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Grandpa Would've Known....

Wish I Had Asked More Questions

William Robert Couch

My grandfather died when I was 16. He was fairly young, only 64 when he died, just three months after his father died. He was born the year that Spindletop made Texas "oil country", the oldest of his siblings, he attended college before he graduated high school, he worked the oil fields at Ranger, Texas during their short-lived oil boom and became a civil engineer, working for the Santa Fe railroad and later the United States Weather Bureau.

But this story isn't really about him. It is about my mother and I. We did lots of research together. We shared information and had many discussions, some heated, about what this information or that information meant and where it could lead us.

The one thing that we shared was that I would say "Grandpa would have known the answer." Or she would say, "Daddy would have known about that." We both agreed that we both should have asked more questions.

But I was young and had my head buried in a book. Family history was only interesting to me when I heard the stories. Wish I could remember them all.

Mother did not start researching until ten years after her father died, so she never asked what he knew about his family.

What's the Point Here?

While I had only one grandparent still living when I started my research, I still had several great aunts and uncles and many older cousins.

I visited several of these great aunts and uncles and some of my grandparents cousins, but I was only interested in photographing their pictures. I half-listened to their stories. I did try to pick up on what the pictures were about.

I should have asked more questions.

Why Listening and Asking Are Worth the Time

Several of my mother's cousins are still alive. One of them visits my home once or twice a year. I now listen to his stories. (Remember I have learned from my lost opportunities.)

The most revealing story was at a Thanksgiving celebration in my home. He and his children had come for dinner and he was telling his stories. I knew he had been married several times, so I asked him how many times he had been married and he said, "Five." Both his daughter and I were shocked. We knew he had been married 4 times. So I asked who his first wife was. Turns out, his first marriage lasted less than 24 hours. The girl's father found out and had it annulled the very next day. None of us knew.

What I Learned

I learned that I should have asked more questions.

I learned that when I listen to the older members of my family, I find out interesting things.

It's never too late to start asking questions and listening to the stories.

Click here (What Do I Do Next) to learn how to interview your family to get great family stories and clues.


P.S. Comment on my experience or add your own experiences in successful interviews and missed opportunities .

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