Research your Family Heritage with Personal Interviews
“Every person is a library, just waiting for you to check out their book.”
Understanding your ancestral roots and learning more about your family legacy is a great way to celebrate Family History Month.
First, decide on a person to interview. After you have selected your interviewee, gather what information you already know about them. Are there some photographs you can bring to jog their memory? Are there family stories for which you want to gain their perspective?
Second, review the questions below. Use one category at a time or blend a few together. These questions are suggestions to help you get started. Depending on the interviewee’s answers, the discussion may take a whole new direction. If the interviewee agrees to be recorded, even better.
You can ask these questions over time or you can gather together during an event. Include grandchildren, too, if the interviewee agrees. The holidays can bring families together and it’s an ideal chance to reminisce. Some interviewees may be hesitant to talk about themselves or the past, so find way to make them as relaxed as possible. Perhaps a cup of tea or hot chocolate would help. Encourage them to share what they are comfortable with and what they do remember.
Third, enjoy everything you learn and have fun!
- What is one of your favorite memories from your childhood?
- What is the earliest memory you recall?
- Who were you closest to in your family?
- Who did you admire most in your family when growing up?
- Who were your heroes?
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
- Can you describe your childhood home?
- Did you get along with your brother and sisters?
- Did you have chores? What was your favorite and least favorite?
- What games did you like to play?
- Who were your friends growing up?
- Did you have pets?
- Did you learn a musical instrument?
- To what music did you listen?
- What sounds and smells remind you of your childhood?
- What was your favorite food as a child?
- What schools did you attend?
- What were your favorite subjects? Least favorite?
- What were your favorite foods growing up?
- Did your family attend church? If yes, where?
- In what social events did your family participate?
- Who was your favorite teacher?
- How did you celebrate holidays? (Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day).
- What traditions do you remember? Did you commemorate the days with German Russia customs?
Work / Career
- What was your first job?
- What was your favorite job and why?
- What was your least favorite job and why?
- How did you meet your spouse?
- When did you decide to get married?
- Can you describe your wedding day?
- Did you go on a honeymoon?
- What is/was the best thing about your spouse?
- Tell me about the day(s) that your child(ren) were born.
- How did you choose your children’s names?
- Who was the oldest person in your family that you remember? What was their full name?
- What were your parents like? How did they meet? What were their names?
- Can you tell us your grandparents, great-grandparent’s names? How far back to you have your family tree?
- Who left Russia and came to this country? Why did they leave?
- In which villages did they live? (Use German Russian settlements to locate with the interviewee).
- What did they tell you about their lives in Russia?
- Where did they travel when they arrived? Where did they settle?
- Were you named after someone in your family?
- If you could talk to one of your ancestors, who would it be and why?
- What was the earliest significant historical event you remember? (Prompt with the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor attack, D-Day, John Kennedy shooting, Woodstock, when Elvis died, when the Berlin Wall fell, or 9-11 depending on the individual’s lifespan). Where were you when this happened? How did this event impact you?
- Check back soon for new topics to come…Military and Travel