Dollarhide free eBook—I take what he says further

image You can download a free eBookGetting Started in Genealogy Online, by William Dollarhide. (Hat tip to Ancestories and Renee’s Genealogy Blog)

So I clicked, downloaded and read. I’ll take what he says a little bit further. Don’t go for just the facts, get the stories that go along with things, too.

Dollarhide’s Step 1 is titled Family Interviews. Excellent. I agree.

He leads the reader through some strategies to capture facts about your family’s past: Look through address books, holiday cards from relatives. Contact any and all by whatever means possible “in person, by telephone, or e-mail.” (p. 9).

He continues:

Compare your memories with the memories of your brothers, sisters, parents, grandparentss or any other living relatives. You may discover that others in your immediate family have different stories to tell.


Memories memories memories. Of the living, of those who surround you.

He further goes on to talk of interview questions, which taken as a whole, are designed to suss out documents. family photo albums, letters, papers, insurance papers. things that will have people’s names. Family recipes. Private papers, journals, records of the family business. The family Bible. Expanding to a wider sphere, find out if there are publications about the family—as in books or published articles.  (Dollarhide, p. 10)

Now, understandably, for the genealogist, the point of the exerise is to suss out places that people have lived, in order to find written records.

So though Dollarhide mentions comparing memories, his aim is to find out all you can, but to aim for those documents.

But I submit to you that there’s more to this first step of interviewing than sussing out who where  and when in order to put you on the hunt for place names and important documents.

Just stop right there a moment, Mr. Dollarhide and you beginning researchers.

Any of those items you’re looking for will probably have a story with it.  Since you’re already conducting an interview, go for the stories themselves. Any bit of information about where the records are will probably come wrapped inside a story.

Please, please don’t be so anxious to learn where that item is (The family bible is on the bookshelf in Grandma’s den) that you overlook stories about it. The stories live in the brains and hearts of people who are currently living, and though there isn’t the same kind of external verifiable records aspect to those stories, they are as worthy of being captured as the place names and dates themselves.

  • How did you first learn that we had a family Bible? (so-and-so told me)
  • How do you think so-and-so felt about the Bible?
  • Who all has possessed it? How has it been passed on?
  • Are there any spoken legends about the Bible? Any family rituals about it?
  • Any conflicts over it?
  • Any time that it was in danger? (fire, flood)

Yes, it contains names, places, dates. But the thoughts and stories about it contain a less tangible sense of significance about your family’s history. You are part of a generation that has the ability to capture the sound of the human voice, and the likeness of a human face talking (and that voice). Recordings of stories is something that you can pass on to the next generation.

Collect the facts. And collect the stories as well.


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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 19, 2010 in • GenealogyInterviewing
3 CommentsPermalink

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You’re so right! And the stories make the documents so much more powerful. I recently sat down with my grandfather’s sister and she gave me a book filled with scraps of paper on which her mother had written recipes, while she was imprisoned as a prisoner of war during World War 2 in the Dutch East Indies. It was in this prison camp that she died. The record alone is very powerful and awe-inspiring. The story my great-aunt told me while I looked through it with her made it priceles!

J.M.  on 05/19  at  11:46 AM

Hi Susan—I’m apparently a bit slow, do you need to sign up for their ‘free trial account’ to get the e-book?

Hal B Rager  on 05/19  at  09:49 PM

OMG, I am a liar. The offer is no longer there, apparently. At least not in the same way.

You can still get it for free if you try out a free 7-day trial membership of World Vital Records .

Sorry to be so misleading, and thanks for asking.

Susan A. Kitchens  on 05/20  at  03:22 PM

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