"Our Loose Ends" Genealogy Column
by Lynna Kay Shuffield
Houston, Texas

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Printed Taylor Daily Press - 21 Oct 1999

Oral Histories and 20th Century Memories

To make your family tree interesting and to captivate your audience, consider adding Oral Histories or “life stories” to your research. Genealogy is more than the facts, birth, marriage, divorce, death and burial. While some individuals strive to have 10,000 names in their family tree, others find it more rewarding to add stories about the people, times and the communities where they lived.

The purpose of an Oral History is to gather information you cannot locate in written records, e.g., who, what, where and when. Keep in mind, written sources are fallible too. You are looking for, “What was it like?”

When conducting an interview, remember memories can be “rose-colored,” so be sure and ask for specific details. The focus of an interview requires thought and preparation in advance as well as remembering to be flexible during the session. Give the person time to think and answer, don’t rush. It is important to listen to what people have to say, therein could be your next question. Most importantly, respect the person’s memories.

Who should your interview? Right now, in my opinion, older relatives, friends and neighbors, especially, anyone over the age of 99 years. Why? These individuals have lived in three different centuries, the 1890s, 1900s, and will be a part of the new millennium in 2000. Remember, with each death, a whole library of life experiences and information disappears. You might consider using memory joggers, i.e., tour the house and talk about the things in it; look through old newspaper clippings, photographs or the Family Bible; or, take a walk through your family cemetery or neighborhood.

Generally, your interview should not be more than two hours a sitting. Always obtain permission to use the information gathered. Tape the interview and make a duplicate copy. Transcriptions of the recorded interviews are useful but are time consuming to type. One hour of tape will take from 22 to 25 hours to transcribe. But in general, paper will last longer than a tape recording. Also consider videotaping the interviews.

If you need help with developing questions to ask during the interview, ask your local librarian for a book on how to conduct an Oral History. There have been many books written on this topic to help you get started. If you have access to the internet at home or at your local library, go to the Family Tree Maker’s Online Biography Assistant at http://www.familytreemaker.com/bio/index.html. This free website will assist you in preparing questions for an Oral History or how to write an autobiography about yourself. The Biography Assistant makes it easy for you to record these special family memories because it helps you decide what to ask or what to write about.

Internet Tip

Kentucky Vital Records Index is now available at http://ukcc.uky.edu/~vitalrec/ for on-line searches. The information included in this database was acquired from the Kentucky Dept. of Health Statistics in Frankfort, KY.

An important consideration is that this searchable database is for non-commercial use only. It may not be used for commercial purposes.

There are four categories for searching: the Death Index for 1911-1986, the Death Index for 1987-1992, the Marriage Index for 1973-1993 and, the Divorce Index for 1973-1993.

For the best results when searching the Death Indexes, enter both first and last names of the deceased. The Marriage Index can be search by the name of the bride, the name of the groom, or a combined name that includes the surnames of both. The Divorce Index can be searched by the name of the husband, the name of the wife, or a combined name that includes the surnames of both.

Book Review

“McCulloch County (Texas) Cemetery Records.” Research and compiled by Louann Hall, Ethel Cole and Alvin Lewis Bolton, 116 Bruce St., Brady, Texas 76825. Hard-cover, 8½”x11”, 355 pages, no index, 1999, $30.00 (including postage & tax).

This book contains information related to the cemeteries in McCulloch County, Texas. The County Seat is Brady, which was established in 1876 and is located at the geographic center of Texas. There are over 50 cemeteries listed, including burials on private property. Each listing includes driving directions to the cemetery and the transcription of burials is in alphabetical order with date of death, date of birth and lot number, if known. The only drawback to this publication is the lack of an overall name index. If the name of the cemetery is not known, researchers have to look through each cemetery to locate the particular individual(s) they are seeking to find.

In this column, I will be glad to highlight and review any family history, genealogy, county history, or similar book, free of charge, if you donate a copy of the book or item. After it has been highlighted and reviewed, on a space available basis, it will be donated to the genealogy section of a library. You will receive an acknowledgment of the donation from the library. Mail item or book to me at the below address.

Lynna Kay Shuffield has written several books related to Texas genealogy and military history. She has spoken before numerous genealogy and veterans groups. Also, is a County Coordinator for the Texas GenWeb Project. Regretfully, she cannot help with individual genealogical research. Please visit the website for this column at: http://www.geocities.com/lks_friday/COLUMN-001.htm or if you have any questions, comments, suggestions for column topics, genealogy or historical society announcements, please contact her at: P. O. Box 16604, Houston, Texas 77222-6604 or e-mail: lksfriday@sbcglobal.net

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This webpage was last created on 20 Oct and was last revised on 10 Jan 2000, 15 Nov 2001

Copyright © 1999 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604