Part 1: What Can We Glean from Oral Histories?

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Headstonefor Anderson Chick (1860-1903) and Elenia Coleman Chick (1860-1933)

Did you jumpright into researching your family history before gathering the information yourfamily members have to share?  Not awhole lot of emphasis is placed on oral history because sometimes details fadefrom memory or stories turn out to be family fables.  

I probablynever would have found the burial site of my second great grandparents in thephoto above if I had neglected oral history.  If you reach a roadblock on the road todiscovery, you will never know if interviewing a relative could have helped ifyou never try. 

No regrets

I cannotcount the number of times I have heard people faced with huge challenges intheir research say, “Boy, I sure wish I had asked the right questions when__________ was alive.”  Is there someonein your family who you would regret talking to if they suddenly passedaway? 

Consider thefollowing:

  • Whereare the holes in your research?  Whatquestions do you need to ask to fill in the missing details?
  • Whodo you need to interview who would have the knowledge to answer your questions?
  • Whatdo you want to learn about your ancestors aside from the basic details you canget from historical records? 

No prospects

If you arelike me, on some of my family lines I did not know a single living soul whocould still share anything with me about an ancestor.  I did not lose heart though.  I decided to identify each descendant I couldfind of my Chick ancestors.  I did this by researching them on the censusas far back as I could go.  Then Iresearched each of the Chick descendants forward as far as I could go,recording the names of each descendant that I found.  

I then tookmy list (a host of Chick cousins) and searched for a death record on eachone.  After eliminating the deceasedcousins, I searched the U.S. Public Record Index for those who did not have adeath record.  I compiled a list ofcousins to contact using the addresses from the index. 

Making contact

One of thepeople I contacted turned out to be my grandmother’s first cousin.  I sent a pedigree chart to him so he could seeour common ancestors: Anderson Chick (Abt 1860-1903) and Elenia Coleman Chick(Abt 1860-1933), my second great grandparents. They are his grandparents. 

I cannotwait to share with you some of the amazing experiences and discoveries I made alongthe way.  Return next week to this blogto read about the next part of the story.

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by Robin Foster © 2014, All rights reserved

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February 4, 2014
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