Here are a few of my best interview tips for gathering your family oral history. Interviewing my living relatives has played an important part in the researching of my family tree.
Interviewing the relatives that you can still talk to will be one of the most important bits of detective work that you engage in. While you will probably also find a lot of information online and by going to libraries, the kind of memories that living family members will have can include all kinds of clues and hints about your ancestors. If you are serious about learning more about your family history, it is critical that you interview your living relatives. Don’t simply sit down and chat about what they remember, come up with a plan for how you will be able to ask the right questions and record the answers.
Best Interview Tips
The best way to get the most out of any conversation is to be able to go back to it and listen to the responses again. You may find out some information that conflicts with what someone has told you, and if you can listen to the way that living relative explained things in the interview, you might catch that they didn’t remember things clearly or that they were intentionally keeping something from you. A recording of the interview will allow you to revisit the conversation again, hearing the exact words spoken by the person being interviewed. If you can’t get a recording device, take notes with as many details as possible. It is very hard to remember dates, names, and details if you have an entire conversation to try to remember.
Additionally, you should come up with a general list of questions to start with. Be specific, but include some very open-ended questions that will help your relatives to explore their memories.
If you heard a story of an incident from one family member while conducting an interview, and another family member was there at the time of the incident, make sure to get a second version of the story. Memory is a fickle thing, and getting more than one perspective can be incredibly helpful.
I hope my best interview tips helped and will serve you well with your next family interview.
by Leonard Smith