How to find out information about relatives

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For those of you who are blessed with living elderly relatives, you still have access to a treasure trove of memories, details, and more. You can supplement all your online and other methods of research with interviews specifically geared toward these elderly relatives so you can gain valuable information.

Why interviewing is Key to uncovering Family history

Today you have the benefit of being able to conduct much of your research online while also compiling important papers and documents, journals, or diaries directly from family members.

Yet, supplementing these with actual interviews with your relatives can add a whole new personal dimension and provide special insight into the emotions, traditions, cultures, and events throughout the span of their lifetimes. They can help you uncover details, discover surprises, and tie in history with your particular family.

You can gain insight into all the names, dates, and events and establish a more thorough history of a family member’s lifetime experiences. You can also gain context surrounding historical eras first-hand.

Start by making a list of how many elderly relatives you have, where they live, and how you can best interview them (face-to-face, over the phone, or by video conferencing).

What questions to ask

Start with the basic biographical questions about such things as full names, places of birth, and the towns or cities they grew up in or moved to at some point in their life. You can also let them help confirm other relatives’ names and dates of marriage, death, or immigration. All of this will provide you with a timeline or chronology to confirm and build upon.

Use this list of family history interview questions to help you get started, but be sure to personalize the interview with your own questions as well.

Questions about their childhood:
What is your full name? Why did your parents select this name for you? Did you have a nickname?

  • When and where were you born?
  • How did your family come to live there?
  • Were there other family members in the area? Who?
  • Where did you attend grade school? High school? College?
  • What school activities and sports did you participate in?
  • What was your religion growing up? What church, if any, did you attend?
  • Were you ever mentioned in a newspaper?
  • Where were you growing up?

Questions about the family:

  • What world events had the most impact on you when you were a child? Did any of them personally affect your family?
  • Who was the oldest relative you remember as a child? What do you remember about them?
  • What do you know about your family surname?
  • Is there a naming tradition in your family, such as always giving the firstborn son the name of his paternal grandfather?
  • What stories have come down to you about your parents? Grandparents? More distant ancestors?
  • Are there any stories about famous or infamous relatives in your family?
  • Are there any physical characteristics that run in your family?
  • Are there any special heirlooms, photos, bibles, or other memorabilia that have been passed down in your family?

Questions about their adult life:

  • What was the full name of your spouse? Siblings? Parents?
  • When and how did you meet your spouse? What did you do on dates?
  • Where and when did you get married?
  • Why did you choose your children’s names?
  • What was your profession and how did you choose it?

If you have initial information about your ancestors but are missing additional information, click on the link of our partner MyHeritage with 19.9 billion historical records where discover more about your family’s past. 

When searching for lost patrimony in our WIOLP database, use all the names of your ancestors that you’ve found. 

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Register now and find your lost patrimony after your ancestors.

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