Learning more about your genealogy can truly unite an extended family. But it can be challenging to involve your relatives in your quest to learn more about where you come from. From family members with little interest in previous generations to family members that are actually hostile about uncovering past secrets, it’s possible to find common ground and draw them into the process. Tracking your history is a sprawling and time consuming, yet deeply rewarding, project that offers numerous opportunities for collaboration and sharing. Here are some ideas on how to get your family excited and engaged with your genealogical research. Collect and share photos |
For family members that don’t get excited about lists of names and other genealogical documents, photographs are often a hit. From looking for common features across generations to seeing the clothes and styles of previous times, photos catch the imagination of even the most reluctant relative. There are three easy ways that you can integrate photos into your genealogical work. The first is by asking relatives to share what photographs they have. Often, an aunt or cousin will have photos of a beloved grandparent or distant relative that no one realized existed. Second, make copies of all the photographs you receive and share them. Using a password protected gallery online that’s shared with family members is a great way to do this easily while minimizing the costs. Finally, if you’re reviewing genealogical details at a family gathering, photographs can help bring your narration to life.
Ask for help on the local level
One terrific low commitment way to involve family in your research is asking help from them at the local level. Does a specific family member live near a cemetery that you’d like to visit? Ask him or her to visit, record the information on the relevant plots, and take photos of the headstones. Perhaps a relative lives near a research library or the National Archives and can do a bit of hands on searching. Working with relatives to complete tasks in their immediate area allows everyone to feel involved, without placing too much responsibility on any one person. Always be gracious if someone declines to help, and be sure to give recognition and praise to anyone who does assist with research.
Conduct interviews to expand your understanding
Conducting interviews of your family is a great way to expand your understanding of your family history and add more detail to your genealogical narrative. Older relatives often remember previous generations, recall family lore, and have lived amazing lives that should be captured in detail. A great aunt or grandparent may be able to offer tips on important facts that can break through genealogical puzzles, such as a city where relatives used to live or a nickname that was used on official documents. Consider either recording or videotaping interviews or taking detailed notes and keeping those as part of your genealogical records.
Work together with professional genealogists
If you’re hiring a professional genealogist, it can be hard to imagine the best way to involve everyone in the process. In fact, showing up at the genealogist’s office with thirty family members is likely to be counterproductive. But there are several ways to make everyone feel part of the project. One is to invite the genealogist to give a presentation in person or over Skype of his or her findings. Another is to share a copy of the narrative that the genealogist prepares with your extended family. Finally, if members of your family have access to documents or personal memories that could flesh out your family tree, provide a list of names and contact information so that the genealogist can interview them if appropriate.
If you’re excited about genealogy but find that family members are reluctant to proceed, it is possible to get them engaged. Be sensitive that family history may not immediately interest everyone or that specific family members have personal reasons for not wanting the past unearthed. As you move forward, you’ll find that it’s possible to create lines of communication by asking for assistance in small but meaningful ways, sharing the information that you receive, and being liberal with praise for family members that share their memories and time.
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