25 Questions for Interviewing Relatives

By Lisa Vogele, Genealogist & Travel Consultant @ Travel Your Tree

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Gathering what you already know is one of the first steps in starting research on your family tree. Interviewing relatives over the phone or better yet, in person, and looking for clues & documents that already exist can jumpstart your research, save time and money. Often aunts, uncles, cousins have become the keepers of their branch of your tree’s information. They may have original records stashed away for your common ancestor or remember stories that can provide useful clues in furthering your own research.

Holidays are an ideal time when many people are gathered around the dinner table and enjoying catching up before and after meals. If your relatives are older, don’t wait for a holiday, do it now! I highly recommend investing in a digital recorder or using your smart phone to digitally record the interview so you can listen intently to what is being said and take the conversation in new directions rather than trying to scribble down every note and missing potential opportunities for discovery.

Here are 25 questions to get you started in gathering information from relatives, review them then add some of your own:

  1. What is your full name, did you have a nickname and were you names after anyone else in your family?
  2. When & where were you born and did you live different places while growing up?
  3. Did you have any siblings? What are their names and who did they marry?
  4. What is your spouse’s full name and where did they grow up?
  5. What did you and your spouse do for a living?
  6. What is your earlies childhood memory?
  7. Do you have any vital records (birth, marriage & death) or immigration & naturalization records that I could make a copy of/take photo of for my records?
  8. What were the names of your mother’s parents?
  9. When and where were they born? Where did they live throughout their life?
  10. What did your parents & grandparents do for a living?
  11. Did your parents and grandparents have many siblings? What are their names and who did they marry?
  12. Do you have any personal memories of her parents & grandparents you could share?
  13. What were the names of your father’s parents?
  14. When and where were they born? Where did they live throughout their life?
  15. Do you have any personal memories of his parents & grandparents you could share?
  16. Did your parents and grandparents have many siblings? What are their names and who did they marry?
  17. Did you know your grandparents well & did you see them often?
  18. Did you have family get togethers or reunions when you were growing up?
  19. What do you remember hearing about your great-grandparents?
  20. Did your grandparents or great-grandparents come to the United States from a foreign country? Were there any stories told in your family about the crossing?
  21. Did they ever mention any town, region or country names to you?
  22. Do you know if you have any relatives in foreign countries?
  23. Are there any traditions that you or anyone in your family still enjoy today?
  24. Do you know of any relatives that may have done some genealogy work on our family before?
  25. What historical events do you remember growing up?

You many find additional questions about childhood, education, family relationships, extended family, family friends and life tips to provide great information that gives color and life to your family’s history.

 

Lisa Vogele is a professional genealogist & travel consultant at Travel Your Tree. Travel Your Tree provides genealogy research services, custom vacation planning, private and guided tours. Lisa is also the author of Food & Folklore: A Year of Italian Festivals and is currently working on her second travel guide featuring festivals of Spain. She can be reached at lisa@travelyourtree.com or 970-703-4182.