Monday, April 8, 2013

Researching with interviews and photographs.

One of the first tips given to me as a want to be 'family historian' was to start with those that are still alive. I have never been more thankful! If you are familiar with my blog at all you will know that to date it mainly covers the story of my Grandma. The Grandma I never knew. Her name was Iris Davies nee Griffiths. This year I hope to start the story of my Grandpa, Idris Davies. The mini biography I have written was put together using interviews of family members; Ruth one of my Grandma's younger sisters, and Iris' three children. I am sure there are others out there that knew my Grandma but as of today they have not yet contacted me or returned questions about her life.

I remember when I started out asking my friend and avid genealogist Bill West how to best interview people. He hadn't been able to interview many family members himself but did give me a few tips such as showing the family member some photographs and seeing if that sparked any memories. For several months my Dad, Aunt and Uncle were instantly inundated with photographs and requests to Skype with me and share their thoughts. It was a great idea, thank you Bill! If you want to read more of his genealogy journey you can discover it at West in New England.

I knew that I had best make a record of all the interviews I conducted no matter how informal they might be so I created some word documents. The first one contained something like this:

House in Rhodesia 18 – Merthyn and his mum

Rhodeisa 17 – 4 Taylors Avenue, Morningside Umtali – sunken garden in front – use to fill up with rain in the rainy season and the ducks would swim in it.

Rhodeisa 16 – Car – Wendy with the Plymouth 1963 – Straight 6 Engine. Bill Mundell, Idris worked on it to get it fixed for Wendy to drive back and forth to work. Dad was messing around as they did. She worked at Eagles High School in the Vumba. It was about 30-45 minute drive from their house. [Can google it]

Eagles High School was the place the Elim missionaries were massacred in 1979 [Double check date of massacre]

Rhodesia15 – Idris downstairs bay window at 4 Taylors avenue
Idris built it! – google earth it

Rhodesia 12 Wendy at 4 Taylors Avenue

Rhodesia 11 – Idris and Iris at Kingsley Fairbridge Memorial – Christmas Pass Umtali

Rhodesia 10 – Flossy the Dog, Wendy and the other 2 women?

Rhodesia 13 – Chinky the cat 4 Taylors  avenue – bay window

Rhodeisa 9 January the house boy – serving tea or elvenses on Saturday morning

Rhodesia 8 – Idris, Iris, Glyn, someone else, January and Flossy

Rhodeisa 7 – Wendy, around 63? – Either just before or after going to England to study. 63 if after
Rhodesia 6 – Merthyn Davies on left – rest not sure?

Rhodeisa 4 – Iris and Glyn or Merthyn

Rhodesia 3 – 4 Taylors avenue Iris and Norton/ Or BSA Motorbike of Idris or Glyn?

Rhodesia 1 – NO idea

I essentially numbered all the photographs I had and made a summary of all the comments the person I was interviewing made. In later interviews I started recording them word for word. At first glance it doesn't seem like I received much information from them. However, I had an address for the house, the name of several people from many photographs and the name of a house cat and dog. I was fortunate that there were so many pictures to begin sparking the memories. I understand not all can have such fortuitous beginnings.

From here I was able to take specific photographs to specific people. So when I interviewed Glyn I first showed him the photographs that he might recognize and then I asked if he remembered who else was in them or what was going on at the time. Other questions followed:

1) Was this what life in Rhodesia was like?
2) Are there any stories connected with that motorbike? [Short answer - yes and they will come out in another blog post.]
3) Do you know the name of the tree or flowers? - And this led to a story about how much my Grandma loved gardening.

Here are the pictures I began my genealogy search with.

In the course of my questions and research I also discovered much more about Rhodesian/Zimbabwean history than I ever expected.

I can go on and on about this but I shan't. For now at least. There's more to come.

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