Quick tip – Talk to your oldest family members

About ten years after I started doing genealogy, I was talking to my grandmother about her family. She asked me if I’d ever found out when her two aunts died. The last time she’d heard from them was about twenty years earlier, when they were in their 80s.

In those days, I was focused on going back in time. I had blazed right through the 1900s and 1800s, back to the 1700s and 1600s where the research became more “interesting.” No, I had not researched my great-grandmothers siblings in detail. I had not felt the need to, since I already knew who their parents were.

Sigh.

To humor grandma, I researched what happened to her aunts. And what do you know? They had both passed away, the youngest only a year before. She was a few months shy of 100 years old. When we called the nursing home where she had lived, the staff told us about the wonderful woman she was, of such a sound mind right until the end, and how she loved visitors. I could have gone there during the nine years I had already been researching our family history.

My grandmother was orphaned at a young age. She had few stories to tell. I can only imagine what stories her aunt could have told us.

She knew everyone. She could have told about her sister Adriana, my great-grandmother, who died when grandma was 15 years old. She could have told about her brother Jan, a soldier in the Dutch East Indies Army and his “indigenous” wife in the colonies. She may even have heard rumors about her biological grandfather, the man who got her unmarried grandmother pregnant.

But no, I was too focused on the “interesting” parts.

Sigh.

Aunt Piet Trouw in her white apron before her shop in Princenhage, 1930s (public domain)

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She has been doing genealogy for almost 25 years. Her expertise is helping people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette’s professional genealogy services.

Comments

  1. Sara Brower says:

    Bummer! I have my huge regrets, also. Funny how those who are now where we were then don’t get it and just let it all slip by – whether or not they are into genealogy.

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