Living relatives, especially older ones, can be a wealth of information. Consult siblings and cousins as well. They will likely have different memories of older relatives that may affect your research strategy. Remember to be careful with family tradition. Family stories have a way of changing and becoming embellished as they are passed on from one generation to another. For this reason, tradition is not usually considered documentary evidence.
Living relatives can help you extend your research farther back in time by providing names of deceased relatives and where they lived and died. They may also be able to provide you with copies of records they have in their possession. For example, they may have obituaries or the family Bible. This information can be useful in locating records relating to their life events, such as marriage and death records, probate records, and cemetery and obituary records. After you do additional research, it is a good idea to share your findings with your relatives. Documentation you find may jog their memories and lead to additional stories and memories.
A frequent problem encountered with talking to different people about the past is that people will remember past events differently. Such discrepancies can be troublesome. Is the information based on first-hand accounts? Was the person who relayed the information an actual eyewitness to the events, or is he or she just passing along information that was told to him or her? It is important to keep an open mind and to consider all possible scenarios. Ask yourself what documentary evidence might there be to prove what information is correct? Were vital records kept at the local or state level at the time of the event? If not, perhaps newspapers and church records can fill in the gap. Be sure to ask your relatives about religious affiliation. Some religious groups keep very good records, such as baptismal, marriage and burial records. Religious newspapers can also be a wonderful source of information.