Interview Questions To Ask Of Older Relatives To Capture Your Family History Stories

Hi Everyone!

While just doing some general searching in my effort to help someone in their research, I did come across what I think is a very nice short and simple list of questions to ask of your living relatives to capture genealogical information.

The questions were put together by FindMyPast.  Big thanks to them for putting together a very good list of questions to ask of your older relatives.  Found it on their website.  The link is a little further down in this post.

Why is this important?

If we start asking our living relatives just general questions off the top of our head, we may discover that there were better questions we could have asked.  Sometimes you only get one chance to ask these questions.  It helps if you have a pre-set list of questions to elicit helpful genealogy material.

Another thing we may tend to do (I am guilty of this!) is to start with a question and then we segue into an unplanned series of questions from the responses we are hearing the person provide.  And we just go deeper down the rabbit hole while we realize we did not ask the questions on our list and time has run out.  Maybe we will be lucky to ask our relative the missed questions at another time.  Maybe not!

The questions on the list are very thoughtful and planned to get the most from the responder to help us pursue various aspects of genealogy research e.g Did you have a family that lived close?.  Such a question can expand your research possibilities if you hear about siblings of the responder or parents of the responder that lived close by.  Now you know who they are and can tie them to a specific geographic area.  Another question such as “Is there a naming tradition in the family?”  may allow us to know of a pattern where the firstborn son is named after the paternal grandfather to discover as we do our research.

Having a list of questions will simply keep you focused and not rambling.  Provide questions for which you would like responses in advance of your get-together so the person has had time to think them through.  Having them write responses would even be better but if not that is where you will capture the information via your interview.

Don’t think of doing all of the questions in one setting.  It will exhaust them to the point the responses will not be very good or well thought out.  You will get exhausted thinking you have to go through all of these items quickly.

Take a look at the list.  Consider using these yourself.

Here is the link I found online:

Questions To Use To Interview An Older Relative

Don’t use questions off the top of your head.  You will not obtain the best results. Use a list of questions.  Get the most out of what might be a one time only chance to obtain information from an older relative.

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library

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