All of us come from trees...family trees. In our lives we put forth our branches as we also are branches interconnected to others along the way. Those branches are our descendants and our siblings, cousins, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But we are also someone's roots. Not only that, but we also have roots ourselves. Would that make us like prehistoric food collectors ? (digging up roots?) no of course not
Genealogy is the process by which we learn about our roots. It is the study of our own unique family history. Most of us, if not all of us, have heard of a family tree. With a family tree, you can look at it from two basic directions. If you actually use a diagram of a real tree, most people choose to make the person doing the research (you) as the trunk of the tree. A single entity. The branches are your descendants, your children and grandchildren, and so on. The roots are your parents, your grandparents, continuing on backward as many generations as you can trace. This is one reason that we use the terminology we do when we talk about our family history.
Years ago there was a very popular mini-series on television by the name of "Roots" and it told the story of one man's black family heritage as well as how important it was to him to know his family history. While the pursuit of family genealogy was something people have always done over the centuries of time, this mini-series seemed to re-light a fire for the quest of knowledge about where we came from. Today genealogy is a very popular pastime and has also become more than just a hobby as some people have become professional genealogists who research family histories for a living.
It Starts With Your parents and grandparents
It starts with you, actually. Then with your parents and siblings, if you have siblings. After that your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and any other living relatives you may have. If you have the option, and they agree, video them as you ask your questions. This makes the history that much more interesting when you can actually see the people telling their stories. If you can't video them, take pictures. Always get permission first, however.
When I was 13 years old we did not have a family historian but some of my closest relatives (my father, aunt and my uncle knew so many stories and knew so many of the names of people closely related to me that i decided to give it a go when i was recovering from the measles and had consequently little to do . First step was writing to all the people with the same name i had found in the telephone book. The response was overwhelming and i was soon be able to trace my family back to a Louis Alons who was described as a negro (neger) from the Caribbean island of Curacao who arrived in the Netherlands in Protected content . We was mentioned in the will of a previous plantage owner (Rozentak) together with his mulatto mother and negroid grand mother Fortunately I did take care at the time and I listened very well to what my family members had to tell me. I was diligently taking notes and taking photographs of each house and living member related to my family history. Now all this valuable is saved while i already said good bye to almost the entire previous generation including my mom There are few left to tell the stories and even fewer left who are interested. This all put me quite firmly in my position as the genealogist of my family added to this i graduated as a professional genealogist in Protected content
Top 10 Interview Questions
Make It Fun
You don't have to be formal when researching your roots. But knowing what questions to ask will help you at least get started. Understand that some family members won't care and won't be interested. They might not even be willing to help you. Others will be very enthusiastic and once you get them started, the interview may take on a life of its own. If you do have the opportunity to record the interview, you can make your notes later. If not, make sure to write down as much as you can and ask them to repeat things that you miss. The best part of all of this will be in hearing the stories they have to tell. Depending on the age of the relative you are interviewing, you could get information from as far back as the early Protected content . Times were much different than from what we are living in now. If you are fairly young, the things you hear could surprise you.
One interesting fact I learned about my paternal grandmother was that she could have been considered a "Motorcycle Mama" because when she was a young woman she rode motorcycles a lot and apparently could even take them apart and put them back together again. She was born in the late Protected content .
Make your family search fun
You are going to want to ask some, if not all, of the following questions.
1. What is your full name? Be sure to ask about initials, etc.
2. When were you born?
3. Where were you born?
4. What are your parent's full names? Ask even if you think you know the answers. Ask for explanation of any nicknames.
5. When and where were your parents born?
6. What were/are your grandparents full names? Include maiden names of the married women. Ask about nicknames.
7. Where were your grandparents born? Remember to get all of them. With each generation the numbers double.
8. What were your great-grandparents' names? Including maiden names and nicknames.
9. Where were your great-grandparents born? Continue in this way as far back as they can remember.
10. What occupations did these people have?
My personal advise is to make your first investigations yourself......and stay away from the genealogy sites as long as possible . Second hand information is not preferable when you have access to first hand information (Ranke). For more detailed information you can subscribe to one of the genealogy forums.....you will find many people who will like to help you out with your questions..or consult me here...i can help you with the first steps and the origin of your family name
or more specialized with your investigations in Belarus
Jan Alons , professional genealogist , your InterNations Ambassador in Minsk Belarus