|Getting Ready to Get Started
Genealogy is defined in the dictionary as “a line of descent traced continuously from an ancestor”. For our purposes genealogy is the names dates and places associated with your ancestors – the who, when and where of the people in your ancestry. You need to do some genealogy FIRST so that you can accurately place your ancestors into the context of the events that shaped their Family History – the how and why of your ancestor’s lives.
Where do you find the information?
My husband’s maternal grandparents died before he was born. His paternal grandfather died when he was 5 and his grandmother when he was 17. His father died when he was 15 and his mother when he was 19 – a year before I met him. By the time I got around to asking the questions all of his mother’s siblings had passed, so there was NOBODY I could ask and that made the task of compiling their story just a little bit more difficult. Sadly, we don’t live forever and when you finally have the time to tackle this project your ‘go to’ source may be gone.
The first place you will be tempted to look is online, but start first with the people in your family. Ask them about the names, dates and places of their parents and grandparents – you may be surprised by how much or how little they know. When you ask your relatives about ‘the family’, they may or may not know much about them – my husband certainly didn’t!
Sometimes, the best way to get them to talk is to ask them if they have any old pictures from when they were kids or ask them about some of the old pictures that your parents might have passed on to you. Ask your siblings and cousins if they have any old letters or graduation or wedding announcements from their parents. One of the most helpful items I got was my mother in law’s autograph book from about 1935 (before she married). It was filled with lots of signatures and sentiments from her aunts and uncles in Iowa.
Most of us get stuck on what kind of questions to ask our siblings/cousins/parents etc. To get yourself in the right mindset, you could start by writing a little of your own story for your kids and grandkids. Tell them about the events that took place in your lifetime as well as in theirs.