10 Top Genealogy Tips For Interviewing Family
10 Top Genealogy Tips For Interviewing Family. It is very easy to get swept up in researching your family history going back further and further at a press of a search button but spare a thought for the family who are still with us, living and breathing and available on the end of the phone or near enough to visit. Don’t put off the job of talking to family, especially elderly relatives, until it is too late. I have heard so many times people wishing that they had spent more time talking to their parents, grandparents and other relatives who remembered earlier generation who they didn’t have the chance to know. Finding out and recording memories and information from family is a cornerstone of your genealogy, a building block that you should not put off or ignore.
Here are my 10 top genealogy tips for interviewing family and gaining as much family history information as they are willing to share.
1 Of course start by talking to your older relatives, but don’t ignore your own generation. Cousins will have heard stories from their parents and mutual relatives and they may not be the same tales as you have been told. Also, your cousins may have been given photographs, the family bible, medals etc. that you are not aware of.
2 Don’t rush your visit, this isn’t all about just getting the information you seek and then running out the door ! Leave yourself plenty of time to chat, show how far you have got with your research and let that generate any stories or facts. Having said that if your interviewee is elderly chose a time when they are at their brightest and leave the moment they show signs of getting tired. It may well be that a number of visits will be necessary to get all the information you seek. A thank you note is always appreciated and do keep in touch with them as this is the right thing to do and you never know what else they may remember.
3 Let the talk flow naturally, ask your questions without sounding as if you are interrogating them. And whilst it is tempting to try and get to the facts you are after, try not to interrupt when you are being told a long story about an event. Eventually your relative will run out of steam and come to a stop and then you can ask your questions.
4 Once you have been given some information, repeat it back to the person. For example, “Just so I have got it right your parents met at a dance and then married after a whirlwind romance of three months because your dad was being sent overseas with the army? Once that has been confirmed it gives you an opening to ask about the wedding, military service and how the wife coped whilst her husband was away.
5 If dates of an event at which your relative was present, such as a wedding, can’t be recalled ask if they remember if it was in the summer or did they have to take their warm winter coats with them. Relating it back to something ordinary such as the weather often helps to narrow the event down. You can then ask how old they were when it happened, whether it happened before or after another event that they can recall the date of – this all helps to narrow your search down for a record. It has been found that men tend to remember national and international events whilst women remember family and local events more clearly so adapt your questions to take this into account.
6 If you have a small portable scanner take it along and ask if you may use it to copy photographs or use your mobile phone camera. If the interviewee is willing for you to take photos or other items away so you can copy them it is a good idea, for all concerned, that you make a list of what items you have taken and when you will bring them back. This can save a lot of confusion and bad feeling if another family member thinks you have “taken all auntie’s special things”. Make two copies one for you and one for your interviewee. Doing this also shows that you are responsible and appreciate being able to borrow items that will help with your research.
7 Many people suggest that you use a recorder to tape the conversation, but in my experience many elderly people dislike this and will be too aware of being recorded to relax and start opening up about family happenings. Never record an interview without asking permission. Personally I would never use a recorder at the first meeting, after that initial visit you will have got a feel if recording is something the person might feel comfortable with.
8 Make notes of names, places and date, but don’t write all the time. It is hard to have a conversation with someone when all you can see is the top of their head as they scribble down notes! Make full notes as soon as you get home whilst the information is fresh in your mind, you can always double check something at a subsequent visit.
9 If you come across some sensitive family information and the one person who could give you the complete story doesn’t wish to then don’t push them. It may be that you have to gain their confidence before they are willing to share what they know. It may be that the information is never divulged, that is just how it is. Pressing them to tell all can be seen as bullying by the person themselves and other family members who may then refuse to tell you even the mundane information they know.
10 When you are entering the information on your family tree cite your source by giving the persons full name, include maiden name if appropriate, the date and place of the interview and the fact that it was you who talked to the person and made the notes. Your descendants will thank you for noting all that information! See my post on Genealogy Citation for further details.
10 Top Genealogy Tips For Interviewing Family – Resource Library Freebie!
I have created a set of Work Sheets for you to print off to help you when interviewing family which includes a form all ready for you to list those precious photos and items that you are being lent. Nothing like being prepared before you set out! Click Here To Access Your Free Interviewing Family Work Sheets
10 Top Genealogy Tips For Interviewing Family – Summary
I hope you have found my 10 top genealogy tips for interviewing family helpful and that you set out to interview all your relatives who I am sure will be happy to help you with your genealogy journey. Finally, having gathered all this information, photographs, memorabilia together don’t just drop it into a file box after you have entered everything onto your family tree. Can any medals be framed and put on display perhaps with a description of why they were awarded? Can great granny’s recipe book be reprinted with scans of her handwritten notes. Can you make an album online that can be shared with family or get copies made of the photos and make albums up for those who don’t use computers. Something I am investigating is digital scrap-booking as I have seen some beautiful examples which I am sure will become heirlooms to be handed down either in digital form or printed off and bound as a book. The possibilities are endless.
This blog post has been shared with thedigicrafter.com an amazing craft website with a focus on genealogy. Ramona, the very talented founder of Digicrafter has designed a special genealogy freebie to go with this post, so if digital scrap booking your genealogy is part of your family history interest then Click Here to Access Your FREE Genealogy Scrapbooking Mini!
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