A Quick Start Guide to Researching Your Roots, Part 2

A Quick Start Guide to Researching Your Roots, Part 2

By Shannon Warnick

My mom lives to retell a tale about my brother and me. It seems that when we were very young, we had so much fun at the beach that we wanted to relive it - in our bathroom! Using our sand pails, we carefully scooped the water out of the toilet and dumped it onto the floor. Being the bright children that we were, we flushed the toilet, to refill our water supply. I'm not sure what finally gave us away, perhaps water dripping through the ceiling or the unusual quietness of our play, but by the time she happened upon us, we were well on the way to recreating the New Jersey shore.

To most people this is a cute story of some creative children, but to a genealogist, this is just another piece of my family's history. The oral history - the stories and traditions - can paint a colorful picture of the past, providing clues for further research. For example, my father told stories about his next door neighbor in Colorado who used raise chickens. Believe me, it brought a whole new meaning to the phrase "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off."

While my father and grandparents are no longer here, I am fortunate to have several relatives from that side of the family still living, in California and Colorado. Contacting them is the next step in my research. While it would be better to talk with them in person, that's not really possible since I am in Texas, so I am going to have to resort to the phone or letters.

Keeping in mind time differences and long distance charges, I've put together a few things that I'm going to ask my aunts about:

Places that they lived

Traditions that they remember

Old pictures of my father, grandparents and any other relatives that they

may be willing to part with.

Any special stories that they remember from growing up

The purpose of my first contact is not to dig up everything they might know, but to spark memories and open the dialogue for future interviews/information. Basically I just want to get everyone in the family thinking about our heritage and helping me along on this journey.

If you will be attending a family reunion this summer, it would be the perfect time to personally interview some of your relatives. If possible record your interviews using a video or tape recorder. Ask about what life was like growing up, where they lived, what they felt like when President Kennedy was shot or when they first went to school. You can find a lot of great ideas on what to ask about from DearMYRTLE a genealogical advice column.

Don't forget to keep good records! Keep track of where each piece of information came from - the who, what and when's of each interview. Without this information we could easily lose track of where the stories and details came from, making it difficult to follow up.

Ahhh, yes, the follow up. Remember, this is just the beginning. There will be more calls, letters, interviews along the way. If you need an excuse, genealogy can be a great reason to reopen the lines of communication with distant relatives. No plans for the Fourth of July? Why not invite over a few relatives and start talking! I hear that barbeque and apple pie can work wonders to bring people together.

I bet you're wondering how these stories are going to really help us. Well, next month we'll talk about the clues that are hidden in the stories, traditions and photographs.

Until then,

Happy Hunting!


About the author

Shannon Warnick is Mom to Lisa, Collin, Daniel and Sarah. She loves to research on the internet and help those around her find what they need. Shannon loves the freedom the Internet has given her. She is also a Independent Technology Consultant.


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