Interview Questions


two women huggingYou know one of the best methods of research, other than to gather names, hometowns and dates, is to interview a relative. Not just one, but as many as you can and from different family branches. So the following are suggestions to get you started.

Start with a blank notebook filled with paper. You might, if the person is being interview is OK with it, record on a digital or tape recorder the interview. But still write as much down as possible. At the top of the page place the full name of the person you are interviewing. Leave space if you don’t know a full name or need a females’ maiden name.

interview-notesAdd to the top the answers for the following basic questions. You can number and write each question out and then leave space.

1. Place and date of birth.

2. Mother’s full name, date and place of birth.

3. Father’s full name, date and place of birth.

4. Schooling – names of the various schools attended by person being interviewed and where each school was located.

5. Siblings – names and dates and places of birth for each.

6. Spouse’s full name, date and place of birth. If more than one marriage, ask about each one.

7. The person’s occupation (s) over the years. Ask where they worked (town) and for how long.

8. If a female states they were a ‘housewife’, ask about any type of work they did before marriage.

interview-familyAnother blank page is about the person’s childhood.

1. Ask about the house they grew up in. If there were several, see if the date, place and description of each house is noted. Include to ask about any other buildings or structures near the house, such as a separate garage, a family business, etc.

2. Inside description of the home – how many bedrooms, other rooms such as dining. Ask if there was a fireplace, an attic or basement. Was the water supply from a well? How was the house cooled and heated?

3. The family kitchen – everyone remember the smells and appearance of the kitchen. Ask the person what they remember most about the kitchen and their mother or grandmother working in the kitchen.

4. How close was the local grocery store, schools, theatres, drug store from the family house?

5. Childhood friends – did the person’s friends live in the neighborhood? Ask they remember the friends’ names. What was the best activity to do with one’s friends?

6. Did the parents teach you certain skills? Such as the girls to sew, knit, cook, bake bread, etc. For the boys, to care for a car, use tools, handle a saw or hammer, or gardening.

7. What chores do you remember doing at different ages? Did you get an allowance?

8. Which other relatives (grandparents, aunts-uncles) always was nearby and were there to help you when needed?

Those questions are just the start but not necessarily the ones to complete in one interview session. Don’t tire out the person being interviewed. Just these beginning questions could take several one-hour sessions. You will find additional questions or topics will develop the more you talk to the relative.

Even if you only get a couple relatives interviewed, it will add a great deal to your family history.

Related genealogy blogs:

The Interview

Questioning Older Relatives

Unusual Questions to Ask


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