116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Clues about a family’s history are often hidden in old, faded documents.
Some of those might be tucked into photo albums, or buried in newspaper archives like The Gazette’s, which are available through the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Some find their way to museums or genealogical societies.
At the Linn County Genealogical Society, volunteers have organized hundreds of original documents that trace people’s births, marriages and deaths. They even have papers that show if and where someone was registered to vote, and who owned different houses or land. The society, located in the Masonic Library at 813 1st Ave SE, takes care of lots of fragile documents that hold the history of many families.
When families go to the society looking for information about their families, a volunteer might give them a list of questions to get started. Often, the best expert on your family is someone in your family — like a grandparent or great-grandparent.
If you can interview someone about your family, try to ask open-ended questions. That way, you’ll get longer answers instead of just a yes or no.
Here are a few samples, provided by the Linn County Genealogical Society, to help you get started.
- Where did you grow up?
- How long did your family live in that area?
- How many siblings did you have? What were their names and how old were they compared to you?
- What were your siblings’ personalities like?
- What other members of your family lived nearby?
- What was your childhood home like? How many rooms did it have?
- What kinds of stores did your town have? Did it have a railroad? A post office?
- What religious ceremonies or activities did you take part in?
- Where did you go to school? What was the Building like?
- Tell me about your favorite teacher.
- What was your favorite subject to study?
- What kinds of games did you play?
- What was your favorite toy?
- Were there any memorable traditions that your family practiced?
- Can you remember any stories that older family members told you when you were a child?
- What events stand out in the memory of your childhood? (Historical, personal, familial)
- Where did your parents meet?
- What did your mother or father do for work?
- Were you ever mentioned in a newspaper? Why?
- What was your first job like?
- When did you move away from home?
- What are some places you’ve been the happiest?