Contributed by Richard Beaver-2009


Family and other relatives are often the source of very good genealogy information that could be extremely difficult or impossible to discover on your own.  Start your research with your own family, but always be prepared to interview relatives. Don’t put off interviewing that Great Aunt.

First of all, you want to be prepared to record the information that may come very quickly from family members. Do not attempt to enter the information into the computer while you are conducting the interview. Print out several of the Family Group Sheet forms and be prepared to write fast.

Interview family members

Here is a list of information that you might try to obtain during an interview:

  • The persons full name and any nicknames
  • Other members of the family such as father, mother, brothers, sisters, spouses, etc. All of this can be particularly helpful when we start exploring census information.
  • Dates and places of important events such as birth, marriage, and death. Make note if they were married multiple times.
  • Where they lived as a child and as an adult
  • Their occupation
  • Any military service

After you have gathered all you can from that source, work back to the next generation. The information you obtain could influence your decision of which family line to research first.

Look for information in your home

This is very often irreplaceable information. For example, my mother had remembered rumors that her father had been married before but his entire family died in a flu epidemic (1910). By shear luck, a fellow researcher had at one time seen a bible that contained all of this information and had the foresight to record and make copies of the information. It is a good thing because the original bible was lost in a hurricane that struck Mississippi.

Here is a list of information to look for:

  • Family bibles – make copies of the important pages
  • Pictures, especially with names written on the back — scan them into the computer at your first opportunity
  • Birth, marriage, and death certificates
  • Funeral programs & obituaries
  • Wedding announcements & family registers

Record the information and the source

Record the information in your family history program. Record the sources of the information in the Notes section in your family history program. This helps you and others know where the information came from. Some people will suggest using the sources section in your family history program, but I feel that you can make the information more meaningful and in a narrative format in the notes section.

Now is also a good time to purchase a file cabinet to organize your information.