Step 4a – Talk To Your Living Relatives

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Very important!  "Leave NO Empty Chairs"... Talk to your living relatives while they’re still living.  Once they’re passed on, they’re a little harder to contact.

Can’t emphasize this one enough — talk to your living relatives!  The information and documents they can provide will give you important clues and direction in your family history research.  Remember to take notes or, better yet, use a recorder to keep track of what they share with you. Digital Video cameras and Smartphones have the ability to make this part really easy.

The process here is actually pretty simple: you start with yourself, then your parents, then your grandparents. You can insert some aunts and uncles in here as well. — then you start teaching others to do the same... and maybe start teaching family history classes.

Details -- How To Talk With Relatives

Living RelativesInternetOriginal Docs

Start With Yourself

The first step in family history is to identify what you already know. Start with yourself and work backwards in time to your parents’ and grandparents’ families by filling in as much information as you can, by memory, on a Pedigree Chart.

Here’s the information you’re trying to find for each person:

  • Full name — including maiden names for the women.
  • Approximate dates for events — birth, death, marriage, residence, etc.
  • Locations for events — location is a key element in family history, since it indicates where vital records are today.
  • Stories —the stories tie everything together and build the bridge across generations. Stories help you understand and relate to your ancestors.
  • Pictures and Documents — this is what will help you source a lot of the family information a paint a more vivid and detailed picture of your ancestors.

Gather Your Immediate Family Information

Now that you’ve identified what you already know, you’re ready to gather information about the missing pieces.

  • Search your home papers and resources.
  • Interview immediate family members; brothers, sisters, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Focus on your oldest living family members to mine their memories for family history information. Each relative is likely to remember parts of the family story that others have forgotten, so be thorough!
  • Ask where things happened — remember, location is key to your research.
  • Ask if there are any distant cousins, great-aunts they’re aware of.
  • Take detailed notes of the information you get from these interviews — or use a tape or video recorder and transcribe it immediately.
  • Fill in a Family Group Sheet for each set of ancestors (husband/wife) on your Pedigree Chart.

Sample Questions To Ask Your Relatives:

  • Are there any old family photo albums?
  • Are there old letters sitting in a trunk somewhere?
  • Are there any family papers of any kind?
  • Who ended up with Grandma’s old Bible?
  • Has the family ever been mentioned in a book?
  • Is there a famous person to whom we’re supposed to be related?

Here’s a great tip: One of the best things you can do is scan or xerox the old photo albums, put a number by each picture, then sit down with the tape recorder going in the background, and ask them about each picture (who’s in it, what’s going on, any stories that go along with it…).

Contact Your Distant Relatives

Your relatives (distant cousins, a great-aunt you haven’t met yet, etc.) can be untapped gold mines of family history information. Call, write or visit them to gather new information about your ancestors.  Don’t procrastinate on this one.  Once an older relative is gone, all those stories and lots of family information are gone with them!  And lost forever, at least until you get to the spirit world.

As you move back through each generation, you’ll hopefully uncover more and more relatives who can lead you to new information about your family history.

Next Step

Step 2.— How to Search Online


Helpful Tools and Links

Primary Sites and Links

Family History Consultants
Family History Workshop
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