By Judy Segerdell Langston
Many genealogists will tell you there is one thing they regret the most. They did not sit down and talk to older living relatives about the family when they had the opportunity. Pieces of paper with names and dates will never replace the treasure of memories older people have.
While you will have to verify the names, birthdays and wedding dates, the siblings of grandparents and the names of great-grandparents, having any of this information to start you on your journey is invaluable. But your family history is more than names and dates.
There are so many things that framed the lives of our families. My questions would include asking about people’s lives, their own and other people in the family. Their everyday lives and special events in which the family took part. I have found clippings that tell me that either my father or one of my uncles played baseball quite successfully before World War II. The clippings only refer to the players’ last names. If I had talked to my father about the things he and his brothers did when they were young, I might know.
The one older cousin I visited told me that the family often gathered at a restaurant on the shore. That restaurant was owned by someone called Larson and she thought that Larson was related to the family somehow. Sixteen years later, I learned that my Norwegian great-grandmother’s niece was the one who had married a man named Larson and suddenly, I began to find all kinds of information about this family.
So ask your relatives about their lives and what they know about the lives of people in the family. Some of it will be gossip, some will be myths (and there were many myths in our family) but some will be interesting information that gives context to the lives of your ancestors.
Don’t wait. Do it soon so you don’t regret waiting. And while you are at it, you would be surprised how much your children do not know about you! So write your own little memoir about the things in your life. Some day you will be an ancestor.