Pequot Library

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the Humanities to our Community

Gathering Information

Holiday Celebrations Provide an Excellent Opportunity
to Explore Your Family History

Personal knowledge from family members or close family friends can form the bottom limbs of your family tree. These individuals are good sources for family information, traditions, rituals, and myths. Family holiday celebrations provide a golden opportunity to explore family history and genealogy in the presence of your family.

Before the holiday party, notify key family members that you are interested in family information, documents, and photos. Fill out a pedigree chart (see ‘Before You Begin’ above) with the information you already know. This will help you to determine what information you need. Bring along some old photographs or attic treasures to jog memories and stimulate interest.

Talk to the oldest members of the family first. They are an invaluable resource for family information, traditions, rituals, and myths. Often they have family documents, Bibles, and photographs in their possession. Ask questions about basic family information:

  • Names, including children
  • Relationships
  • Genealogical events, such as date and place of birth, baptisms, christenings, marriages, deaths, burials, including the location of cemeteries
  • Places of residence
  • Nationality
  • Religious affiliations

Inquire about the location of family archives and materials:

  • Family Bibles
  • Religious records
  • Family documents (birth, marriage, and death certificates; divorce papers)
  • Military records
  • Diaries and journals
  • Genealogies
  • Scrapbooks
  • Obituaries
  • Samplers
Photographs are a Good Source of Family Data

Learn the location of family photos and view them. Ask family members to help you identify people pictured in them. Check the backs of photos for names, addresses, and dates. The name and address of the photographer can often provide a good clue to the location where the picture was taken. Identify the subject of photographs on the back using pencil or archival pens.

Family Traditions, Rituals, and Myths Provide Family Information

Traditions and rituals can reveal what a family stands for, confirm the family history, or tell something about the family character and traits. Myths are traditional stories that are passed from generation to generation. Myths provide good clues but should be treated with skepticism until they can be documented.

Don’t Overdo

Most importantly, know when to stop. Too much questioning can cause family members to lose interest. Arrange for future interviews with knowledgeable family members. Promise to keep the family informed regarding your research. When you get home, record your information on pedigree charts and family group sheets (see ‘Before You Begin’ above).