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Step 3 - Talk to Your Family

Interview as many family members as possible. Each will have memories and stories that are different from another’s. Older family members, friends, and long-time neighbors may have known your parents and grandparents and even your great-grandparents. They may have information that you need for your pedigree chart. Ask them what they remember about your family (remember to use pencil on your chart, memories can be faulty and you may have to erase). Write everything down, there may be clues in the information that you will recognize later. The following are some questions that you might ask:

·        Where was Grandpa Joe born?

·        What year was he born?

·        Do you know the names of his parents? Where were they from?

·        Was Grandpa the oldest or the youngest in the family?

·        How many brothers and sisters did he have? What were their names?

·        Where were Grandma and Grandpa married? When?

·        Was Grandpa in the war? Which one?

·        What were Grandma’s parents’ names? And their parents?

Ask about family traditions. Ask about the location of the old family Bibles, pictures, diaries, old letters, newspaper clippings, etc. that may contain family information. You may want to write a letter to relatives in other cities or states. Click here for a sample letter to a family member.

An important rule to remember:

When gathering information and filling it in on a pedigree chart, always work from the present going back in time. This means that you must start your research and fill in the blanks in the generations closest to you. It is important to collect sufficient proof of one generation before going on to the next, and you should have at least one record that links the younger generation to the older before proceeding on that line. Jumping to conclusions can be devastating—you don’t want to spend valuable time tracing the wrong people! If you do not have the death records for your grandparents, try to get them before attempting to locate their birth records for your great-grandparents. On your grandparents’ death certificates, you may find the names and places of birth of their parents. Once you have a death date, you may be able to locate an obituary in the local newspaper of the town where they died. We will help you locate birth and death records and newspapers where an obituary for your ancestor might appear and other documents that link one generation to another.

You may want to record the stories and recollections of your parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles. Click here for information on how to do an oral history and what questions to ask.

Help Me! I don’t know of any family members I can write to. Can you put me in touch with cousins or others researching my line?

Help Me! Can you interview my uncle and aunt to gather family information?

To ask these or similar questions, click on Help Me!, fill out the form that comes up, and submit your questions.


Congratulations, you are now on your way!

How many ancestors do you have?