Looking for a project you can do at home? Call an older relative for family history

Here’s a potential “win/win” for those who are staying home during the COVID-19 outbreak. Edmonds resident Maggie Fimia suggests connecting via phone with your older relatives, who may have an abundance of stories and information about your family.

“I recommend giving them a call — starting with the oldest — and getting them talking about their childhood, their parents and grandparents,” said Fimia, who owns Welcome Home Family History Services. “Just google “questions to ask your older relatives” and a host of sites will pop up. Information that they can give you about names, dates, places in five minutes could potentially take you five years to find on your own.”

And just as history repeats itself, family history also repeats — good things and bad, Fimia said. “For instance, there may be mental health issues, alcoholism, other medical issues in the family (save these questions for the end). But also they know about what people did for a living, what talents and strengths they had – what they learned about how to get through really tough times.

“Start with easy questions, listen for when they may need to stop and pick up at another time. Record them if possible, and find out who has the family photos and records and if they know of relatives in other countries,” she added.


5 Replies to “Looking for a project you can do at home? Call an older relative for family history”

  1. Great idea. I have started to use Facetme, a good way to connect with people and see them virtually.

    I have a sister who is in a Senior Living facilty and they are all confined to their rooms. I am hoping to get Facetime working with her. She also has family history since she is the oldest female in our large family.
    We have family history with deaths in the 1918 epidemic and I will ask her more.


  2. Yes, Maggie and Barbara–a valuable and enjoyable project. I’m currently editing three such memoirs and have four more waiting. And my seven-year-old granddaughter called to interview ME! I asked her to journal each day so she can share these times with her children and grandchildren one day.


  3. Some additional info: Families can create and build family trees on Ancestry.com for free – no subscription needed. You won’t be able to “search” for records, but at least you can start your tree. If you make it “public” (no one will be able to see info about living relatives) you may hear from relatives from around the world who have more pieces of the puzzle. For instance, a distant relative on my Irish side contacted me and it turns out my dad was their family doctor in NY and they had no idea they were related! The other site is https://www.familysearch.org/en/
    That is totally free for building your tree and researching records. This can be a great project for young and old: the young people know their way around the internet and the older people know their way around the family history. Plus, you have to use math, problem solving, get to learn history and a host of other skills. Just two words of caution – doing family history research is much like gambling – it has “intermittent reinforcement” which can be very addicting! 🙂 and… assume that any info you find from individuals and sometimes the records are not accurate unless you can verify using several other sources.


  4. Maggie you are spot on, thanks for this. My cousins and I continue to moan and wail that we did not ask our grandmother more questions when she was alive. To that end I have put together a photo family book for my son and grandson. Mimeo.com provides a template and ends up sending you a coffee table book. A great service.
    I ended up with 40 pages for $66. It took a little longer than I thought but I’m so glad I got it done. And they love it.
    The kids might not be interested in family history right now but they will and their progeny will be interested too. That sound is me patting myself on the back.


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