Thank you Research Guidance, and
Legacy tip: Which name should I record?

When an old man dies a library burns

Interview This old African proverb, "when an old man dies a library burns," resonates with genealogists. If I could have just an hour more with my great-grandmother, I would have so many questions. Is there anyone in your life that you need to talk with before it is too late?

You need to know the best kind of questions to ask. For example, "how was your childhood" might get you the response of "it was okay." Interview done....

If you had the right set of thought-provoking questions you could get more out of the "library." Thanks to the interview experts of, Legacy Family Tree 7.0's Interview Questions has all of the right questions and more.

In Legacy (Reports > Books/Other tab > Interview Questions) choose the subject of your interview...

  • My Memories
  • Your Memories
  • Father Remembers
  • Remembering Father
  • Mother Remembers
  • Remembering Mother
  • Grandpa Remembers
  • Remembering Grandpa
  • Grandma Remembers
  • Remembering Grandma
  • Christmas Memories
  • Family Folklore
  • Life in Your Town

... and select which categories/questions you want to include, and you have everything you need to conduct a perfect interview.

You can even interview someone else about your mother/father/grandparent. For example, if you select the "Remembering Mother" interview, Legacy will give you the right questions to interview someone else about mother. Here are the questions from the "Family Time" category within this interview:

  • How would you describe my mother's family life when she was growing up?
  • When they worked together, what did they do?
  • Tell me about some of their family excursions.
  • What is one of your favorite, funny memories about my mother's family?

Notice that the questions are open-ended. You'll never get a Yes or No response to these.

You can select from the default questions, write your own questions, or even create your very own interview.

When you are ready, print the entire interview or save it as a text file, or even a .pdf that you can send in an email.

This "when an old man dies a library burns" quote was a good reminder to me to talk more with my "more experienced" relatives before it is too late. Now where did I put Grandma's telephone number....


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This is especially poignant for me. My dad has Alzheimer's disease, and is slipping. I've got to talk to him as much as I can so our history isn't lost. The Legacy 7 interview questions are a fantastic tool for spurring conversation.

Do not forget to bring a tape recorder or, better yet, a video camera. Seeing the as well as hearing the words spoken adds to the stories. Moreover, a recording retells a story better than even the best memory.

Ask questions more than once, rewording as you go. I asked my mother questions about her father and one day hit on the right wording. She told me specific events that she remembered and she was 3 yrs old when he died. Try not to let them feel pestered, though, or they will completely close up shop.

A word of caution: I know that it would be nice to have that extra hour with a relative to be able to ask all those lingering questions BUT be careful. Cousins in my family were lucky enough (or wise enough) to sit with an elderly relative and proceeded to ask those questions and record them. The trouble is, that at the time the old dear was demented and the answers they got were less than useful. She unloaded "the goods" on many of her ancestors and immediate family, darkening their names for ever. Several person were rolled into one identity, and any gaps in her knowledge were filled in by what she thought was the best answer to give- a classic case of confabulation. She was such a lovely old lady that people swallowed her stories (not recognising her demented state) an denigrated others from her accounts by publishing them.

Mother may not remember well! In an additional example, mine told me that my gt-grandmother worked as a Nanny for a particular, unrelated family named Tatchell! As it turns out, gt-grandmother was orphaned when she was a child newly arrived in the colony of South Australia. The family for whom she was supposedly a 'Nanny" had fostered her and was otherwise childless. To add to the genealogical problems, Gt-grandma's name was also changed from Bawden to Bowden-Tatchell (I guess it sounded about right), making research difficult until it was discovered that the Tatchell's were her foster parents. The clue to solving that mystery came from mining records! A Mr William Jones worked alongside of a Mr William Tatchell in the Victorian goldfields. They were good friends. Jones' son, another William, married Gt-grandma. No living relative knew of the connection between Jones and Tatchell.

Might I suggest that genealogists share some of their interview information with the local museum. Local history knowledge grows and folks can more readily relate to community history when it comes from a 'real person'. Remember 'history is what is written but the past is what really happened'.

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