Tips on Informal Family Interviews

With so many family gatherings within the next few weeks, this is the perfect time to gather information for your family’s story. I’m not saying you need to corner great Aunt Sylvia and hammer her with questions until her eyes glaze over. Please don’t do this; you would give family historians a bad name.

Formally interviewing family members seems so daunting. You have faithfully reviewed your research and  carefully selected the questions. You have triple checked to ensure your equipment is in working order and you have confirmed and re-confirmed that your relative is prepared.

Family gatherings can be informal affairs so take advantage of this moment! Before the next family gathering, review your research and determine what family line you want to know more about. Keep a list of the questions that you want answered. Below are some tips that worked for me at family gatherings.

Timing is everything. Be observant and listen. Wait for opportunities to present itself. There is nothing worse than starting a weighty conversation when too many conversations are going on at once. When the time is right, start a conversation. Have a copy of your tree on your cell phone or carry a paper copy with you. It helps to have this information near by as a reference.  For example, you might ask how great grandma and grandpa met. Aim your question at one or two people to get their perspective but also open the question to other relatives. Multiple perspectives will add depth to your history. Record the interview with your phone or other device so you don’t miss a moment.

Access family photos over your cell phone. In the midst of talking about specific people, it would be great to refer to them in photos. Keep copies of your photos in cloud storage such as Google Photos. You can create shared photo albums so that everyone has access. What’s great about this is that you don’t have to worry about loaning out photos to family members (and hoping you will get them back) or spending the time and money to make copies. Again, record or make a note information that helps to support that picture.

Contact information. Make sure you have relatives latest contact information: cell number, email, Facebook etc… You never know, you may have follow up questions to ask!

Add to your research. Add the conversations, or comments to the note section of your genealogy database. Note the person who gave you the information, the date and any other information that may be relevant.

That’s it! Easy as pie!

Enjoy learning more about your family this holiday season.






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