July 28, 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’s Friday Feast 28 September 2007




Friday’s Feast

Appetizer
How are you today?

Feeling a bit groggy. I stayed up too late messing with my blog. I had planned to sleep until I woke up, but the phone rang. Dang the luck! :sad:

Soup
Name 3 television shows you watch on a regular basis.

CSI (Miami and Las Vegas; can’t stand the NY one); Cold Case and Without A Trace. :grin:

Salad
What’s the scariest weather situation you’ve experienced?

Many. The Columbus Day storm of 1963; a near miss by a tornado in 1972; evacuating Amelia Island, FL when Hugo was headed our way. :shock:

Main Course
If you could wake up tomorrow morning in another country, where would you want to be?

I would love to be in Scotland. I hear the pipes calling me! :wink:

Dessert
What do you usually wear to sleep?

A sleep shirt, or nothing at all. :cool:

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A Festival of Postcards: Wheels

will-yates-1909-front-back-card

will-yates-1909-front-back-card

Jim and I are going out of town for a few days on a car trip, so I want to leave you with a recent post. I’m participating in a genealogy carnival A Festival of Postcards, with the topic this time of “wheels”. You may not see many actual wheels in this picture, but it was taken in Springfield, Missouri in 1909 when my Grandfather Will Yates was just a young man. That’s him on the far right with the white neckerchief around his neck.

will-yates-1909-mo-back-of-card

I believe this picture was taken at a railroad repair yard (hence, the wheels connection).  Grandpa was writing to his father Jim Yates in West Plains, Missouri and the short note reads, “Hello how are you all down there? How is the corn. Write to me. W. Yates”.

This photo is special to our family because it is the earliest one we have of Grandpa Will. I have never seen any baby or childhood pictures of him, but times were tough and our family wasn’t anywhere near wealthy. Grandpa was born March 14, 1892, so he would have been around 17 years old when this picture was taken. That may seem young now to be out working, but I bet he had been working for a few years (or all of his life in some way) even before that.

will-k-yates-as-a-young-man

The above photo was taken around the same time. Looks pretty dapper, doesn’t he? For a little added “wheels” the photo below is my dad at age two in the car they rode in when the family came to Washington state. Take note: There was no windshield on the car in this picture, or for that road trip either. Grandma must have been a saint!

wg-yates-1922-with-truck

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