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Dragging Genealogy Information Out of Your Family

Melissa Barker

Dragging Genealogy Information Out of Your Family

Many of us will travel to be with our families this holiday season or host our family members at our homes. This year, many of us may be spending time with our family members through a virtual platform. Getting our family members to talk to us about genealogy and family history can be a daunting task for some of us. Let’s face it, they don’t make it easy do they?!

 There is always that one relative (or more) that just doesn’t understand why you are doing genealogy research. They ask questions like:

             – “Why do you want to know all that stuff about our family?”

            – “I don’t know, that was too long ago to remember”

            – “We just didn’t talk about it”

 One of the first things that we must realize is that not all our relatives have the passion and drive to research family history. It’s just not something they are interested in and so they don’t know why you are interested in doing it. They can be downright uncooperative.

 You Have to be Sneaky (But Nice!)

 To get any information out of our relatives, we are going to have to be sneaky about it but nice and you can even make it fun! 

             -They know more than they think they know

            -Get them started talking and they may not be able to quit

 As the family genealogist/family historian, it’s your job to coax that information out of them with whatever means you can think of to use.

 Family Photographs

Most all of us have family photographs. Why not use these to jog the memories of your family members?

-Bring photographs with you to the family event to start a discussion or share photos with family members when you meet via a virtual platform

-Discuss the photographs that are displayed at the family member’s home or even the ones that have been shared on their Facebook page

-Talk about the scenery in the photo, objects in the photo and the people, glean any piece of information you can

Home Movies

 If your family has home movies, why not make viewing them part of the family get together. Gather the family members together in one place. Watch the movies and discuss among yourselves the people, places, and scenery in the movies. If your home movies have been digitized, why not show them to family members close by or across the country virtually.

 -Arrange a special family gathering just to view family home movies, this can be an in-person event or a virtual family event

-Make the home movies part of the family event

-Discuss the people, places, and objects in the home movies 

Family Recipes

What is almost always at a family gathering? FOOD! Why not use that to your advantage. Taste and smell can bring back memories faster than anything. Talking with your family members about the family dishes they remember may even lead to discussions about other family information:

-Ask your family members about family recipes

-Who came up with certain food dishes, who cooked them

-What does your family members remember about the food and the recipes

Family Traditions

Many of our families have family traditions that they observed during certain holidays, family reunions and other family events.

            -Get your family members talking about those family traditions

            -Ask who started those traditions

            -Find out where those traditions originated

How Do I Record All the Information?

Now that you have your family members talking, how do you record or capture the information they are sharing?

Write it down. When you go to your family events, take something to write on and something to write with to record any and all tidbits of information that you can get from your family members.

Consider recording your virtual get-togethers so you can go back and get all the information that you may have missed while you were enjoying being with your family. Then you can share the recorded meetings with your family members.

Use an online family tree database like MyHeritage Family Tree to record your genealogy research and to continue adding information as your family members share with you. An online family tree database is also a great place your entire family can collaborate on the family tree.

Collect Today for Tomorrow

Most of us as are always looking for the old records, photographs and ephemera for our ancestors. It is also important to collect records, photographs and ephemera from TODAY! One day they will be considered “old records”.

Take photographs at family events, download them to your computer, identify them, and add metadata

Collect ephemera, such things as graduation programs, funeral home cards, wedding invitations, baby shower invitations, etc.  

With these tips and tricks, hopefully you will get your family members talking!


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