Start with the living

Updated: Nov 16

When starting into the creation of your tree, I would personally start with the people around you. Immediate family members one generation up, if available, may be easy to talk to.

If you’d rather discuss with paper (which I understand – it may not be an option), skip this posting.

Great segways into the conversation may be:

  1. Hello, So I was wondering if you’d mind confirming some things I remember when I was little?

  2. Oh, hey, I thought I would update the birthday list for uncle smelly pants. Can I get your kid’s birthday?

  3. Mama, could you tell me where you got my name from? It seems odd that Robyn is spelt this way.

  4. Do you still have grandpa’s recipe card for ___? Where did he get that… My drool woke me up dreaming about it.

  5. I know this is awkward, but can we talk about health issues gramma? When did great aunt pretty lady pass away? I want to know if I am at risk. Did you have it?

  6.  Hey sis, did you notice mom the other day? Do you think that is genetic? That mouth twitch thing- didn’t grandma do that too?

Asking questions about health opens a two-prong convo about concerns for health and vitals capture for family. Health concerns can help potentially aid with death cause tracking (and location hints), potential things to watch out for in the future and, unfortunately, can also relate reliability levels. Mental health conditions like Alzheimer’s or mental depreciation can reduce reliability in some cases. Also, it can point you toward data capture control… For example, grandad doesn’t remember or is touchy about great gram; maybe I can ask mom. Or another grandma is not all there. I may want to capture audio and try again on the same story another day or try her brother, she mentioned.

Food almost always brings people together. It is safe even when relationships are strained. Especially if it is for someone cuter like a grandchild or nephew, asking for a recipe tweak can start the dough rolling literally.

It can be as simple as asking for a back story to a vital statistic of yours to find out that things are inherited. For example- a friend of mine has the middle name is the first name from his father, all names start with one constant letter, and that tradition is many generations old… Roland Raymond Real-not-nom has Roger Roland Real-not-nom, who has Ricard Roger Real-not-nom… Another common one is many are using their middle name as a preference since the first name is constantly passed down. 6 generations of Johann in family tree….

When capturing data from the family, use video, sound or written documentation. Emotions on topics can change, and so can the storyline that comes from a dynamic memory. Also, one family member may ask and get a lesser version than another. A dynamics is the closeness of children vs grandchild who had a better first-hand account. Or the memory changes with age about when the marriage dissolved or even deaths from 10+ years ago. When sourcing verbal information, it is good to capture:

Names of parties involved:

Date and time of capture:

Location of capture:

Environmental conditions: Format of Capture:

Images or audio or video file name associated with data capture:

Reliability of source:

Additional notes: There are many reasons to gather that kind of data but remember you’re not just capturing for you at some point. You may be sharing data or preserving it for future generations.

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