While Creating Your Family Tree – Take Time to Listen

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Just sat down to interview/chat with one of my ‘more seasoned’ cousins, Davey. I had never met him, so was a wee bit apprehensive with not really knowing what to expect. Ended up having a wonderful afternoon full of chatter, family information and laughter.

One of his sons had arranged for us to meet at a local bar, which is his ‘Local’. Davey is 83 years young and has a fantastic memory, naming off all of his 8 children and 21(ish) Grandchildren. Throughout the afternoon many of the people in the bar, stopped by for a chat as Davey seems to be not only a regular, but a well loved regular.

My intentions for the day were to find out a bit about Davey and is huge family, I knew that he was only a baby when his Grandparents (my GGGrandparents) died, so was not expecting to learn much there. I was, however, very pleasantly surprised to find out that he was good mates with my Granda while growing up and later they were ‘gambling’ buddies. He talked with great fondness of my Great-Grandparents where he said he was ‘in and out of their house all the time’, he said my Great-Granda nicknamed him ‘carry on’ as he was always having a laugh :-)

When conducting one of these ‘chats’ it is important to be prepared, go in with a list of questions. At the same time expect to go off topic at times and take time to listen to what your relative is saying.

While we were talking about his children, he mentioned his young son who had sadly drowned at the age of 9. The look of sadness that came over his face as he relived that day was quite profound. The raw pain, still there to this day. He talked about how his wife, ‘never got over it, never’.

I asked him about his school days and if he liked school, no holds barred here – his response – “Terrible, hated it! Use to get the pointer across the knuckles. Remember Mrs. Johnston, Daddy Glass and Ma Reid.”

I asked him if he remembers any relatives or ancestors that were good or bad, his response – “Awk sure we were all bad, brought up in a bad time”

I would normally suggest bringing a video camera or tape recorder, neither would have worked in the venue we were at, but if/when you interview/chat with older relatives you really should record it.

Listen carefully and enjoy yourself, I know I sure did!!

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4 Comments

  • Stacey says:

    Great post… Amazing to be able to take the time and listen to relatives speak about family and experiences from other generations and to at least for the moment, experience their lives!

  • Neil Colwell says:

    Thanks Great Cousin Maxine for keeping the Cokwell family history alive. You are a credit to us all.

    • Maxine Watt says:

      Thank-you Neil! Not sure who the Cokwell family is – but the Colwell family is as wonderful as it is extensive ;-)

      Maxine :-)

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How to Create a Family Tree