Monday, September 10, 2012

Lesson 2

Getting To Know You

When researching your family history, a person wants to find out as much as humanly possible about their ancestor. You need as many demographics as you can find. A true genealogist will not stop with dates, names, and locales. They will want true substance to come to light in their research. Actual personalities will start to pop out giving you  a sense of connection with your ancestor.

How are you going to find this kind of information out? There are many ways. First lets go back to the interview. I gave you examples of questions to ask that will give you a list of ancestors, but now, lets look at the questions that will give you some idea who they were. Ask these questions about the person giving the information, and about other family members that have passed on. They may even know information on people that are still living too.

  1. What is your full name?
  2. Were you named after someone?
  3. Were you named after something else (example, a town)?
  4. Were you baptized as a baby?
  5. Did you attend church?
  6. Where did you go to school?
  7. What was your favorite subject in school?
  8. Who was your favorite teacher and why?
  9. Did you finish school, if not why?
  10. Who was your best friend?
  11. What was your favorite things to do as a child?
  12. What is your favorite color?
  13. What are some childhood memories?
  14. Were you shy or outgoing?
  15. What was your favorite sports and hobbies?
  16. Did you attend any summer camps?
  17. Were you poor growing up?
  18. What did your parents do for a living?
  19. Did you have any after school jobs?
  20. What were your siblings like?
  21. Did you fight a lot or were you close?
  22. Describe your house?
  23. What kind of cars did you have growing up?
  24. Can you remember all of your addresses? (by the way, I can up until the point of my stroke)
  25. Did you have any illnesses?
  26. Did your family have any major illnesses that ran in the family?
  27. Are your parents still alive?
  28. If not what happened to them?
  29. What funeral home was used?
  30. Where are they buried? 
  31. What information did you have put on their tombstone?
  32. Did you have any injuries?
  33. Were you in any clubs growing up? 
  34. What were your favorite foods?  
  35. What are your most memorable memories growing up?
  36. Did you have any special traditions at holidays?
  37. Did you go on vacation every year, if so, where?
  38. What were your boyfriend and girl friends like, and what were their names?
  39. What did you do for fun as a teenager?
  40. Did you go to college, if so where? 
  41. Were you in any clubs?
  42. What was your major and minor? 
  43. Did you stay on campus?
  44. Did you have to work or did you get scholarships, if so, where were they from?
  45. What are your fondest memories of college?
  46. Did you join the military?
  47. If so, what branch and where were you stationed?
  48. Did you get any medals?
  49. What was your rank?
  50. What did you do in the service?
  51. How many years did you serve?
  52. What was your first job?
  53. What was your vocation in life, and did you just have one?
  54. What is the most fondest memories from your work days?
  55. When and how did you meet your spouse?
  56. How long did you date?
  57. How old were you both when you met?
  58. What was it that drew you to each other?
  59. Where did you get married?
  60. Did you have a large wedding?
  61. What religion are you, if any?
  62. Were both you and your spouse the same religion?
  63. Did your spouses family approve of you?
  64. Did you have children??
  65. How many children did you have?
  66. What were they like?
  67. Did you raise them in church and were they baptized?
  68. What was their births like?
  69. Did you name them after anyone, or something?
  70. What was your most memorable times with your own family?
As you can see there are many questions you can ask to find out information. You might be looking at this list of questions and asking, "Why on earth would you need to ask all these questions, Elisa?" It is simple, really. Each of these life events has a location attached to them. Each location has a life event attached to it as well. This is what I call a life trail.

What can I find out from these questions? You have places you can go and find out more information on the ancestor you are researching, which leads you to other ancestors. Places you see up here are hospitals, schools, churches, clubs, military locations, funeral homes, cemeteries, work places and neighborhoods. When researching your relative, these are good places to go or use as evidence that they are your true ancestor. Some places will not give out information but you can still link your relative to them.

Going to the "Hood"

Here is some information we found out from the questions above. I knew what town my grandmother lived in, but I didn't know exactly what house she lived in. From questioning my mother, she was able to lead us to the street my paternal grandmother lived on. Thus we set out on the journey, an hour and half away, my mother, my brother, my grandson and I.

Now mind you, we were just going to drive by her house just to take a picture. I was new at this addiction and thought a picture was all I would get. Boy was I wrong! We did not think that anyone in the neighborhood would have known them, since my grandmother died in 1969! It had been so long since we had been there, the house didn't look exactly the same. So we were a little iffy if that was the correct house. I stopped the car, and was looking at two houses sitting side by side, trying to decide which one she lived in. I glanced around and saw a man sitting on his front porch, across the street. I knew it was a long shot, but I decided to stop and talk with him and see if by some minute possibility he knew of my family. He not only knew of them, he knew them personally!

The gentleman and his wife were newlyweds when they moved into their home several decades ago. So, they had been actual neighbors of my grandmother. They were able to tell us stories not only about my grandmother, but my great grandmother as well. They gave us information on what family members lived with her. Both he and his wife were able to share some anecdotal stories with us as well.

Then the elderly neighbor showed us which house my grandmother had lived in. not only that but he was able to tell us where our great-grandmother had lived as well, plus the church they both attended. What a gold mine of information!

He was our old pal by then, and he told us the house was vacant, and he knew the gentleman that owned the home. He called the owner on the phone and told him what we were doing, and the owner of the home came over to the house and let us in to look around! We would not have ever known this information had we not stopped and asked someone in the neighborhood.  We took pictures, got information about our family and had a nice visit with a couple we didn't even know, leaving feeling as though we had known them forever.

Any good tracker will know what signs to look for. Finding these things out will also help locate the data you need to make further confirmation that this is indeed an ancestor. Remember, the more you find out about that person, the closer you are to finding out about your true heritage. Just think, through two interviews, we were able to be led back "in time" on a stroll down memory lane at the exact locale my grandmother lived at, in "the hood."

One added note: When doing research, you sometimes find information that can be a little unsettling. You might find that there were addictions, abuse, and other information that might disturb you. I know we did. The feeling was like, "Do I really want to persue this?"

An example of this is our great Uncle Howard. He told us about how his dad abused his wife and children. He told us about the day he finally stood up to him and his mother packed his clothes and said it was time for him to leave. He was seventeen at the time. At the time of the interview he was, I believe, 84. Tears came to his eyes as he told the story. He said he would never forgive the man.

Uncle Howard was my favorite uncle, and to see him feeling the pain as he talked about his father, made my heart of love hurt for him. We had to re-evaluate what we were doing. It was so unsettling to us. We had to take a short break from searching to collect our thoughts. Did we want to find anymore bad information in our family? We were expecting to find complete greatness in every person from our past. Then we realized that everyone is human, and though we didn't want to accept the fact of dysfunction in our family, we had to come to terms with it, so we could come to terms the past, so we could continue in our quest to discover the greatness of our family tree.

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