Genealogy interviews best done over time

Posted March 08, 2009, at 4:24 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 10:43 a.m.

We can ask the questions, but we can’t always choose when we get the answers. I was about 19 when I first asked my grandmother Ione Bennett Moore about our roots. She wrote by hand a 17-page letter telling me what she knew, with much of it becoming my jumping-off point into genealogy a few years later.

The Bennett information was pretty good. After all, that was her family — on both sides, and she also had at hand a couple of Bible records and the Guilford issue of Sprague’s Journal.

The Moore information had a gap in it, which she didn’t realize and didn’t let prevent her from tying into Abbot settler Abraham Moore’s family. Except his Moores were Scottish-Irish, and mine are English.

By the time I was doing genealogy in 1977, I didn’t stop to think that some of her information had never been refreshed over the years, given that she had been divorced from my grandfather for decades.

About once a month for the last year of her life I would ask more questions. Sometimes she didn’t know, but the next time I visited she would pop out with a gem such as “Allie’s middle name was Jotham.”

Aha. Further confirmation that Alton Moore’s grandfather was Jotham Moore of Parkman.

We may get only one chance to interview an older relative. But it’s great when we can ask questions over a period of time. Those inquiries can percolate, prompting information to bubble to the top of the mind the next day or later on.

Recently I’ve been asking my mother about cousins, connections, maiden names and all that. She amazes me with what she remembers when I ask, some of it information or events that happened before she was born.

And then there are things I didn’t know to ask. I was so excited to get a maiden name for one relative last evening, and then she added, “I bought that crib from her for $5.” What a neat piece of information to add to our family history.

Sometimes you can use specific questions to help a relative narrow down a time frame:

Were they already married when you got married? Do you remember their baby from when you were in high school? Or was she born after I was? Did they go to that big anniversary party we all went to? How many of us kids were born by then? Three or only two of us?

Ask me when my Moore great-grandparents got married, and I can usually come up with 1898. That’s because I remember going to an anniversary party and watching a baby take a nap in the car. That had to be my sister, so it was 1958 and had to be their 60th anniversary — even I wasn’t born when they had their 50th.

Keep in mind that some older people can get overwhelmed if you ask too many questions at one time. And be sure to find some fun things to share with the person you’re interviewing.

—•—

High school and college yearbooks can be a wonderful source for interesting information — and often a photograph — pertaining to relatives from years ago.

I have in my hands the 1929 issue of The Lamp, the yearbook of Lasell Seminary, a junior college in Auburndale, Mass. The yearbook belonged to my aunt, Marion Roberts Dyer of Hampden, who died in 1990.

It turns out there were several young women from Maine in that class at Lasell:

• Constance Marsh Chalmers, Bangor.

• Dorothea Mae Clark, South Berwick.

• Isabelle Lucille Daggett, Island Falls.

• Katherine Drake, Guilford.

• Phyllis Dunning, Bangor.

• Mary Uhlman Faulkenham, Peaks Island, Portland.

• Ruth Louise Ford, Auburn.

• Jean Fosdick, Lewiston.

• Winifred Margaret Goud, Van Buren.

• Muriel Hagerthy, Sedgwick.

• Jane Margaret Hall, Lewiston.

• Harriet Shirley Haskell, Auburn.

• Gertrude Loveland Hooper, Peaks Island, Portland.

• Sylvia Ambrose Huston, Seal Harbor.

• Alice Luella Light, Liberty.

• Clarice Elizabeth Liscomb, Bar Harbor.

• Rose Mary O’Neil, Rockland.

• Emily Janice Roberts, West Kennebunk.

• Marion Agnes Roberts, Fairfield.

• Marion Hussey Simpson, Portland.

• Alta Lee Smith, Caribou.

• Jeanette Smith, Rockland.

• Maurie Rae Stewart, Cherryfield.

• Dorothy Trask, Bar Mills.

The one faculty member listed as being from Maine was:

• M. Elizabeth Cobb, Portland.

—•—

The Wassebec Genealogy Society will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 12, in the conference room at Mayo Regional Hospital, Route 15, Dover-Foxcroft.

After the business meeting, Jim and Mary Annis of Dover-Foxcroft will talk about their interest in the British Highland Regiment, which participated in the American Revolution.

Jim and Mary were re-enactors for many years and will bring many items to show. All are welcome to attend. For information, contact the Bennetts at 876-3073 or the Batticks at 564-3576.

Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or e-mail queries to familyti@bangordailynews.net.

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