Using the INTERVIEW QUESTION FORM I have supplied, over the next few postings I'm going to discuss each section in a little more depth.
Section number one, entitled HOW FAR BACK IS OUR KNOWN ANCESTRY, will help you assess the time frame of your family members knowledge of your ancestors. When you are asking the questions in this section, you are really trying to get an idea of your ethnic background and a time period so that you can start to zero in on various categories that will direct your initial 'legwork' research.
For example, when I first started interviewing my paternal Grandmother in regards to my Grandfather's lineage which was the surname Goss, she only knew the members she had personally met and those they spoke of in conversation. It wasn't much at that time to go on, however, she knew they spoke of the family locating in Pennsylvania from Connecticut! So, I knew I would include researching historical records in regards to Connecticut and migration patterns to Pennsylvania. The time frame would have to be estimated by birth and death dates of those family members we knew about already.
Section number two, entitled IF THEY IMMIGRATED, DO YOU KNOW THE DETAILS, would amass very important information if the questions in this section could be answered. In the Goss line, we only knew that they came from Connecticut, we didn't have any knowledge of a ship. So that meant for my Grandfather's line, I would have to take another line of questioning to obtain more clues. However, in my Mother's lineage, this section of questioning would result in great leads. The surname I was researching for my Mother's line was Tolodziecki, my Grandmother's maiden name. My Grandmother knew part of the name of the ship her Father arrived on when he immigrated to America from ---and this was really important---German occupied Poland. Just that information alone, gives me a period of time to focus on! She knew a lot of the dates I needed as she was first generation born in America, so the knowledge she had was first hand! That meant, there was a really good chance that the information was correct! Since she knew her Father had located in the town she was raised, I didn't have too far to look for the records I needed! Now that is a great scenario, but it doesn't always happen that way, just as in the case of my Father's line from Connecticut. If you don't have any immigration records to go on, you have to sniff out more information by further questioning, as I have set up in the next section.
Section number three, entitled WHAT ANCESTORS HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT, BUT NEVER MET, gives the person you are interviewing a chance to reflect. Often by sharing little stories they have heard, or information that has been passed down in the family, it joggles their memory and just in conversation, more information comes to surface and begins to form a picture for you to start investigating. In this section, you are giving them ideas of the kind of information they may have, but just aren't aware that it would help you in your search.
For example, people don't always think of the Family Bible as being a great resource, but years ago, birth, christening, baptismal, marriage, death dates were often recorded in the Family Bible! People have found relatives that no one ever knew about, maybe a child died at birth, or at a very young age, maybe there was a first marriage that no one talked about, you get the idea! They may not have spoken about these things, but most likely there is a record of it somewhere! So, ask if anyone is aware of someone in the family having a Bible that was passed down from previous generations. If you are lucky enough to have access to such a treasure, then request an opportunity to look through it on the premises of the current owner. Of course, I realize not everyone has a religious affiliation or one that would include a Bible, but my point is that if there is a book of record in the family, religiously affiliated or not, you want to look through it to see if there is any information that would be appropriate to your research. I mention Bibles specifically because most have been and are printed with a section for Family Records.
The other thing you want to find out is if there is a Family Photo Album that has been passed down because there will be a wealth of photographs, that perhaps are even notated somewhere on the photo as to who it is, the event, the date, etc. You might find that the person you are interviewing will suddenly remember something just by association while looking at old photos. As I've said before, photos put a face to names, and it is amazing how much more connected you feel when you can visualize someone in your ancestry. The oldest photo, well copy of a photo, that I have is of my fourth Great Grandmother, Huldah Olive Wandel Goss. She lived just long enough after the Civil War to have had the opportunity to be photographed! I would imagine that was like man landing on the moon for her generation! She didn't exactly look happy about it, but then she may not have had any teeth left to smile with at her age! Putting her face to her name, it was like someone had handed me a million dollars! There are moments in research that are pretty priceless!
Speaking of Family Bibles and religious affiliation, even though you may know your family's current religious affiliation, don't assume it has always been that way. Ask if anyone knows what churches, temples, religious institutions or organizations, etc. that any family members belonged to, as you just never know!
As I have noted in this section of the interview question form, you will also want to ask if anyone belonged to any organization such as the D.A.R. [Daughter of the American Revolution], Mayflower Society, Freemason, etc. The reason you would ask this question is because there are records that you can research with these affiliations. I will be putting a list together of these types of organizations that you can ask about, or check out if you think you might find it appropriate.
So my next post, I will be continuing with Section number four in the Interview Question Form. As always, questions and/or comments are always welcome!