Friday, November 15, 2013

Building Bridges: Reaching out to other family members...

     As one begins their journey into family history and genealogy, it is inevitable that after exhausting home resources, it will be necessary to reach out to older family members.

     Just viewing family photos will most likely reveal cousins, aunts, uncles, grand parents and a growing circle of extended family. Taking time at that point to identify all who are in the photos is critical.

     Over the years I have found that memories fade and often those who do remember can pass away leaving behind pictures of unidentified people. To avoid this from happening, take time to label pictures with their proper names. One of the biggest mistakes is to label a picture "Grandpa ...." as to the one now looking at that picture he may be great or great great grandpa ...". While this is a common mistake it can cause some difficulty in establishing their real identity.

     Choosing a family member to visit can be intimidating, however, if family members have kept in touch over the years it may not be as difficult as one would think. Sometimes just making a phone call and showing an interest opens up a whole new world of possibilities, but one never knows until they make that first phone call. Most people enjoy sharing stories of their own lives as well as photos and find it an opportunity to build a positive and closer relationship with a younger member of their extended family. All family members have stories to share and while they may be related, each person in a family experiences things differently.

     My own mother was the youngest member of her family and when talking to her oldest sister about a family event, each had their own interpretation of the same event and they usually were not the same. Additionally, the oldest sister would know family information that my mother would not know just because she was not there at the time. Each family member can offer different perspectives on everything which is always a good thing.


Ok, you've made the call, set up a time and place to meet with the first of many family members, now what?

     It is usually helpful to let them know the reason for your visit and perhaps even provide some things your are interested in learning from them about the family. There are a number of prompts available to help, however, sometimes just having a few questions in mind to get things going is very helpful. To do this list some of things one wants to learn and then put the questions either on paper or type and print them up to take with you. Don't forget to take some sort of recording device as one can never write as fast as one can talk and often stories are shared which makes the visit even more worthwhile and special for all involved.

    Possible questions:

1) What is your earliest memory?
2) What is your favorite memory?
3) Tell me about your parents...what kind of work did your father do?
4) What was school like for you?
5) What was your first paying job?

     As this new journey begins, remember everything in life begins with just one step at a time, never giving up and going forward. Be sure to share and record new discoveries and additions in some permanent format.

     Remember to send a 'Thank You' note to the family member, the message of appreciation will go a long way in future interviews with other family members down the road.

     Next: Handling collected information

Building Bridges for All Generations!

Claire (*)
Timeless Genealogies
We're Your Family is "No. 1"


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