Helping Your Elderly Parent With Their Family Tree


family tree

Genealogy can provide your elderly loved one with a comforting sense of 'place' in history. Luckily there are some simple steps you can take to start your research.


Helping your elderly parent with their family tree

Many people reach a point in their life when they want to find out more about their family history and ancestors. In recent years, researching your family tree has become increasingly popular and there have been whole television series devoted to finding out more about people's origins. If this wish occurs to one of your elderly parents, there are some very simple steps you can take to start finding the answers. Before you start, you will need:
  • Extensive notes made from the living memory of your elderly loved one
  • A cup of tea
  • A box of kleenex

Open-ended questions


Asking the right, open-ended questions is key to uncovering a wealth of family history.


A good starting point to help an elderly parent researching their family tree is by asking them for any information which they can remember about their own life. Questions could include:
  • What do you know about your family surname?
  • When and where were you born?
  • Were there other family members in the area, and if so, who?
  • What is your earliest childhood memory?
  • Who were your friends when you were growing up?
  • Who is the oldest relative you remember as a child?
  • What were the full names of your parents and grandparents, including maiden names?
Remember to let them talk and don’t cut them off, you never know what gems may be found in a story that starts from one of your questions. Other information, which would be useful to have, can be found through old photo albums, yearbooks, address books and keepsake boxes that may be hanging around the house.

Using the internet to research

Searching online can be a good place to start, as there's a wide range of websites offering to help, but be aware whilst some information may be free, other websites may charge. To get you started there's a wealth of information that can be found on the following websites:

Using paper records

Information is held in a variety of places and is quite often in the original paper format. You can visit local record offices and libraries to find the information yourself. Records of births, deaths and marriages are only held in the district where the event took place, and fees are charged to obtain this information. This approach may be more time consuming and could take you on a road trip around the country.

The good and the bad

Finding out about the family can be incredibly insightful. Not only because it might shed some light on family mysteries, but because it can also raise questions about possible health conditions. A lot of things are passed down through genetics, and discovering a family predisposition towards a certain health issue, may give you the insight you need to take preventative action. On the other hand, certain stories might not have been passed down because they are unpleasant, or because they reveal uncomfortable truths. Be prepared for this. It might be that you discover something amazing and inspiring, but it's equally likely that you'll discover something less positive. Whichever way the cookie crumbles, the experience is mostly likely to be incredibly rewarding. Find out more: