Ask the Right Question

Searching on the internet, in books or reviewing documents will provide you a wealth of family history but at some point you will need to ask someone for help.

Asking questions the right way is important to getting the answers you need. Focus your question on getting one specific result. Think about your objectives: what do you know; what do you want to learn; which people and events is the person you are asking likely to be the most knowledgeable. Do not ask a question seeking everything someone knows about a subject; they may ignore your question because they do not know where to start. Also do not ask a question that can easily be found; do not waste an expert’s time by asking them to do something you should be able to easily find yourself.

The same advice will be true when seeking information from family members. If you ask Uncle Fred to tell you everything he knows, he may side-step you by responding that he can’t remember anything. Ask specific questions that jog the memory. Whenever possible, show old photographs of people and places.

If you write others seeking information, remember your manners. You are asking them for help and it should be easy for them to reply. Ask questions precisely. Include as much information as necessary to identify the individual you are interested in, but don’t include information that will not help or is confusing.

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