You’ve decided which family branch you wish to research first and you are ready to get started. What do you do?
Pay your relatives a visit!
- Set up a visit with the relatives and give them advance notice of your intentions so they have time to think about the family history and collect information for you.
- Start your research by asking about your living relatives and perhaps start with the oldest first. Ask your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, anyone who is willing to share with you. Caregivers of older relatives are also good sources.
- Employ good listening skills. Avoid making any interruptions or corrections. The interviewer’s job is to draw out the genealogical facts.
- Be aware that memories can play tricks and events may be re-interpreted over time. It may take a couple of interviews with several family members to unravel the stories. Use the information gathered as a starting point and go on from there to verify the information with documentation.
- Also be aware it may take some time and multiple visits to build up the trust and comfort level for the interviewee to open up to the interviewer.
- Pour over the family memorabilia such as old postcards, military honours, house deeds, newspaper clippings, family bibles, school report cards.
- Ask if you can make copies of the various items you have examined. Note the names, addresses and relationship to you of their owners.
- Photograph the relatives you have spoken to.
This will give you a good start to your research. Thank your relatives and when you leave ask for names and relationships of other people you can visit and perhaps find more information.