Interview your People


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Interviewing relatives is a key task in starting genealogy. I recommend interviewing as many people as possible because everyone has a different perspective on memories and events in their life. I know that some people will have come to a point where they feel like they missed asking a certain relative questions about their history, and that relative has since passed away.

However, there are different ways to look at this. Don’t forget about your aunts and uncles, your great aunts and great uncles, and your cousins. After I caught the genealogy bug, all of my grandparents were gone. I spent a bit of time kicking myself, then I realized that my maternal grandmother had a sister that was still living. She was around 80 years old and lived out in Washington state, quite a distance from the Midwest. I decided to pick up the pen and write her. I asked my great-aunt all of the question I couldn’t ask my grandmother anymore. Over the next few months, she wrote me several letters telling me stories about her parents and grandparents and a few stories about my grandmother that I had never heard.

Tape recorders and videos are the best methods. Letters are good too, but not everyone is a writer. Try not to rely on your memory and interpretation of their stories. Eventually, years down the road, you will wonder about one particular item your relative said during the interview. You will think to yourself, “I wish I remember how they said that.” Tape recorders, videos, and transcripts can all be gone over again to give the most accurate re-telling of their story.

If you are lucky enough to have your grandparents or parents still living, I strongly encourage you to interview as many of the older generation as possible, as they all have different stories that survived memory and the passage of time.

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