ROOTS-L ArchivesArchiver > ROOTS > 2004-01 > 1075001609
From: "Lilly Martin" <>
Subject: [ROOTS-L] RE:interviewing Relatives
Date: Sat, 24 Jan 2004 19:33:29 -0800
Re: Subject: Interviewing relatives
Here are some questions that were forwarded to me from another
Rootsweb list...it's kind of long but informative...Lilly
Suggested Questions--Just to Get You Started
--- Where and when were you born?
--- What do you recall about your childhood?
--- Where did you live and go to school?
--- How long did you attend school?
--- What do you remember best about your parents?
--- What did you and your siblings do in your spare time?
--- Did the family move around quite a bit?
--- What is your favorite childhood memory?
--- What styles of clothing did children wear then?
--- Did your family have any special traditions?
--- Are there any family recipes that are particularly special?
--- Are there any heirlooms that have been passed down from one generation
--- When did you leave home?
--- Why did you leave and where did you go?
--- How long did you attend school?
--- Did you have a favorite aunt/uncle?
--- How did your life change when you left home? Did you feel grown up? Were
you a little scared?
--- When did you get married?
--- How did you meet your spouse?
--- Which significant historical events have taken place during your
--- Did your parents have strong political feelings?
--- Were there wars, natural disasters, or political changes?
--- How did these events affect you?
--- Who was (is) your favorite president?
--- How was your life different after the war?
--- For whom did you cast your first vote?
Immigration (if relevant)
--- How old were you when you immigrated?
--- Who came with you?
--- Were you scared? How did you feel as you undertook this journey?
--- Were did you come from and where and when did you arrive?
--- How did you travel? How did you travel from the coast inland? How long
did the trip take?
--- What was the biggest change you faced?
--- Did you have a difficult time adjusting?
--- Why did you or your family immigrate?
--- Did you ever wish you had never left?
--- What was the biggest adjustment you had to make?
--- What did your parents do for a living?
--- Did your mother work outside the home?
--- Was your family financially comfortable?
--- How old were you when you got your first job?
--- What jobs have you had during your life?
--- Which job was your favorite?
--- What physical characteristics do people in your family share?
--- Which family member do you resemble?
Earlier family members
--- Did you know your grandparents or great-grandparents?
--- What were their names?
--- Where did they live?
--- Why did they move from one location to another?
--- What part did religion play in your family?
--- What church did the family attend?
--- Were you very religious?
--- Did you go to religious services on a regular basis?
Other Possible Topics
Education, Politics, Military Service, Recreation, Family Pets, Traveling,
Dating, Clothing, Family Recipes, Family Medical History, Marriage and
Raising a Family, and just about anything else that is of interest to family
members. Remember that the impact of national and regional events on the
lives of your family members can bring out excellent information as well.
Some Additional Thoughts
--- If the family moved, ask what caused the family to move?
--- If a parent died young, ask how this impacted the family?
--- If a sibling or relative was in a war, ask how this impacted the family?
--- Don't just ask for dates, names, and places. Ask for reasons or
reactions. The reason or reaction can be more interesting than the specific
--- Ask "why" where appropriate, but avoid being overly personal.
No Leading Questions
Do not suggest the answer to the person answering the question. Questions
like "Grandma was born in Ohio wasn't she?" can easily be answered "yes"
when the person is actually not certain. Your goal is to get at an accurate
rendering of what the person remembers. Asking for clarification to
something you misunderstood is fine, suggesting an answer is not.
Hopefully the courthouse, the library, and the cemetery will be around for a
while. Grandma might not be. If she has information in her head you haven't
tried to get out, make an effort. Now I have a few relatives myself I need
to interview, including a few first cousins of my parents and grandparents.
Don't forget the "shirttail" kin as well.