Tracing our family trees is a process that not only gives us data for posterity but demands continuing the tradition of oral story telling. Before we had passports and vital records, we still had families. And we knew who they were through the telling and retelling of family stories. Stories can be told by one narrator recounting an event that they witnessed first hand; or they can be told through conversation among many. A formal or informal interview with predetermined questions can produce a story and so can documents gathered from vital documents and pieced together on a timeline. Tracing family trees is about doing some of each of these.
Anyone beginning to search their family history should begin with the old time tradition of oral story telling. Everybody has a story and every story is different. It is funny how ten people can witness a single event and come away with ten different stories but that is how it works. Our minds, perceptions and memories are unique to each individual and so is our telling. A family historian must talk to witnesses and participants just like an investigator. To prepare for your interview, it is helpful to sketch out some jumping off places to get the conversation going.