Perhaps the first question to ask is not what are my family stories, but where are my family stories? Who can I talk to, who has the familial memory they can share?
Find My Family Stories has been devoted to interviewing family members and preserving family stories as a companion piece to genealogy research to embody my desire to fulfill my client’s requests for family lore.
Could I validate the story that great Grandma and Grandpa met on a riverboat on the Liffey in Ireland and fell in love? Could I confirm the stories my father told me of his time in World War II?
As a genealogist, the answer many times was not a reaffirming one. But my client’s potent question and quest was something I wanted to fulfill. That’s when I began interviewing the oldest living relative in the lineage I was researching.
The desire to learn the powerful stories of the women and men in your family tree may challenge you. The pursuit of family stories can reopen old illusions about a family’s history. Duplicity, dark financial issues, hidden relationships can lead the happy hunting of our ancestors back through a troubled past.
As we go searching the past of our ancestors now long gone, we may find the roots of secrets, traumas, and family
wounds in the, sometimes, not so distant past. Part of what we learn and take away from the research of our kin, is the women, men, and children that came before us lived from a time that is a part of who we are now.
Interviewing Ancestors – The Basics
• Make a list of the people in your family you can interview. If a family member has passed on, include in your list those who knew your ancestor, then search out their descendants to interview.
• Record the conversation on a digital recorder or download a recording app to preserve your conversations. Be sure to inform the person of your intent to record the conversation for your research.
• Have ready-made questions available – You can find good beginning family history questions at ThoughtCo.
• Keep a resources checklist – Any household may have in attic, basement or garage items that reveal further ideas for study. You can find a Resources Checklist of potential items on my genealogy website at 4Descendants
• Do some background research – Google the challenges faced by your immigrant ancestors. Learn about the migration routes they took to their new home or to their next destination.
• Start Talking to Relatives – Whether on the phone or in person, be prepared to go with the flow of conversation to encourage a stream of consciousness accessing memory that releases small pieces of information.
• Build relationships with others – There may be co-workers who share your ancestry, relatives or people who knew your family members, and also clerks, secretaries, librarians, and church dioceses may provide assistance to your requests for information or documentation. I’ve sent candy to county clerks and professional researchers as thank-yous for their help, guidance, and, yes, suggestions for further research, in my quest for that elusive family story that grows one more branch of the family tree.
The tradition of speaking of the energy we receive from our ancestors unites family lore with the quest for ancestral information and is about sharing something we’ve discovered about our ancestors – those who live with us and those who have passed on, and that “passing on” is an interesting way of acknowledging what we receive from our ancestors. Our ancestors give us many gifts. Some we open right away, others take a lifetime to unwrap.
Find My Family Stories has the services and expertise about how to record, video, organize and collect your family history and stories for yourself, your family, and your descendants. Give us a call or send us an email and start the journey of finding your family stories.
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