By Maureen Santini © Copyright 2019. All Rights Reserved.
The vast majority of Americans feel it is important to know their family history but many lack basic information, according to a recent poll by Ancestry.com.
The poll found:
- A third did not know where their parents had grown up.
- A quarter did not know the country family members had emigrated from.
- A fifth could not name the cities any of their grandparents were born in.
- A fifth could not name a single grandparent’s parent.
More Information about Grandparents
Yet 84 percent felt it was important to know their family history. They wanted more information, particularly about their grandparents.
- Nearly three quarters wanted stories about grandparents’ younger days.
- More than 60 percent wanted to know where their families came from.
- Half wanted life advice from their grandparents.
Don’t Let Family History Slip Away
It is difficult to overstate the importance of writing down the information you acquired during your lifetime about your forebears.
Family history can slip away slowly, almost without awareness. Your children may have known their grandparents – but not as well as you do. Likewise, you may have known your grandparents – but not as well as your parents did.
Knowledge fades away, generation by generation. Not convinced? Ask your children basic questions about their grandparents and great-grandparents. Stories and facts you thought were well known may be much fuzzier to younger generations.
Pass Down Your Memories
Knowledge about individuals vanishes quickly without a concerted effort to preserve it. Once information is lost, it is lost permanently, as many families tragically discover.
That’s why a chapter of your life story should be devoted to preserving information about parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.
Interview Family Members
If your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents are still living, interview them. Ask questions about their lives but also find out what they know about their grandparents and great-grandparents. Go back in time as far as you can.
If the relatives are no longer living, contact their siblings, children, aunts, and uncles. The oldest child in a family, for instance, may remember more about grandparents and great-grandparents than younger siblings. Tap those memories. Consult all possible sources of information, including photo albums and bibles.
Use Decade-by-Decade Posts as a Guide
Posts on this website pertaining to each decade of life can guide your interviews with family members. These posts provide an organized way to capture information. Try to paint a full picture of each person’s personality, lifestyle, and interests.
The first-decade post, for instance, shows the type of information to obtain.
Write down as much of the following as possible:
- Dates and places of the person’s birth, marriage, and death.
- Education and military experience.
- Names and dates of births of children.
- Addresses of all residences.
- List of occupations including employers and addresses.
- Nationality including country of origin and date and method of emigration.
- Hobbies and interests.
- Family rituals and activities.
- Names of people and places frequently visited.
- Views pertaining to religion, social issues, and politics.
- Status of health and welfare throughout the decades.
Include Personal Memories
If you personally knew your grandparents and great-grandparents, write down everything you recall, including factual information, anecdotes, and activities you enjoyed together.
Do not assume family members already have the information. Some may, some may not, but your purpose is to create a permanent record for current and future generations. Your descendants will be happy you did.
For those of you following the simple decade-by-decade method of writing your life story as advocated by this website, this is the next to last chapter in your life story. The last chapter is summing up.