This is the time of the year that many families plan reunions or visits to relatives. That makes it a perfect time to increase your knowledge about all the branches of your family. Including the Taylors, of course. There are several ways to do this, and all work in different situations.
Let’s start with the soft approach, one in which you may not even “officially” discuss genealogy. You are at a family gathering at a park with a spread of food and children playing. Here are some questions that might start family members to reminisce:
- “I love this dish! Is this a family specialty? Who started it?”
- “What’s your favorite dish today?” (Ask when the person won’t offend others by passing over their dishes.) What was your mother’s/grandmother’s/great grandmother’s favorite summer dish?” You can substitute cousins, male relatives, and so forth.
- “Isn’t little Johnny cute! Who in the family does he resemble?”
- “What games did you play when you were a kid at a summer picnic? Who was with you?”
A more serious approach might have you with a notebook or a recording device asking questions about older or departed relatives. Here I recommend that you offer to share any information that you gather. This could be as a public member tree at Ancestry, or a website dedicated to the family, or a book.
Here, again, you probably want to prompt your subject to remember the olden days. Many will not have critical data like birth and marriage dates for the departed at their fingertips (and you can easily look that up). What they can offer is clues to the personality of important figures in your family tree. They can also offer information that opens up new areas of exploration, and even solves family puzzles. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- “It must have been hard during the Depression, how did your family cope?”
- “During WWI/WWII/Korea/Vietnam how did you deal with being separated from each other? How did the children cope with it?”
- “What was the best part about growing up in New York City/Tallahassee, Florida/Dayton, Ohio?” There is always a best part. Sometimes it helps to ask about the worst part, too. Also you might ask, “Would your brother/sister see it the same way?”
- “When did your family move to Kansas City? Why?”
Here’s a question I got a while back, “Did any member of our family die from the Spanish Flu?” According to Molly Billings at https://virus.stanford.edu/uda/https://virus.stanford.edu/uda/ “The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than the Great War, known today as World War I (WWI), at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351. Known as "Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe" the influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster.”
In the case of my family, and the direct ancestors of my first cousin the questioner, the answer was no, none of our family members had succumbed.
While you take your leisure this summer, and meet family members, this is your chance to get some of these questions answered. I wish you good luck and new discoveries!
Lalia Wilson for the Taylor DNA Project Blog