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Wednesday, October 30

Starting Genealogy - My October Project

Not to get into too many details, but cancer sucks.  It has stabbed at our family over this past year.  As my grandmother lay in her bed, a priest came to visit her from the nearby Catholic church.  He administered last rites and gave her communion, which she mustered all her strength to partake in.  I could see her spirit lighten.

As I sat beside her and visited with her children for a few days, I realized that I have so many questions for her.  I wanted to hear the story of how she met my grandfather.  I wanted her to tell me about the neighborhood she grew up in.  I wanted to know about my grandfather (who passed when I was only 2 years old) and his time in the service. 

My eldest aunt was rumored to have been a bit of a genealogist, but she had only done our current family (which I admit is extensive).  I asked around and found a copy of my great-grandfather's journal.  He had, at 83 years old, sat at a typewriter and wrote until he couldn't remember anymore.  Out of curiosity, I Googled the oldest relative that he had recorded in his journal and struck gold. Harvard Press had, in 1905, published a book all about the history of my family name.

The best part was that it was available as a free E-book.  Papa J loaded it on my Nook and I have been pouring over it.  I signed up with and started etching out as much information as I could piece together from it in collaboration with my great-grandfather's journal. 

Friday, I am taking Papa J's grandmother and grandfather out to dinner and to talk about their family tree.  I was brainstorming about how to get as much quality information as possible, when I came across a suggested questionnaire online.  More than simply tracing names, it suggests asking the family member you're interviewing about things like childhood chores, where they went to school, how they celebrated the holidays, etc.  The list is transcribed from V. Allee's 1978 article (in Family Heritage Magazine), "A Family History Questionaire" and can be found HERE.

Some Sample Questions...

I am truly looking forward to the dinner and a chance to sit with Papa J's grandmother and talk about her past.  Even more so, I'm eager to sit with her on the kitchen floor, doing shots of vodka and looking through photo albums.  That day will soon come.  

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