Believe it or not, the ability to record the history, the situation of your family now as well as the prospects for their future could be a pastime that is rewarding in the long run.
The following are some of the things you could do to know more about your own family history.
Interview, interview, interview
It is advisable that you list all the family members you know and would like to conduct an interview with.
You can also consider the other relatives you could interview via phone or thru email, that is if they would be unavailable in person.
However, it is best that you first ask your own relative’s permission if they are willing to let themselves be interviewed.
When your relatives have given their okays, tell them the parameters of the subject you plan to ask them about. Ask them beforehand if they have topics they are not willing to discuss.
When everything has been cleared, set a definite date for the said interview.
Ask anything and everything
When you begin the interview process, record first each of their names, their nickname if they have any , as well as the places and dates of their marriage or birth.
Ask any of your relatives for their experiences during childhood, their jobs, their education, their particular immigration story or history and their family life. Also note any of their physical and personality traits.
When asking, try as much as possible to be flexible, catering your questions to each interviewees digressions. These details could bring valuable information that though unexpected could be a vital treasure. However, do not also forget to stay on track.
Be courteous and considerate
Be as polite as possible. One’s family history could be stressful. Being considerate of the feelings your relatives may have is important as they may not similarly be as interested as you are in recalling memories of the past.
Bringing photographs may also be helpful as these could help jog their memories.
You could also ask your relatives if they could recommend another family member to be interviewed.
Record, record, record
Recording your interviews using a cassette recorder is vital as these could capture details you might have missed. Still, it is also just as good to take down notes as recorders both audio and video could malfunction, sometimes.
Documents are best to be consulted and used as supplements to any of your interviews. These documents could include birth certificates, marriage certificates, deeds, journals, baby books, pictures, naturalization papers, wills.
The library is the best option to see and view old documents. The library is the best resource for obituaries, biographies, news clippings, etc.
Ask the librarian, they could help you in your search.
They could also suggest possible sources of vital info regarding your relatives and family.
Doing a search online may also be of help. There are genealogy web sites as well as newsgroups.
Store and organize all info
When you think you have as much information as you could possibly gather, make group pedigree sheets that have the basic info about a wife, her husband and their kids. This is a good start when making a family tree.
All in all, knowing one’s family history is a tedious search that could prove to be a treasure trove of fun facts which could help you know yourself better in the now as well as in the future.