Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Australia

AUTHORED BY JULIANA SMITH (FROM ANCESTRY.COM)

Family get-togethers around holidays like Christmas are a great way to find answers to your family history mysteries. Whether you are planning on carrying out formal interviews or just a little discreet prying, a little pre-planning can go a long way. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your time with family.

  • Make some time to review your family tree. Look at what you’ve learned over the past year and what you still need to find out. Is there a family member who might hold the key to that mystery you’ve been working on? Perhaps sharing a recent find will prompt a memory that gets you on the road to discovery.
  • If you’re planning a formal interview, try to include some fun questions. Instead of asking what month great-grandma died, ask for memories of the funeral? Who was there? Known death dates of those in attendance, or knowing who would have been available to attend the event at that time, might help narrow down the time frame. What was the weather like? Was it summer or winter? Was it around a holiday? If the event took place at a home, where was it? This information, coupled with the facts found in other sources, can help you determine what years your family lived in a particular place.
  • Make sure your online tree  has the most current information and attach records. While the mere sight of a pedigree chart can send some relatives running for cover, who can resist a photograph or the passenger arrival record of your immigrant ancestor? If you don’t have an online tree, you can create one for free on Ancestry.com.au. Click here for more information.
  • If you take notes during an interview or while the family is swapping stories, make sure you go back and re-write your notes as soon as possible. If you wait too long (and have handwriting like mine!) you may find yourself looking at your notes months down the road wondering “Who wrote this gibberish?”
  • Family stories can become garbled over time. Ask different family members what they remember of the story. Then compare the different versions and look for common threads.
  • Take time to make some new memories. While family history is a wonderful way to bring your family together, make sure you catch up on the present.

Have you got any tips on making the most of your time with family to help with your research? Leave a comment or post on our Facebook wall!