May 24, 2015

How To Do A Genealogical Interview

Hand with pencil

Get comfortable

If you have made arrangements ahead of time to interview a particular person, try to do it in a quiet setting where there will be little or no interruptions. If you will be tape recording your subject, make sure ahead of time that your recorder is in prime working order (batteries, settings, etc.) and set it close enough to pick up all the dialog, especially if you have a quiet speaking interviewee. Talk about general topics if you will be taking notes, to get them comfortable with the interview setting. Speak slowly and clearly. Tell your subject that you will give them a break when they need one.

Begin with the basics

Depending on what you might already know about your subject’s name and birth dates, you can skip that information and focus on other questions that might give you more background information.

Some questions to ask:

  • Where were you born? (City, state, country)
  • Were you born at home, or in a hospital or nursing home?
  • Do you know what time of day you were born?
  • Was there a world event that took place the same day? (End of a war, weather event, etc.)
  • Were there other siblings? (This could lead to a long answer, so maybe save it to ask in a separate session.)
  • Where do you fall in birth order?
  • Did your parents both work? What were their professions?
  • What do you know about your mother’s/father’s ancestors? (City, state, country)
  • Are there any celebrities in your family tree?
  • Why did they come to the United States from that country?
  • Did they bring any family traditions with them?
  • What important lessons did you learn from your (Mother, father, grandparents, etc.)
  • Who were the best story tellers in your family?
  • What will you always remember about them?
  • Were you taught any special skills? (Cooking, carpentry, sewing, fishing, hunting, etc.)
  • What were the things you did as a child, teen, and adult that have given you the most pleasure?
  • Were you ever in any accidents?
  • What were the newest discoveries during the time you were growing up?
  • How has the world changed since you were a child?
  • In what way was the world better then?
  • What was your favorite subject in school?
  • What did you like to do after school?
  • Did you ride a bike to school, a bus, or walk? Or, were you taken to school by car?
  • Did you get good grades?
  • What was the extent of your formal education?
  • Is there anything that you would like to tell me about that you feel I should know?

Don’t expect to get all of your questions answered in one sitting. Take this list with you and highlight the most important things you want to know. If your subject is willing to answer more questions, then go back and ask your secondary questions.

Depending on your relationship with the subject, keep in mind that your questions could bring up sad or angry memories. If they do, either move on,change the subject or end the interview. This should be a fun exercise, not something unpleasant. Happy interviewing! :)

iPentimento Adds Family Tree Magazine Affiliation

A Genealogy Affiliation

I’ve been doing a little housecleaning on iPentimento lately, clearing out affiliate ads that were not working for me. Today I added a new one that I hope you’ll find interesting if you are a genealogy enthusiast.

For the last two years I have been a subscriber to Family Tree Magazine and I just love it. Every article is helpful and well researched, as well as interesting to the seasoned or new family researcher

It isn’t so much that I want to make money as an affiliate for the magazine as much as it is that I believe they are one of the best genealogy teaching mags around.

Helpful Genealogy CD’s

One of the things I really like about the magazine is that they make all of their past issues available on CD, as well as their State Research Guides for all 50 states plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico.

In the magazine the research guides are included in each issue as a pullout to keep in your records, but if you are just now subscribing they make sure you aren’t left out by making all of the guides available in CD format.

Worldwide Genealogy

This isn’t a magazine just for United States genealogists, but a resource for everyone worldwide.

Family Tree Magazine Online

Have you visited the Family Tree Magazine website yet? Whether you subscribe to the magazine through my link (I hope you do), or through their site link, I guarantee you will find the magazine a “keeper”.

Make sure you sign up for Family Tree Magazine’s free newsletter too.

Subscribe To Family Tree Magazine Today

If you do subscribe, come back and tell us if the subscription has been helpful in your research. If you’re already a subscriber, please leave a comment and tell everyone why you like it too.

50 Interview Questions for Family Biographies

I don’t even have to bring it up anymore, the subject of genealogy and family history is always a topic at any family gathering I attend anymore. Last Thursday was no different, and I mentioned to my nephew’s mother-in-law (also named Carol) that I had thought about interviewing my brother.

She is the guilty party person that got me into doing genealogy seriously way back in 1994, so she was all for that idea. But, how do you go about interviewing your sibling, or anyone for that matter? What questions should you ask? I happened upon 50 of them in an article by Kimberly Powell at About.com that I think might just fit the bill.

I copied the questions and sent them to my brother in an email, telling him to take his time answering them so he doesn’t get overwhelmed. I did have to caution him to keep his wicked famous sense of humor in check…but other than that, he shouldn’t have any problems. I told him that I was going to answer the questions too so he wouldn’t feel like he was the only one laboring through 50 questions.

Dual Citizenship Through DNA Results?

DNA Testing

As someone who has elected to have my own DNA tests done, I can see that if the various DNA testing labs keep making it affordable, this is going to be an industry that will keep on growing. I know my Cherokee friend said that her family members are investigating having their’s done too.  Right now, as the article says, the backlog for all of us might be a big problem.

African Americans

More U.S. blacks seek African roots – UPI.com
Right now, the problem I see is that we have a long way to go to get all of us into more definitive family groups. I was surprised at the concept of having a dual citizenship through DNA results for African American people, but it makes sense to me. My own family tree is probably too diluted to apply for the same citizenship for Sweden, even though my Great Grandparents emigrated from there. Truthfully though, I don’t consider myself a Swedish-American. I’m just American citizen of the USA.

Dual Citizenship

Would you seek dual citizenship if it was available to you?