My aunt is one of the only family members (aside from me of course) who has expressed any genuine interest in learning more about our family heritage. She has helped me discover so much more about our family, and sent me photos, keepsakes and documents to help explain how our family came to be. She was telling me a story that her mother had told her about a great grandmother relation, and described it as her mother did. I already knew the family history surrounding this particular ancestor, but I let her tell me what she knew. Although some of the details were not correct or names were mixed up, her recount gave me precious information that would lead me on a quest for provable truth. I can’t thank her enough for all the help she has given me. Without her, a section of my family tree would have been lost.
Using the tidbits of information your family gives you can be crucial in discovering the missing pieces of your family’s puzzle. Take the information that is given to you, and search using other clues to help pin point where your ancestors wound up. Use known locations or ancestral backgrounds, possible name changes in the surname, search with parental names, siblings or spouses to help narrow down your specific ancestor.
Take my family for instance. I knew that part of my family emigrated to Canada from Wales and Scotland. I knew they settled in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. I knew their surname, and first names of several relatives, thanks to recounts from family members. Using this information, I was able to search the archives to find exactly where they landed, their heritage, where they worked, lived and died, and all of this gave clues to how my family came to be where it is today.
Ask for older relatives to identify familiar faces in their photos. Look at old books with them and ask how they came into their possession. Discover letters, journals and other documents that showcase what kinds of people your ancestors were, and explore their journey with your living family while you still can.