To start gathering your family memories, arrange for a time to “interview” your subject. Your subject can be anyone from yourself (you get to be the interviewer and the interviewee), your spouse, a parent, grandparent or favorite relative. If the interview process seems too long for one sitting, arrange a weekly or monthly time to meet, until you are finished.
You can preserve the interview by videotaping it. Virtually every cell phone has a video camera feature. There’s no need to even go out and buy expensive equipment anymore! But if you want to, there are great digital video cameras available that will allow you to make a memory with near professional results. Your family memories are a treasure and worth the investment.
Also, if your subject is not comfortable being interviewed, they can also write their answers from a list of questions you provide them. Then, you can have them read their answers aloud on audio or video.
Make your subject as comfortable as possible. Provide refreshments and thank them for their time.
Start with the basics:
Have them give their name, their place and date of birth. Have them give their age at the time of the interview.
You can print out the following questions to use during your interview. These are only suggestions — ask about anything you might find interesting, or that you know is an interesting part of your subject’s life.
What are three words that best describe your overall life?
What was the happiest time of your life?
What was the hardest part of your life?
Who influenced you the most in your life?
Now, let’s go back to your childhood. Tell me, how many brothers and sisters do you have and where do you fall in the order?
What were the names of your brothers and sisters?
Who were you closest to?
When you were born, what did your parents do for a living?
Would you say you were poor, comfortable, or well off as a family at that time?
What was your neighborhood like?
Who were your neighborhood friends?
Would you describe your childhood as a happy time?
Why or why not?
What did you do for fun on the weekends?
Did you and your family take vacations?
What did you do?
Where did you go to elementary school?
Did you like school?
How were your grades?
Did your parents read to you?
What was your favorite childhood book?
What was your best subject in elementary school?
Did your teachers make you feel good about yourself?
Who was your favorite teacher?
Did your family move around a lot when you were a child?
Back to your parents – what was your mom like?
Was she affectionate with you?
Did she have any nicknames for you?
What do you know about her background?
What about your Dad?
Were you close to him growing up?
What about his background?
What words do you most remember from your mom and dad?
When you were a child, what did you think your adult life would be like?
Did you dream of a career or traveling or having a home, or anything like that?
What were your high school years like?
Did you like high school?
Were you involved in any activities?
Who were your best friends?
How would you describe yourself in your high school days?
After high school, did you go straight to work or continue with more schooling?
What were those years like?
If you did go to college, did you apply yourself?
How did you decide what to study?
What was your college campus like in those days?
What was your favorite course?
How did you choose your career?
If you had it to do over again would you choose the same one?
Tell me about your first job.
What was your work philosophy over the years?
Did you enjoy going to work?
What was the highlight of your career?
Now, let’s talk about relationships.
Tell me how you met __________ (spouse).
How old were you each when you met?
Did you date right away or were you friends first?
What attracted you to him/her?
When did you know this was someone you could marry?
Describe how you two got engaged?
Who did you tell first?
How long was your engagement?
Did your parents approve of the marriage?
Where were you married?
Describe your ceremony and reception.
Where did you go for your honeymoon?
How long was your honeymoon?
Where did you two live when you were first married?
Did you each work?
How much money did you both make annually?
What was the hardest adjustment you had to make to marriage?
Did you feel like you went into marriage prepared?
What advice would you give to someone considering marriage?
How would you advise them to choose a mate?
Did you plan on having children?
How long had you been married when you expected your first child?
How did you choose his/her name?
Where was he/she born?
Were you there at the birth?
Tell me about the births of all of your children?
How did children change your marriage?
What’s the best parenting advice you ever received?
What advice would you give?
What was your discipline philosophy regarding your children?
What was the happiest time of raising your children?
What about the saddest or hardest?
Would you have done anything differently?
Now let’s talk about your faith.
What are your beliefs about God?
What role has faith played in your life/?
What role does it play now?
Do you read the Bible?
If so, do you have a favorite verse?
What do you believe happens after we die?
As you look back over your life, what significant world events do you remember most? (Kennedy assassination, moonwalk, Viet Nam War, September 11)
What other events shaped your life – the defining moments?
Did you ever go through serious illnesses or injuries?
How did you pull through?
Do you have any hobbies or interests?
What about in the past?
Are you / were you artistic or musical?
Did you enjoy movies?
What are your three favorite movies?
Do you like to read?
What are your three favorite books?
What about politics – did you vote regularly?
How were you registered – democrat, republican or other?
Do you enjoy travel?
Would you have liked to have traveled more?
What was your best travel experience?
If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?
What would you like future generations to know about you?