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The Complete Guide to the Family History Interview

The Complete Guide to the Family History Interview

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Published by Lynn Palermo

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Lynn Palermo on Mar 17, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 Ask any genealogist, they will tell you about the family member they
interview. The ancestor they wish they could speak with today; the one that got away. Iwould have to ask why t
hat interview didn’t take
place.Interviewing the living can be an overwhelming task. An uncomfortable andawkward event that some beginners just are not prepared to undertake. As a newgenealogist, many are timid and introverted, and fear the interview process.Inexperienced interviewers are fearful of asking the difficult questions, or of not askingthe right questions. Interviewing another human being is not an easy task for mostpeople. It does not come naturally for many and when you are uncomfortable with a
situation you procrastinate until it’s too take late.
 A new family historian may set their fears aside and pursue the interview, butnerves, inexperience, and lack of preparation often lead to poor results. Perhaps they
didn’t ask enough questions, or they asked the wrong types of questions, som
time and geography stood in the way. Others just simply didn’t feel competent or
prepared to do the job.Others waited, sometimes too long. They waited until they had a little moreknowledge of the process of genealogy. Other genealogists posted their talk until theyresearched a little more, or until they had this information or that document. Otherswaited until life was less busy and they had time to prepare. They waited. One daywaking up and that person was gone with 80 plus years of memories and family history.So, time and time again when I
hear “I would love to
begin researching my
family history but I don’t know where to start.” 
My answer is and will always be
start with the living.
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Separating the Facts from theFolklore
We have them in every family, the stories and the folklore passed down fromgeneration to generation. Each time a story is told it becomes construed and the linebetween truth and fiction becomes blurred. Nowhere is that as apparent as in familyhistory.Genealogists deal in facts. Folklore is usually unwritten tales that resemble little of theiroriginal event and that occurred generations before. Our job, as family historians, is tomove the folklore closer to the fact. Strip away the fiction so that we can confidentlyretell these stories and record them for generations to come, whether that would be ina blog or a book, or a video. After all what is the primary purpose of capturing your
relative’s stories, but to record them for future generations?
One very important step to bringing the truth to light behind the family tales is throughinterviewing your family members. It is the most effective way to get to the bottom of these stories. Followed up with some strong genealogy research you can finally lock down the truth of your family history. As family history researchers, we spend much of our time at a computer screen, inarchives or in cemeteries; not all of these locations are deemed the most social of places. Therefore, when all the authorities are telling you to interview the living as yourfirst step to uncovering your family history, this can be overwhelming.
Let’s face it, it’s
far less messy to sit at your computer and search a genealogy database without anyoneever knowing. Far more difficult is the task of sitting down with an unwilling crusty old Aunt and prying out of her the family secrets.

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