about, so I just started asking simple questions. Here are some examples:
1) What is your favorite memory of your father/mother?
2) Did you go to church as a child?
3) What were holiday celebrations like for you as a child?
4) Where did you live?
These questions may seem simple or not so informative, but just wait, you will find they start remembering things they hadn't thought of in years and they find themselves off track, which is very interesting and informative. The were laughing, crying and thankful of what they did have and also that their kids and grandkids did not have to suffer in the same ways they did as children. They grew up during the depression and were just becoming adults at the beginning of WWII. I love sitting down with them and asking them questions.
I am so fortunate to still have them in my life and what a reward to be able to talk to them personally to find out the family information, instead of having to look for it outside of my family. We will not be on earth forever, so take advantage of the family that remains and get to know them. None of us knows the day or time we will leave this earth, treat it as if today is your last day!
Do you have any other ideas for interviewing your family? Or other ways to research that you would like to share? Please, comment on this blog!