One of the delightful things about genealogy is that it provides genealogist with a never-ending puzzle to solve. Make sure you get the information you need before some of the most important puzzle pieces disappear. There are questions you should ask your relatives before it is too late (and they pass away).
Who is in this photo?
This simple question can reveal a lot of information. Your parents, or grandparents, might know the first and last name of the person in the photo whom you cannot identify. Ask what was happening when that photo was taken. What year was it? Whose house was the photo taken in? Was that person a relative or a friend of the family?
Show your relatives that old photo of a pregnant ancestor. Who was she pregnant with? Ask your grandmother about photos of your mother that were taken while she was pregnant. Your grandmother might know which of your siblings it was. Even better, your grandmother might have a story to share about the events of the day that photo was taken.
What really happened?
Make sure to ask your relatives about the “skeletons in the closet”. Events that seemed scandalous decades ago might be considered quite acceptable today. Ask your relatives to tell you the things that the family has kept hidden.
Perhaps you were told that the woman in the photos of your great great aunt was her best friend – when it was really her partner. Another relative might have gotten pregnant before she was married, and sent away to have the baby in order to avoid shaming the family. Your hidden family history might be how you learn about an ancestor who was sent to an asylum and never spoken about again.
Can you fill in the blanks?
Show your relatives the family tree that you have been working on. Ask them to tell you what you missed. Can they fill in the blanks for you? They may be able to give you helpful information about the people who are missing from your family tree.
Sometimes, a relative will go by a nickname instead of his or her given name. Perhaps the reason you can’t find “Fritz” is because his name was actually William. A relative might recall a line of distant cousins that you never knew about. Ask about every female relative’s “maiden name”. Those surnames could reveal more missing branches of your family tree.
Image by indigotimbre on Flickr
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