Thursday, February 3, 2011

Beginning to Gather Info for Your Family Tree

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got till it's gone1

Joni Mitchell originally wrote Big Yellow Taxi to publicize the growing loss of our natural resources to pavement and parking lots, but it could just as well be about the loss of first-person resources for your family’s history. Too often, by the time you have questions and are looking for answers, your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles have all passed away. That’s when you realize that you’ve not only lost people you care about very much, but your best resources for names, dates and notable family events.

You can change that

Before your treasured family members and their stories are gone, find time to involve your parents or grandparents in a family history project. They will feel appreciated, and you will more than likely hear stories you’ve never heard before.

Script out your questions in advance, and make an effort to audio or video tape your interview to maintain a record. Stay flexible. Be prepared to veer off your script occasionally, as one of your questions may lead you into an area you may not have been anticipating, but once you’ve covered that topic, try to maneuver your questions back to your script.

Suggested topics

  • How and where your parents – or grandparents – met
  • Your mother’s, grandmothers’ and great-grandmothers’ maiden name
  • Your great-grandparents’ full names with the correct spellings and where they lived
  • Names of your grandparents’ siblings
  • Births/deaths – when and where
  • Marriages – when and where
  • Immigration – where your grandparents or great-grandparents come from (country/city/town), when they arrived and where they began their lives in America
The above topics will prove to be very helpful once you begin tracking your family in the federal and state census and immigration records.

Pamela J. Erickson

1Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi; (c) 1970 Siquomb Publishing Corp. (BMI)