Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy

24/6/2004

Researching Memories

One important source of genealogical information sometimes overlooked is living relatives. How many times over the years have said to ourselves “we know Uncle George or Auntie Mary had all the family history but they are dead now”.

Or we have looked through boxes of old photographs and these photographs which could have told us so much just stare at us as if dumb because we don’t know the people or how they are related. Nobody has taken the time, trouble or effort to put names or information on the backs of the photographs.

This problem can only be solved by interviewing living relatives. To do this, plan first what you wish to achieve and write out all your questions beforehand, then research the period that your relative who you are going to interview lived their lives by a visit to the local library, National Archives etc. If possible give a copy of your questions before hand to the person you are going to interview so to give them a chance to prepare themselves. However if the relative is elderly it might be better just to allow them to talk in their own time. Allowing them to take control of the interview so that they are not under any pressure and allow them to relive their past life and the people they knew and the experiences they have had throughout their life. It would help if the interview is tape recorded. After the interview or as soon as possible all the information should be transcribed. It would also be handy to take some of your unidentified photographs along with you as the elderly relative may be able to recognise them.

Remember it is important to record family history from friends, family, relatives, and distant relations if possible before it is completely lost. What is common knowledge now might well be lost and unknown in thirty years time. In a hundred or two hundred years time the reasons for people doing things or moving from place to place may well be lost forever and a complete mystery to researchers of today or in the future. However you may find that relatives may not wish to talk about certain experiences and their feelings must always be respected in this. Remember sometimes it is better to let sleeping dogs lie rather then awaken painful and hurtful experiences. Even the historian hasn’t the right to offend or upset people in the pursuit of “knowledge”.

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