Monday, May 1, 2017

Oral History Interviews

Oral History Interviews

Screen shot of scan of handwritten interviews by Midge Frazel, 2017
When I was in my twenties, I decided that it was time for me to interview my paternal family since my father and I had been working on designing a family tree. My soon to be father-in-law, an engineer, gave me a few pieces of huge blueprint paper and keeping that in reserve, Dad and I wrote down just names, dates and relationships of what we knew. 

Cousins from California came one summer and after Aunt Annie fed them, I put them to work adding names and handing out self addressed envelopes. They were happy to help and they still help me today, only through email and via Facebook. Now that those people who came are gone from this earth and the next generations have taken over, three have tested their atDNA and and they match. (Phew!)

One Thanksgiving afternoon, probably in 1970, I brought over a hand designed family group sheet, pens/pencils, and erasers and asked the women to fill in the blanks. It went well. My favorite moment was when I asked Aunt Annie to fill out hers and Uncle Jack's. She did hers and my grandparents and I passed that page around to my father, my aunt and my uncle to read and they discussed my paternal grandparents for a few minutes. 

My paternal grandfather was an alcoholic and committed suicide and I didn't know that then. It explains their sadness and their quiet moments that day.

Aunt Annie filled out her own and they turned it over to fill out Uncle Jack's. She got stuck and my dad went in the kitchen to get him. He sat down and spelled the maiden name of his mother and the place name where he was born and then filled out the paper himself. That is important as I now have his handwriting sample.

Everyone was riveted. I looked at their faces and that of my father and we could tell that they did not know much about Uncle Jack and where he came from. My father told me on the way home that Jack's parents came for a visit and that Jack's father was missing a finger. 

If you are a genealogist reading this then you know that that is how I was sure I found them at Ellis Island. More about that later.

This may be a pivotal date in my life as a genealogist. I am going to go through my calendars and look for a note that we went there after Thanksgiving at my maternal grandmother's apartment.

I could have asked more but dessert was ready and you know how much everyone wanted dessert.

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