23/02/2015
Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

How to interview your relatives

24c0b50b-9ccb-4271-a178-c861edecf097

If you’re lucky enough to be seeing relatives, make the most of the opportunity and enlist their help. Older members of the family, and those from other branches, can be a mine of information, memories and colourful clues to the past, so don’t miss the chance to ask some useful questions. Follow our handy checklist to make the most of your family history interview time.

Top 10 family history interview tips

  1. Download the Family Tree interview sheet below to help you think of useful questions for your relatives.
  2. Be prepared – make sure your biros work, your video camera is fully charged, and the tea and biscuits are to hand (and tissues too – it can be emotional!).
  3. Start with simple questions, to put your sitter at their ease.
  4. Use props to help – old photos can bring memories flooding back, as can songs, home movies, family treasures and collectables.
  5. Be tactful – your sitter may not wish to chat about certain topics.
  6. Get others involved – children and adults, they may enjoy listening to your sitter’s reminiscences too.
  7. Don’t worry if you don’t stick to your pre-prepared questions – you are likely to learn a lot more just by listening and you’ll get wonderful insights to your family you’ll never find in official documents.
  8. Don’t hurry – allow your sitter time to ponder; but equally don’t wear them out. If they enjoy the interview experience, they’re more likely to let you ask further questions in the future.
  9. Try to write up your notes fairly soon afterwards while it’s all fresh in your mind. You may wish to sketch out a family tree, too.
  10. Remember, it’s an interview not an interrogation, so have fun and enjoy the stories that emerge and the chance to revel in times gone by.

Family interview sheet - download & print

Back to "Getting Started" Category

23/02/2015 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

Charles Booth Poverty Maps of London added to TheGenealogist's Map Explorer

TheGenealogist’s Map Explorer now includes a feature that allows users to access Charles Booth's ...


3 key resources for today's genealogist; what to look for & where to find them

Are you just starting your family history, or wishing to brush up on your online research know-how? Our 3 key ...


How to create a family tree chart

Find out which family tree chart is best for you, whatever stage you’re at with your family history research, ...


Making a Mayflower 400 pilgrimage

Four centuries ago the Mayflower Pilgrims set sail for the New World. Discover must-see places to include ...


Other Articles

Which family tree chart should I use?

Confused about the many different genealogy charts that are available? Here's our expert help! ...


Boris Johnson is related to ten US presidents

New research by Gary Boyd Roberts of American Ancestors explores the family tree of UK prime minister Boris ...


FamilySearch users can now correct name indexing errors

FamilySearch have today (31 July) announced a new facility that allows users to make name corrections to its ...


DNA classes at RootsTech London: guest blog

If you are joining us in London for RootsTech this October, now is the time to start organising your ...