One of the most valuable resources could be a phone call away. It is relatives that you can interview, ask questions, exam their photo collection, etc to learn more about your family lineage. With this being winter time and many people are home, making a phone call, maybe a visit to a relative to interview them is great timing.
If calling, make arrangements ahead of time, so the relative will be there and have the time set aside. Have your questions ready so all you are doing is filling in the information. Even better is to send a copy of your questions ahead of time to the relative so they have time to think on it.
Remember the questions are just stepping stones, change course if need be as the answers are given. This applies also to in-person interviews. Have questions ready. Use some recording device or video equipment and do it in a quiet area – you don’t want any extra background noise. Nothing better than having it recorded, then there is no question about what was asked and answered. Of course get permission from the person to record the interview. After you return home, do transcript the recording into written and digital form right away. If something happened to the recording, it is all gone — transcript right away. That is what good historians do!
Another method is to do up those questions — keeping it to about two pages or so and then mailing the person the pages of questions and having them fill in with what they remember. Leave plenty of writing space for them. Include a SASE for a speedy reply.
Keep in mind there may be some individuals, events, topics the person does not want to talk or write about. Understand that, but keep those in the background. After the relative has done some of the interview, they may change their mind.
There can be a wealth of information learned in just one session. However, do recheck any information you learn with vital records or document.
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