We have all experienced it. You arrive at a Holiday dinner only to see Cousin Ray, the braggart, has already arrived. You know that for the next few days you will be hearing him brag about his woodworking and listening to him describe in long detail the process of creating his latest masterpiece. Your first inclination is to turn and run but you know you can’t do that. So you decide that you will make every effort to avoid Cousin Ray.
Holiday get togethers are a time to celebrate family and friends and to share with one another. However when one person monopolizes the conversations it can make the other people want to avoid them altogether. Let’s be honest, most people have skipped a party or dinner because they found out that someone who can only talk about their latest scrapbooking or [insert hobby/cause here] project was going to be there.
Now for some hard truth, some of us Genealogists are guilty of the same mind numbing talking that we try to avoid. We can get so excited over our recent discoveries that we want to be sure that everyone hears the fantastic news. We also want to take this opportune time to ask questions of those present. Who knows when you many see them again or get a chance to possibly fill in some blanks in our trees? Here are some suggestions that may help you to not become the person everyone wants to avoid.
- If you know who is going to attend the upcoming party or get-together, write a short letter explaining that you are working on the Family Genealogy and that you would like to ask them some questions. Tell them to help avoid long, possibly boring conversations that they may not be interested in, you would like them to consider these few questions and if they could, they can bring the answers with them. Mail or email this to them a couple of weeks in advance. If you don’t know who will be there or if you don’t have contact information for some of the guests, you can take a few extra letters and ask them to fill it out and mail it to you. You can even include a self addressed stamped envelope to make it easy for them!
- You can also ask at this time if they have any old photos or documents that they would be willing to share with you. Let them know that you will be either scanning them or taking pictures of them at the get together so they will not have to give them to you.
- Ask them if they know any stories about their ancestors and see if they would either write them down for you and bring them along or maybe they would be willing to tell them to you. If possible bring a tape recorder so you can record the tales and then transcribe them later.
- Do some research and ask specific questions about that side of the family that you need help with. Something like, was Uncle Joe Jones ever married? If so, do you know his wife’s name? Did they have children?
- Be sure to add somewhere in the correspondence that you have found some exciting information about the Familys’ History and you look forward to adding more to it. Hopefully a little enticement will peak their interest in what you are doing.
- I helped a friend do all of the above before a family event and they all worked very well. She gathered a lot of new information, stories and even a few photos. One thing I helped her with was a poster board display. I had her print out the family tree associated with those who were attending. I had her post a few interesting documents and photos on it and one of the amazing stories that she had found about a Great Grandfather. She included her name at the bottom of the poster so people would know who to talk to. When she arrived at the event she placed it in a place where people could easily view it. Because she wasn’t intrusive she actually had several relatives come up to her wanting to know more and telling her stories. Some even promised to email some photos and documents to her. She was ecstatic as one bit of information she received broke down one of her brick walls!
To those of us who love Genealogy it is so easy to talk about it and we want to share our enthusiasm with others. Sometimes this becomes a hindrance instead of a help. By coming up with alternative ways to engage someone in our passion we can “hook” them without making their eyes glaze over in boredom.
I am positive that if you think about it, you can come up with plenty of ways to gather information this Holiday season without alienating your family. Good luck!
If you think of any other ways to do this please let me know, I would love to hear your ideas!
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.