I spoke with my great aunt (or grand aunt — the terminology can be confusing — my mother’s mother’s sister) over the phone a few days ago, and by asking a few specific questions I was able to correct some errors and fill some holes in the family tree.
Last week, I mentioned that I was in the process of sorting out the Hermans, and talking to my great aunt (again, I’m not using names of living people on this website for privacy reasons)helped answer some of the questions that remained at that point. Talking to relatives is a huge part of completing a family history. It’s a way to document stories (whether true or not, stories can be an invaluable part of a family tradition) as well as a starting-point for finding concrete evidence.
My first question was about Stanley Herman. The information I previously had indicated Stanley was one of my grandmother’s uncles, along with the other Hermans. My grandmother’s sister indicated Stanley was her cousin, not her uncle, and knew his precise location in the family tree. Because I had identified the wrong wife and child for Harry Herman, I would have never come to the conclusion on my own that Stanley was their son. I was influenced by another family tree on Ancestry.com that contained much of my family, but this information is now confirmed to be incorrect.
She also knew the names of Staney’s wife and daughter, which has helped me confirm even more information. I later determined that the wife we knew about was Stanley’s second wife, and his first wife had other children, as well. With the correct names in hand, I was able to find some of the appropriate census records.
My great aunt offered more information to clear up inconsistencies with Rose Stein Herman’s grandchildren, great grandchildren, and one second great granddaughter. She informed me that Toby and Molly Herman adopted a son. She was also able to share more information about the Klein family. I was listing Warren Klein as my grandmother’s father’s brother, but he was my grandmother’s cousin. This was all new information to me, and I’ve incorporated everything into the family tree on Ancestry.com.
After the call, I discovered I still had questions. I get the impression that I’ll be welcome to call again, and given the proximity of her house to my girlfriend’s, I may be able to visit in person.
In order to get accurate information for starting research, it’s important to talk to as many relatives as possible. I’m reaching out more now. Shyness is a factor; many of these relatives are people with whom I haven’t spoken to in a long time — or spoken to without being at a family event organized by someone else. Now I’m the one reaching out, and my concern is that there are relatives who may not be interested in hearing from me. But this is just something to overcome, and it never hurts to reach out.