Preserving Living Genealogy: How to Conduct a Family History Interview
Summer is coming! Anticipated vacations are being planned, and family reunions are in the works. Now is the perfect time to begin arrangements for capturing the memories and stories of older generations. Here are some suggestions for conducting a quality family history interview to preserve the stories of your loved ones.
Preparing for a Family History Interview
Set a specific time, date, and place for the interview. Plan to spend about an hour to an hour and a half, with options to meet again. Cover the basics in a written questionnaire that can be mailed to the person ahead of time. This should include names and birth and marriage dates and places for themselves, their parents, and siblings, along with any death or burial information for those who have passed on. Also include addresses they remember, schools they attended, jobs they have held, military service, hobbies, and community or church involvement. Check out our article, 9 Tips for Interviewing Family Members, for additional advice to help your prepare for the family history interview.
Recording a Family History Interview
While professional-grade video and sound equipment is the best choice, a lavalier mic that clips to their collar paired with the video recorder on your smartphone will also work–just make sure the mic cord is long enough to reach your device! An inexpensive tripod may be purchased for your mobile device to ensure the video is stable. Conduct a test run before the interview starts to be sure recording equipment is working properly. Check to see there is enough light and their voices can be heard. Before beginning, be sure the person is comfortable, with a glass of water nearby.
Conducting a Family History Interview
Come prepared with questions to keep the conversation lively. Structure queries so that they can’t be answered with a yes or no, or single words. Use the questions below as a guide and tailor others to what you already know about the person’s life.
- What is one of your earliest memories about your childhood?
- Describe your daily routine as a child. Which chores were yours?
- Tell me your version of the story when … (you hit your brother with a croquet mallet, Grandpa killed a snake in the milk house, whatever the basis of a family story everyone knows.)
- What is the worst trouble you ever got into in school? At home?
- Which talents did you spend time developing? How did those serve you in later life?
- What honors or awards came your way?
- How did you spend your free time as a teen?
- What were your responsibilities at your first paying job? How much did you make?
- Tell me about your wedding day. How was the weather? Describe the place, the people who were there, the decorations, the food. Where did you go for your honeymoon?
- What were the best and worst parts about raising your children?
- What challenges in your life have made you stronger? Which felt that they would keep you down forever?
- Where was the most memorable place you have visited? What made it memorable?
- What are the biggest changes you have seen in your lifetime?
Sharing the Family History Interview with Others
Once the interview is complete, be sure that family members of all ages and technical abilities have access to this family heirloom–whether that be by saving the file to the cloud and sharing the link, sharing the files on a USB drive, posting on social media, or creating a CD. Remember to transfer the files to newer storage options as technology develops. However these memories are shared, preserving the stories of your loved ones is one of the best tributes they can receive.
At Legacy Tree Genealogists, we love to help you tell your family’s story. If you need help uncovering the stories of your ancestors or preserving your family history with a beautifully written biography, our team of experts can help! Contact us for a free quote today.
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