With Thanksgiving being less than a month away, family and friends are planning to gather around the dinner table. Those who gather with you may bring not only their appetite but their family stories and memories. It’s a great opportunity to begin or gather more information that will help in researching your genealogy and family history.
There are a few points to remember when trying to get a conversation started about your family. First, be careful to avoid topics that may be sensitive or embarrassing to anyone who is at your gathering or still living. The last thing you want is to cause family tensions, arguments or a fight at dinner.
Second, remember that everyone has their own take on a story and you should embrace everyone’s recollection, even if the conversation goes off on a tangent. Friends sometimes can offer an unbiased take on an event or story, that sometimes isn’t the case when told by a family member. Avoid taking sides, especially if family members or friends have a strong opinion or recollection of the story.
Third, bring a family picture, letter or heirloom to spark the conversation. It doesn’t have to be that large piece of furniture that’s been passed down several generations in the family. A small photo album or family scrapbook is an excellent choice. Having a physical object during the conversation can evoke a strong emotional connection or vivid memory.
GenealogyChris recommends preparing for Thanksgiving by writing open-ended questions to get the conversations started. If possible record the conversation or take good notes. If recording just make sure you get everyone’s permission. You never know what might be said that will help with your family research for years to come.