As we get together with family, especially over the holidays, this is the perfect time to conduct family interviews. If you have done much research on your family history, you likely have some questions that some older members of your family might be able to answer. What’s more, there might be some great stories you never knew. Getting your family to share stories over the dinner table is so much fun. Be sure to bring a recording device of some kind!
You might also plan to visit more distant family members that you’ve discovered through your research. You may have connected with new DNA cousins and have planned to meet up and share information. These tips will help you prepare:
Tips for Planning the Family Interview:
- To help jog memories bring: a pedigree chart, family group sheets, any old photos you have on that family line. Having these things in front of you helps bring up memories and stories.
- Determine the venue for your interview such as a family gathering or a one-on-one setting.
- Think about who’s invited: if you don’t want too many distractions you might limit the number of people during the interview.
- How many family members will you visit? Plan with maps if you are unfamiliar with the area and make a schedule.
- Send a thank-you note when you get home.
What’s in the bag?
Be sure to bring the following:
- Recording device, phone app, digital recorder, or notepad & pens/pencils
- Camera – to photograph photos, documents, and other family artifacts
- Questions – What do you want to know? Make a list of questions to ask ahead of time, but be sure to be flexible. Also, ask open-ended questions to get more information.
- DNA kits – you never know when you’ll find someone whose DNA will help with a research project
- Extras – extension cords, batteries, tripod, plugs, chargers, etc.
- A small gift or something genealogical to share
Resources for Interviews:
- UCLA Library Center for Oral History Research
- Cyndi’s List – Travel & Research » General Resources
- Polking, Kirk. Writing Family Histories and Memoirs. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 1995.
- Spence, Linda. Legacy: A Step-by-step Guide to Writing Personal History. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1997.