TIP #9

All too many times, I have heard the story and lament of "I was going to talk to Uncle Fred, but he died before I did". This is always an awful thing to have to experience...not only Uncle Fred's death..but the fact that perhaps Uncle Fred was the only person in the family who could have solved many mysteries and questions regarding the family line.

Such as:

Just who are those strange people in front of grandma's house?

What was Matilda's first husband's name (the one you descend from)

What was dad like as a child?

Who has the old family bible?

What was the country of origin for our family and the story behind their immigration?

How difficult is it to talk to your relatives? Sometimes perhaps it is hard, but how will you find that data after they are gone....


The older family members are not sitting around waiting for you to appear with questions for them to answer before they can die. It will happen without warning, and most assuredly without your permission.Once that opportunity is gone, then it's really gone.Stop and think today of any of the older family members who just might have some knowledge to share with you. This will be not only a day of information for you..but also a pleasant day of visting and reminiscing for them as well.

There are a few things I have found out though in talking with older family members:

THEY MAY NOT ALWAYS IMMEDIATELY ANSWER THE QUESTION THAT YOU ASK. However, what they do tell you in their stories may just become as worthwhile as a direct answer. The answer will come eventually, you have to look for it.

IT IS NOT ALWAYS A MATTER OF WHAT THEY KNOW OR WILL TELL--BUT OF ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTION. Sometimes older persons may not quite remember everything "on call". However, in making conversation, it helps to spur other memories which give way to the real answers you do want.I know of a man who almost never answers directly, but days later when asking a seemingly unrelated will set him off into a very detailed oratory that will perfectly answer my previous question.

LOOK FOR SOME OF THE MEAT ON THE BONES--Older persons don't always want to just give you a "yes or no" answer. They like to talk and wander in their conversation.. many of them just love to gossip or to talk. Think about it..they don't really have many opportunities to discuss their old school days or their old relatives, nobody is around who is concerned anymore..your questions give them a chance to do that.

ASK WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW--These older persons have been around the block a time or two (sometimes several). They can handle the directness much better then you think they can.

DON'T EXPECT THEM TO READ YOUR MIND--Even though our older relatives are wise in the stories of the family, don't expect them to be able to read your mind as to what you are wanting.

ENJOY YOUR VISIT--You may just unexpectedly develop a deeper relationship with your older family members. When they find out that you are doing the family history, they may throw things your way as they remember them.