Saturday, July 17, 2010

Do You Know Your Family History?

Family history is a lot like planting a tree.  When is the best time to start researching and recording your family history?  Ten years ago!  But seriously, if you haven't started this yet, now is the time to start.

When I think about the history that I let pass with the deaths of my great-grandmother, grandparents and various aunts and uncles, I cringe.  I have so many unanswered questions that could have easily been answered, had I just thought about it.  I did manage to record 10 minutes of VHS tape with my grandmother answering a few questions that I thought of on the spur of the moment.  They weren't the best and most probing of questions, but at least I have something.  She described Christmas during the Depression and experiences with the peddlers that came around the farms to sell their wares.  My two grandfathers and other grandmother passed away unrecorded and unquestioned. 

The younger you are, the better your chances of getting a full family history on DVD.  The trick is asking the right questions.  It's difficult to anticipate what you will want to know in thirty years.  Several of my ancestors died during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.  My grandfather had mentioned this, and two of them are buried in the local cemetery.  What about my other grandfather's sister, who died during that period and left a husband and child.  How did she die?  Obviously there's a story, but it's lost to time.

Which of my ancestors fought in World War I and II, and if they didn't, why not?

I'm encouraging everyone to get their grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles on video, answering well-thought-out questions about your family history.  Even if that's all you have time to do right now, at least do that, please.  If you are Native American or African-American, this is of extreme importance, as your history is not as easily traced and is more dependent upon family stories.

During the summer, I will be posting some tips on capturing your family history and tracing deeper into your ancestry.  If you will commit to this as your summer project, you will thank yourself in twenty or thirty years!

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