Your Family History: Collecting Stories

Your Family History: Collecting Stories

Amy Azzarito
Dec 17, 2008

We thought we had a good handle on our own family history. Then some years ago, we interviewed our great-grandfather for a class assignment and uncovered so many unknown little details. We realized that even though we knew some family stories, there was so much we didn't know. Our relatives had gotten in the habit of telling the same stories over and over, and we were guilty of never asking questions.

As we spend time with family this Holiday season, we hope to delve further into our own family history. It is such a gift to be able to learn more about our family, and we've found that our grandparents and other relatives deeply appreciate our interest in their lives. We've compiled a list of questions to help get the ball rolling. (And if you're working on documenting your own family history, don't forget the video camera or audio recorder!)

This list has been put together from 50 Questions for Family History Interviews:

  1. When and where were you born?

  2. How did your family come to live there?

  3. Were there other family members in the area? Who?

  4. What was the house (apartment, farm, etc.) like? How many rooms? Bathrooms? Did it have electricity? Indoor plumbing? Telephones?

  5. Were there any special items in the house that you remember?

  6. What is your earliest childhood memory?

  7. Describe the personalities of your family members.

  8. What kind of games did you play growing up?

  9. What was your favorite toy and why?

  10. What was your favorite thing to do for fun (movies, beach, etc.)?

  11. Did you have family chores? What were they? Which was your least favorite?

  12. What world events had the most impact on you while you were growing up? Did any of them personally affect your family?

  13. Describe a typical family dinner. Did you all eat together as a family? Who did the cooking? What were your favorite foods?

  14. How were holidays (birthdays, Christmas, etc.) celebrated in your family? Did your family have special traditions?

  15. Are there any stories about famous or infamous relatives in your family?

  16. Have any recipes been passed down to you from family members?

  17. Where and when did you get married?

  18. Why did you choose your children's names?

In addition to these questions, be sure to ask for the names of their parents, and their parents' parents (as far back as can be remembered). This will be helpful if you intend to do more family research.

Best of the Web Genealogy List
from the New York Public Library
Family Interviews from
a story about interviewing family members from

Photos from Flickr Creative Commons members: The Library of Virginia, Catholic Virginian family & The Smithsonian Institute, family at Christmas

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