How to Interview Your Relatives

A few years ago I discovered a great resource for interviewing relatives, the StoryCorps question generator.  Interviewing relatives is a great way to learn more about your family.  Records may tell you when and where someone was born or died, but in an interview you can learn more about a person’s personality and what they really cared about.

The question generator is located at  They have a variety of great questions to choose from.  But you don’t need too many questions.  For an hour long interview you may want fifteen or so questions, give or take.  I like to ask about the personalities of their older ancestors that they knew.  One question I suggest is “How would you like to be remembered?”  In my experience the answer to that has been particularly insightful.

Holidays can be particularly good times for interviews.  If the family is getting together for Thanksgiving or other special occasion, consider taking some time to interview your older family members.

Give the question list to your interviewee before the interview so they have some time to think about their responses.  If the interviewee agrees, make an audio recording of the interview, using your preferred technology, such as your phone.  During the interview, give the interviewee plenty of time to respond.  Use “Tell me more,” if you feel there is more to their answer.  And at the end, be sure to thank them for their time and say how you appreciate them.



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