Back to Basics: Conducting Family Interviews

Most childhood memories involve listening to tall-tales at the feet of our older family members. As you look towards the family for source documents do not overlook the stories that may contain important clues.

Interviewing a family member can be a simple process of taking notes during family gatherings to the more complex project of videotaping. No matter what the approach, the most important part of interviewing is to get the information documented.

copyright 2011 LaDonna Garner

Recorded family stories make great clues.

So what do you need to get up and going on your interviewing?
Not much. Consider this tool list for the upcoming holiday gatherings:

  • notebook & pencil
  • digital recorder & batteries
  • video camera & battery
  • camera & batteries
  • 10 to 12 assorted questions you wish to ask each individual
  • take along a few photos or family artifacts for sharing and jogging memories

The questions you pose to perspective interviewees may be specific regarding them or the  family. But do set aside those questions when the interviewee is very forthcoming with stories and other details. You just never know where those stories will lead you!

Below are two websites that offer suggestion lists for typical questions you may wish to include on your list. No matter what questions you ask or how you record the answers,  most important is that you save a piece of family folklore before it slips away to time.

Story Arts, Collecting Family Stories may be for kids but I find it pretty useful for adults too! http://www.storyarts.org/classroom/roots/family.html

Family Folklife Interview has a nice listing of possible questions to consider for interviews.

Leaf’n a family legacy,
LaDonna

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