family photo

Where can you start searching for your ancestors? In your family

Before you set out to look for your family’s secrets in registers of vital records and other archives, don’t forget to prepare all the information you or a genealogist you ask to create your family tree can start with. Go to see your grandparents or other oldest living relatives. Every genealogist knows how fast life goes and many of them still regret not having visited them while they could.

Why should you visit your relatives?

Even though vital records can tell you a lot about your ancestors, they will never give you all the vivid details your grandmother, grandfather or your grandaunt can put in your family book. Our future descendants will probably be able to find out pretty much anything about us (including the things we’d rather they didn’t know) tracking our digital footprint, but your family’s history in the 20th century can fall into oblivion without its eye-witnesses.

You may remember some snatches from the stories your grandparents used to tell you when you were a child, but think about how much they embroidered, sugarcoated or even concealed from their little audience. They may want to tell you the truth now that you are an adult.

What should you ask about?

Save time for the meetings. Keep in mind that your family’s history can’t be told in one afternoon. It is good to prepare not only you for the meetings but also the relative or relatives you are going to visit. Tell them what you want to know. What should it be?

  • Detailed information about your great-grandparents and their parents. That is, your great-grandmother’s maiden name, background of the families, schools your ancestors attended, places they lived in, farms they took care of and numbers, names and lives of their siblings. Ask about all the details and record it with a voice recorder (or an app on your smartphone).
  • Dates and places. Exact dates and places of your ancestors’ births, marriages and deaths will be essential for the further search. If your relative is not sure about any date, they’ll definitely tell you to go to the cemetery where you can see the dates with your own eyes. Don’t forget to take a picture of the gravestones.
  • The previous point is connected to different certificates your ancestors had. It doesn’t have to be just birth, marriage and death certificates, it can be anything that will tell you more about the ancestors’ lives, e.g. report cards, apprenticeship certificates or diplomas. Don’t forget to make copies of them and scan them, too, to keep them for future generations in a digital format.
  • Borrow old photographs of your ancestors and ask who it is there, on what occasion the photographs were taken and in roughly what year. Scan the photographs, too. You will always have them in a digital format. You can also use them in your family book or have them digitally restored.
  • Family stories. Every family has its legends that go back many decades. Even though a genealogic search will probably disprove them, it can also set them right.

Many enthusiasts start digging in the oldest generations and completely forget about the last century’s history that is still alive. Don’t be one of them.

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