Q: The biggest problem is that my paternal grandfather had the last name "Kimmer" but that was not his birth name. As a child something happened to his parents and he was adopted by friends of the family named Kimmer. So, although my maiden name was Kimmer, I'm really not a descendent of that family. Any suggestions on how I would find out the real last name of my grandfather? We are estranged from my father's side of the family and my father has no idea of the heritage. -- Claire
A: Adoption research, usually performed by the adoptees themselves, can prove difficult. Changes in how adoptions are handled affect the information available to adoptees seeking their birth parents. Depending on when the adoption took place, you may find mention of it in the local newspaper. That should be your first stop if you know where the adoption took place. You may also want to check and see if the adoptive parents were granted guardianship before they adopted him. While adoption records are generally sealed, guardianship records are not.
If neither of the above options reveals the information you seek, you may want to turn your attention to some of the adoption sites and groups that are available. They will have information about the records generated at the time period and in the locality where your grandfather was adopted. Some of these sites include:
You will also want to read Maureen Taylor's All About Adoption Research which will give you more information about adoption research and about the avenues open to you and the problems you may come up against.
Adding to a Tree
Q: I have been able to locate several trees online that are definitely part of my family. When I do a kinship report, I make sure that they are indeed in line from my father or me. However, when you research your family tree, do you only include information that relates to your direct line? Or, do you include parents of people that married into your line. For example, my great aunt married, and on the kinship report her husband would be listed as "husband of the great aunt." Of course, the children are cousins. But if I find information on the husband's parents and their children, do genealogists put this information into this family tree or just ignore it? I'm curious because I want my tree to be right. -- Kathy
A: There really is no one answer to your question. Many researchers concentrate on just their direct line, entering limited information about the siblings of that direct lineage but others add anything they find as they are researching.
You need to decide what the scope of your research will entail. Do you want to concentrate on the direct lineage? If so, then you may not want to include all the information you find on the other individuals, especially the parents of a spouse of a sibling.
Of course, this does not mean you cannot have another database where you amass anything you find regardless of who you find it on. Many times when we are up against a difficult lineage, perhaps a brick wall, it becomes necessary to research the numerous individuals who had a fleeting connection to our ancestor. Generally when I am against such a research problem, I will create a new database so that I have the freedom to record information about many different individuals even though these people will no longer be as important after the research problem is solved.
Regardless of what you decide, remember that it is generally easier to add individuals than it is to remove them. So if you have, to this point, limited the database to your direct lineage, I would create a separate database for the additional information you are finding on those who are not actually related by blood to your direct line. That way you have the information, but it is not overwhelming you by all being in the one database.
Keeping a History of Now
Q: I am planning to start interviewing my family members to keep a video history of things as they are now. I can find lots of information about interviewing adults but what I need are suggestions for interviewing children. Do you have any ideas? -- Joanne
A: Keeping a history of everyone is a wonderful project, especially when you include the children. I know that I look fondly at the video we have of my children, even if the kids themselves are not thrilled to see those come out. However, when it comes to recording a history of a child, you are correct, you'll want to use a children-friendly set of questions.
While a child may not have lived as long as a grandparent, they have many thoughts they are wanting to share. A project such as yours gives them that opportunity. Some of the questions you might to include, beyond the basics, in your video interview of a child may include:
- How much they weigh at the time of the interview (and perhaps if they know what they weighed at birth they can say much they have grown).
- What their favorite color is and why.
- The name of their best friend and what they like to do with him or her.
- The names of their pets and what each one is.
- What they think is special or unique about their pets.
- Questions about what they like and don't like in school.
- Questions about their favorite singers or actors or television shows.
- Questions about favorites foods.
- Questions about sports activities or other things they do for fun.
These are just a few ideas of questions to ask them. You might want to look into the various genealogy books geared toward kids. They often have special sections of questions for the children to fill out that are tailored to different age groups. Such questions would work well in your video history.