Questions for Your Family

When exploring genealogy, many people skip over one of the most valuable resources: their own family.  Your family should be the first step on the road to finding ancestral answers.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, great grandparents, great aunts, great uncles and endless extended family members will have incredible genealogy information—including information that can’t be found on the Internet or in a courthouse.  

Put a face with the name. Family members
may have classic photo albums.

We have included a few tools that will help you get the most out of talking with your family. Here is an example correspondence letter that you can send to family members: correspondence letter. You can check out this site for things you should look for in your relative’s home: relative's home checklist. Finally, we have a list of genealogy questions that you can use to help gather information from your family members.

Genealogy Questions for Family Members
Have they done any previous genealogy research?
What is their full name?  Getting the full name is very important, especially when your relatives have common names.
When and where were they born?  Tracking down when and where your relatives were born can place them in cities where you may find potential resources.
Where did they grow up?  If a relative grew up in a different city, there could be potential information about other relatives and records located elsewhere.
What are their vital statistics, i.e. birth and death dates of their parents and other relatives, marriage and burial information? Vital statistics lead you to other places and people and help you continue to piece together information.
What other information about relatives do they have, i.e. occupation and Wars served in?  If you have information about Military Service or occupations, these are more leads to records and where your relatives might have been.
What anecdotal stories do they have to share?  Many valuable stories or incidents are never recorded on paper, and are merely stories passed through time.
Who are their oldest living relatives they can direct you to?  Through relatives, you can be directed to older ones you never knew about.  The older the relative, the farther back in time you can go with your research.
Do they have contact information for other relatives?  You should talk to as many relatives as possible to piece together as much information as possible.
Do they have any photos or other documents with pertinent information that can be shared?  Photos, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses and other documents can provide valuable clues for where to look next.  Also, if relevent, do not forget to ask to look inside a family Bible.  Families used to record important information such as date of birth and death on the cover of the Bible.

Using your family is the best place to start tackling genealogy not only because of the vast wealth of information at your fingertips, but also because it is a free resource!  The next best source of information is the Internet.

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