Monday, July 21, 2014

So where do you go from here?

Thinking back on my adventures in family history there were no steps, numbered one to ten, that I took in order to reach my goals. It was kind of haphazard. A little bit here; a little bit there. Fantastic discoveries. Huge brick walls. There is no check list when you are researching your ancestors. They didn't live by a "check list" and you won't find them by using  a check list. 

By the time you decide that you need to find your ancestors, most of your older relatives will have passed on. Don't feel bad, it happens to all of us. Just in case you have a few family members left who are older than you, this is your chance to get a lot of misinformation. I can hear you questioning this statement. Why would you want misinformation? Because it contains a lot of clues.

There are times when I really believe that family folklore and gossip have more bits and pieces of accurate information than those wonderful family biographies that you find in atlases and county centennial books. After all, our ancestors wanted to make their families look better than the family that lived next door or down the road. So, the authors embellished the family histories with war heroes and wealthy landowners. Yup, a lot of our great grandfathers were close personal friends of General Grant.

After you have found your oldest living relative, you will need to set up a time for a little get together and interview session. If you have an audio recorder, this is the best way to gather information. If your have to stop to take notes you are going to miss something. Also, with a recorder you can go back and listen to the recording in a month or year or two. Serendipity says your relative will add something you did not hear before. 

You can work from a form that you create or you can go to and search for video or audio interviews with family members. I would suggest that you check what is on Cyndi's List and add your own questions. 

But what happens if you are your oldest living relative? Simple. You pick a form or two and answer the questions. And feel free to enter any other memories that pop into your mind. Also, think about some of those past Christmas dinners when your family was gathered around the table after dinner. If you had a big family like mine, this was the time when the aunts and uncles talked about the good old days. Write down everything you remember, no matter how trivial. Someday it may be the clue that breaks through a brick wall.

Of course the best oral history scenario is being able to gather together two or more older family members. That way you can just sit back and let them talk. Don't forget to encourage them to bring out their old family pictures from the closet -- that will trigger many memories. 

Once you have all the memories recorded, it is time to head to the next level. 

But instead, we are going to take a detour and head in another direction for a while -- into the world of the professional genealogist! The first episode of Who Do You Think You Are will air on TLC this Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 9/8c. Whether you are just beginning to trace your family or have been doing it for decades, there is always something new to learn. 

As usual I will comment on each episode and use it as a learning experience. Please remember this is an hour program with commercials and a lot of research is squeezed into that time period. WDYTYA only shows you what you can accomplish. It does not show you how many hours of research it takes to get there.

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