Here are 10 questions to ask your grandparents
10 questions to help plant the seed to grow your voluptuous family tree.
Researching my families’ genealogy has been a rough road. Some days I want to toss in the towel because of the many road blocks I have hit. Ancestry reminded me today that I’ve been a member since 2006. It made me feel really depressed, I have barely scratched the surface of what I’m trying to find. It would be so much easier if I could talk to my grandparents… but I can’t.
Instead of sulking about this, I have decided to take matters into my own hands and help you (whoever is even reading this) begin your genealogical search with concrete information, straight from your best source. Grab Grandma and a pen, it’s time to start asking questions.
1. What is your full name?
I know. You’re probably all asking “why is she starting with this question!?” I have a good reason, I promise. Ask your grandparent exactly what their full given name is and ask them to write it down for you. Many European and Scandinavian people who immigrated to North America Anglicized their names, making it much more difficult to trace records in your genealogy searches. In Polish, “Jan” became “John” in English and “Agnieszka” became “Agnes” etc. It’s important to know what their birth name is, especially if you do not have a birth certificate handy.
2. What’s your Birthdate?
I’m stating the most obvious question. Ask yourself right now. “When’s Grandpa’s birthday!?” If you’ve only answered with the month, you’ll need to go back and ask for the day and the year. Be specific…day, month and year. Get it? Got it? Good.
3. Where were you born?
Learn which country, village, town, city, province or state they were born. You never know, their birthplace may no longer exist on a modern day map. For example; my dad’s mum’s home was once in Poland before the Second World War, now it’s technically in the Ukraine, the borders changed. Canada is no different. My Nana, on my mum’s side grew up in New Castle New Brunswick, now commonly known as, Whitney New Brunswick.
4. Who are your Parents?
Please, ask them who their parents are, and ask for specifics: mother’s maiden name… first name, middle name and last name. Be sure you have the correct spelling; you should also ask if names were changed along the way. Once upon a time, immigrants were suggested to change their names, making them sound more English upon arriving to North America. Discovering information prior to hitting Ancestry will help you sift through many records easily.
5. Where were your Parents Born?
The majority of us assume our own family hails from one specific region; this can be quite the opposite. Asking your grandparents were their parents were born could open valuable doors to more genealogical finds. Censuses don’t lie, migration patterns can be a key to understanding why travels/immigration were made, providing you with a sense of the time period or economic situation of that country or city.
6. What were your Parents Occupations?
This question may sound trivial, but it can assist while tracking down census records. If you have an occupation, you’ll know you have the correct person.
7. Who are your Grandparents?
The further you go back with your research, the more results you’ll find in your family tree. It might sound silly asking your own grandparents who their grandparents are, however interesting connections can be discovered. Perhaps one particular name goes back generations and generations, or you’ve wondered how a certain profession has been carried throughout the years… maybe there was a family business?
8. Who are your siblings?
Again, it sounds like a fairly simple question – nonetheless it is one that is taken for granted. Ask them who their siblings are. If you’re feeling bold, this would be a good time to ask if there are any departed siblings to their knowledge. Babies and toddlers were highly susceptible to common aliments we have today… discoveries of names appearing and disappearing on census records are common, leaving unanswered questions to the genealogist looking for answers.
9. Where did you go to School?
In today’s day and age, we take education for granted. For many of us our grandparents may or may not have completed their schooling. For some, geographical distances to attend school were the problem while others experienced the disorder of war, which impeded their education. Many of our grandparents couldn’t attend post-secondary education due to the stock market crash of 1929, resulting in a lack of funds to continue their studies. Ask your grandparents, listen to their stories – maybe you’ll be inspired to further your education or maybe you’ll be encouraged to set higher goals for yourself.
10. Where is the majority of your family Buried?
Yes, this sounds like a very cryptic and insensitive question, however a lot of genealogical beginnings and breakthroughs are discovered in cemeteries. Cemeteries are a great place to begin researching your family history.
Wishing you luck! I’d love for you to share your findings.