A good story, novel, or play turns on a surprise, revealed secret, or unexpected happening. The reader is drawn in and eager to know more.
Our lives are just like that—stories in progress. And it’s important that as our parents age or we plan visits to a beloved uncle or cousin, we ask ourselves if we truly know their complete story. Were they to leave us, would we feel satisfied with what we know about them? Most likely, no.
Family history interview questions can mean the difference between just a cursory knowledge of where a person lived, worked and died, and a deeper understanding of this special person’s specific life and how it has influenced our own living.
Family history interview questions can reveal historical events in the lives of our relatives that intensify our understanding of them, and at the same time often explain or illuminate aspects of our own lives!
Oh, so that’s why three cousins like to play the accordion;
that’s why my family hikes the upper peninsula;
okay now I get why I have always wanted to invent a lifesaving medical instrument.
Simple school assignments related to genealogy or a family tree have often given the student an A, but more importantly revealed to the entire family vast amounts of important information. What we all must do is start now, start before the beloved persons in our lives are gone or their memories are destroyed by Alzheimer’s or dementia.
My husband interviewed his mom when she was diagnosed with emphysema, recording the answers to his questions and later creating a special file that he saved and shared with family. In a quiet setting, long removed from years of raising eleven children, she opened up, telling him her life story, cementing their relationship and underlining the bitter-sweetness of understanding her better just as he was about to lose her.
HOW TO GET STARTED:
Be honest. Ask the person, say that you’d like to know more of their life story. Select a quiet place. Ask permission to either record them or take notes. Video might work too, but it also might seem intrusive. Have a list of questions to cover like those below that include important stages and aspects of a person’s life: childhood, work experience, falling in love and family, overall life experience, and relationships.
FAMILY HISTORY INTERVIEW QUESTIONS:
- What kind of relationship did your parents have?
- Which of your parents were you closer to and why?
- What was the biggest argument you had with your parents?
- What role did you play in your family? With your schoolmates and friends?
- Can you tell me your happiest childhood memories and your saddest?
- What did you imagine your life would be like when you were grown?
- Tell me about your work history.
- What person or mentor influenced your working life?
- Looking back, would you have chosen a different career?
- Did you and your spouse fall in love right away or was it a friendship that grew?
- How would you define love and has that definition changed for you over the years?
- Can you share your favorite parenting memories? The best times? The toughest?
- What would I be surprised to learn about you?
- What was the most difficult decision you had to make in your life?
- What got you through the tough times in your life?
- Is there anything specific you would like to be remembered for?
Photographs will enhance your family history interview. Consider scanning old photos and 35mm slides into your computer. 35mm slides can also be sent to ScanDigital.com who will put them on a DVD disc for you.
Family history interview questions might also reveal important health history so that you and members of your family will better know your family health story.