I research people's family history for extra income. One of the reasons people decide to hire me is because someone in their family (usually a grandparent) has died and the person doesn't know anything about their family history.
The first task I want you to do is go talk to your Aunts, Uncles, Great-Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents. Go to the oldest living family member first and bring a family group sheet, family pedigree sheet and a tape recorder or something else to record the conversation.
The oldest blood family member will have memories and information that you will not be able to get from anywhere else. Once that person dies, you will have lost not only someone you have probably grown to love, but a valuable family history resource.
Ask your relative to fill out the family group sheets and the pedigree sheet, or you could ask them the questions and fill it in yourself. List the person you are talking to as a child in the family group sheet and the first person on the pedigree sheet. Ask for maiden names of women. Put the women's birth name (maiden name) in the sheets, because that information will help you out later.
Here are some questions that I would recommend asking:
1. Favorite memory of parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents
2. Where did the family members live? Did they ever move?
3. What church did they attend?
4. Were there any young family members that died?
5. Are there any pictures you can scan or bring to get copied of the family members?
6. Did any of the direct relatives ever remarry or change their names?
7. Is there a Family Bible that you know of for any direct ancestors?
8. Get a medical family history as well. Find out about causes of death.
Let the person talk and write down any information you may want to expand on further during the conversation.
I am so thankful that my mother interviewed my Great-Grandmother. We have tape of her talking about meeting my Great-Grandfather and giving birth to my Grandfather. She talks about going to a booming town that is now a Ghost Town.
I hope that you will call your oldest family member soon!
Do you have any questions you want to ask? If you would like to share this, please do.