Saturday, May 20, 2023

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Then and Now, Oral Interviews

I think I've gotten a little rusty with writing, it's been so long.  But I need to start again, and today is as good of a day as any.  Thank goodness for Randy Seaver and his Saturday Night Genealogy Fun writing prompts.

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible music!):

1.  Then and Now:  Did you ever conduct oral interviews of family members or friends and neighbors about your ancestors over the years?  Who did you interview, how did you record the interviews, and what did you learn from them?  Please share your experiences.

2.  Write your own blog post, leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook.

I first got hooked on family history after a school assignment at age 13 to fill in my family tree four generations back.  I still have the original purple mimeographed piece of paper, even though it no longer has that special mimeograph ink smell.

To fill in more information than what I knew already, I conducted oral interviews of all my relatives who lived nearby:  my mother, father, paternal grandfather, paternal aunt, and cousins (my aunt's children).  I recorded the information from the interviews by hand in a spiral notebook, and I still have my original notes.

I learned a lot more about my father's family through this process than about my mother's, because I had grown up hearing information about my mother's side of the family.  My father was not as close to his family, however, so much of the information was new to me:

my great-grandmother's name, Nanny Ireland

my great-great-grandmother's name, Kate Moore

my aunt's first husband's name, Zeke Lore

When I began working more diligently on researching my family, however, I learned that a lot of what I had been told was accurate but was not pointing me in the right direction.

Ireland was my great-grandmother's second husband's name.  No one knew or remembered his given name, with the story being that Nanny (given names Laura May) had been told that she really needed a man to look after her, so she married Mr. Ireland, then figured out he wasn't worth the trouble and got rid of him.  It took thirty years to track down that he was John Ireland.

Moore was my great-great-grandmother's second husband's name but was told to me as her maiden name.  That also took almost thirty years to straighten out, after my grandaunt told me that was her second marriage.

And my aunt's first husband's actual given names were Clarence Newcomb.  To this day, no one has been able to tell me where Zeke came from.  And I still haven't found documentation proving that they were really married, either.

Oral interviews are great, because you get to know your family members better and learn more about the family.  Just make sure you check everything they tell you to make sure it's right.


  1. Wow! I'm impressed that you conducted oral interviews when you were only 13. We all asked questions, but I wish I'd actually compiled a list of questions and recorded answers, especially from my grandmothers.


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