Many of us think that the right time should be planned. Instead of planning ahead, be prepared for an unexpected opportunities to acquire your family record and traditions. A little planning can help you gather family history as it happens.
The best way to start is to create a family genealogy kit that you can keep with you when you visit with your relatives. Here are a few items that you can keep with your to be ready at any time.
* Notebook, pen or pencils
* Pedigree charts
* Copies of some family photographs
* Small digital camera, could be in your phone
* Voice recorder
The contents of your kit can vary based what you have on hand, as long as you have the basics to document your genealogy. The pedigree charts and photographs act as prompts when you are trying to help a relative to share their memories, and keeping a camera and a tape recorder handy helps preserve accurate details. If your cell phone has video, you can use that as well.
Once you have basics ready, it is time to start gathering family memories in small, manageable pieces.
The first step in starting your family history project is to record what you already know, including full names (maiden names), dates and places for births, marriages, and deaths. This outline of your known family history is an essential part of your collecting plan; it offers a starting point.
Next, identify the individuals in your family that seem to know the most family history. Then contact to set up an appointment to talk. This could be a personal visit, a telephone interview, an e-mail interview, or maybe a plan to set some time aside at the next family event.
Develop a list of questions based on the family tree you already know so that you can stay focused. The answers will help you fill in the blanks on the family history.
Let family members know that you would like to see the keepsakes, photographs and documents that they have and hearing stories about those items. Keepsakes have special meaning in most families and usually have interesting stories attached to them. You can use those items to jog memories. A simple family photograph can lead a relative to recount memories about people and events. Try questioning relatives about furniture, jewelry, photographs, documents and even special linens. This is the type of thing that will not show up in most family histories and will add personal interest.
As you start to accumulate memories, be sure to make notes of all your sources and data. If you don’t already own a genealogical software package, now is the time. Not only do they help you organize your notes by creating family group sheets and charts, the programs also come equipped with extra features. Keeping all of the information organized will become more and more essential.
When you are seeking out memories, remember to ask about the talents of family members as well. In some families, trade secrets are the basis for a family business. Sometimes, each generation inherits techniques from the generation before.
Traditions are another area important to record and preserve. Every family develops a set of traditions around certain holidays and family events. It can be about foods or the way gifts are exchanged, each family is a little different. Find out why things are done a certain way and how the tradition started. These traditions are important to the history of your family.
You may be able to find out quite a bit about your family history by visiting the places where your ancestors lived, especially if any family members still live there.
Now that you’ve obtained all of the information about your family history, be sure to put it all together so that your efforts won’t be wasted. Find other family members to help you put together a family tree or create a family web page.
As the family historian documenting each part of a family’s existence, take the time to research the background of the stories, traditions and talents in your family. Dig deeper behind the memories to see other events happening that may have led to these events in order to create a complete picture for all of your family to keep.