How Do You Get Started


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annie o'greefa

Guest
How do you go about finding information on people that have been dead for many years? I am interested in doing a book, not Titanic related, but I figured you all would have some good advice. The people died in WWII. I live in the States and don't even speak the language of these people, but I would like to find out as much as possible about them. I could use any and all suggestions.
 
May 12, 2005
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Dear Annie,

Research is much simpler than most people think. Admittedly, it is tougher to do work on people who aren't/weren't in the public eye; still you'd be surprised what you can find after only a little cursory digging.

If you know the full names of the individuals you are wanting to find info on and know their dates of death, you can write to a newspaper or archive in the city or country of their residence and order a copy of their obituaries. In England, the British Library's Newspaper Library in London(at Colindale?)would be a good source. Also if you are after birth and death certificates in the UK you can apply to the Public Record Office , Registrar of Births/Deaths, I believe.

Addresses, faxes, phone numbers and the names of appropriate contact-people at these and other agencies who can assist you in your research should be available right on the internet.

The Archives Nationales in Paris is a wonder of info and the staff much more willing to help researchers than is commonly supposed by Americans - but it helps to know a little French. Many librarians there do speak English but I've always found it helpful to communicate in French as much as possible out of courtesy. In my case, I have a limited command of the language so I really had to brush up on my pronunciation when I researched there a few years back. (If you speak ONLY in English, you will indeed be met by the coldness Americans often complain about encountering when in France)

Here in the States, the New York Public Library is a goldmine of possibilities. The many special collections in the various departments are staffed with very knowledgable, thorough, and helpful librarians.

I hope I have helped in some way. And good luck in your projected work.

Randy
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Annie- many of the geneological websites like rootsweb- and passenger list sites can help. Many come with multiple language choice buttons. Tell us a little more about what missing people you are looking for- nationality, circumstances, etc. WE are pretty hot stuff here on finding out things! Census records, military records, marriage licenses, church records- all are a big help. Tell me more my dear- we love the hunt! I found my missing cousin in Papua New Guinea after 50 years- nothing is impossible and never give up!
 

Ben Holme

Member
Feb 11, 2001
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Hi Annie,

Randy and Shelley have highlighted some of the essential devices necessary for successful research. While I don't pretend to have had as much experience as others on this message board (my interest in Titanic is only as old as the 1997 film), I have discovered that travel is particularly useful for researching those who weren't in the "public eye". For example, locating and visiting church graveyards or cemeteries does not only help confirms the various births/deaths but usually provides some fascinating information about the family of the person being researched. Parish registers are also useful for this.

Just my 2p worth.

I wish you the best of luck!

Ben
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Apr 11, 2001
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A lot depends on where the people lived. In 1912 small town newspapers often reported very minor doings of local people. You find things like sports results and the comings and goings of people like doctors and public officials. It takes ages to read them but often just a few words will give you a new lead. Even very minor papers are often available on microfilm these days.
 
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annie o'greefa

Guest
Thank you all! Shelley, I was thinking of writing a book about the other members of the "Secret Annexe" the people that went into hiding with Anne Frank. I have found a fair bit about the Frank family, but nothing to speak of about the rest of the people. Many of the Frank family settled in the US so perhaps I can talk to some of them (HOW on earth do you go about asking total strangers for details about such a horrible subject?!). To make it even more difficult, I am especially interested in the other two adolescents, Margot and Peter that were with her in hiding.
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Annie- am rushing off to work but somewhere I know there is a website for the Jewish Holocaust Museum and Memorial in Washington D.C. There are MANY Jewish history resources.These people you mention should not be hard to get information on. Will be back later with some websites.
 

Dan Cherry

Member
Mar 3, 2000
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Annie,
asking total strangers about difficult subjects is never easy. I have had the same misgivings about contacting people for a current historical project I am working on. It shows that you have respect for the feelings of others in the matter, which of course sheds a lot of light on your intent. I find it difficult to bring the subject of my project to the forefront to people I've never met before. In my case, it usually takes a mutual friend to respectfully ask them on my behalf if they would be willing to share memories of a horrible event in their life. By finding a connection to a possible source for first-hand knowledge, it can often provide you with the information on whether or not someone you'd like to speak with. That way, you're not 'bothering' the person. If the connection is more closely associated with the survivor/relative, perhaps even they can say up front 'yes, they have shared their story before and would be willing to help' or 'no, they never talk about it and don't want to be reminded.'
That's based on my experiences when approaching the matter of sensitive subjects.
 

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