07 February 2012

Take the time to ask the questions

Yeah, that's a question!

The last known World War One veteran has died.  She was 110.

From a genealogist and history buff's standpoint, that statement brings sort of a sadness to my heart.  What stories she must have had!  Yes, the last veteran was a woman, who served with the Woman's Royal Air Force in England.  She didn't see combat, but she still worked alongside men who did. 

I hope her stories were written down, for they had to have been awesome!  From the article I read, most of them were told to family members, but how many were preserved, not only for her future generations, but for millions of history buffs?
(for her story - see Last Known WWI Veteran Florence Green dies at 110)

Take time to ask the questions.

We're losing what is known as "The Greatest Generation" quickly.  Out of ten children born to my mother's paternal grandparents, only one survives. All of her mother's siblings are gone, as are my paternal grandfather and his brothers and sisters.

My grandmother, who is about to turn ninety years old, still lives, and is a wealth of knowledge for me to uncover.  I enjoy asking her questions, from the mundane to the personal.  Her responses are fascinating, and prompt me to ask even more questions.  Yes, some have to pertain to family history, but more often then not the questions I ask are offering me a window into a world of the past.  It is a world that she makes come alive far greater then any history book.

Hey look, the study of memory

The best resource a genealogist has is the memory of an older generation.  Learn to ask questions.  If they don't want to answer personal natured questions, start with something as simple as "What street did you grow up on?" or "What was your favorite toy?"  Sometimes the answers will unlock a memory or a world that you can explore. 

And your older relatives don't have to be "the Greatest Generation" - they could be the remnants of the WWI generation or Baby Boomers.   They could be your own parents, or cousins, aunts, uncles, even friends can have stories to tell.

So get out there and ask!

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