Old Bones on LCTV—Interviewing Relatives

Here’s the video of my interview with “Mrs Buttercup” for Ludlow Community Televisoion. I’m describing the value of contacting relatives for the purpose of learning about their childhood, where they grew up, what their family life was like, what games they played as children and dozens more questions. All of this in the interest of making the cold dry facts of genealogy research come to life by “putting some meat on the bones”, telling a real family story, give your family history some color and make it interesting.  Click this link and take a look: Old Bones on Interviewing Relatives for Family Research.  The sooner a good family researcher gets to their family members, the better the chance to capture the treasures of their memories.

Questions are tailored to trigger those memories.  Here are some examples: “Did you go to your grandmother’s for special dinners, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc?”, “Do you have pleasant memories of the aromas in her kitchen?”, “Can you still “smell them at times?”, “Did your family eat dinner together at the table?”, “Did everyone have their own place to sit?”.  These questions should elicit more than a one word response; they should be the foundation of stories as the person you are interviewing begins to remember their childhood and how they interacted with their family.  Good or bad, you’re sure to get some great stories.  When I interviewed my Great Aunt Sarah, we got to talking about some of the mischief she was involved in.  She admitted to me (and I was the first to hear her “confession”!) that she was the one who painted the neighbor’s cat blue when she was about 7 years old.  She never really liked that cat!!

If you’re going to take on this as a project and get some interviews, I strongly recommend using a digital recorder.  Get permission to use it in the interview.  Some people can be very intimidated by a recording device and small digital recorders can just sit on the table without microphones and other recording technology.  Very soon into the interview, everyone will just forget that it’s there.  After you get permission, ask AGAIN after the recording starts.  You may be getting along just fine today, but you want to make sure that the person’s voice can be clearly heard agreeing to taping the interview .  Not that you’re going to publish the recording or put it in the public donain, but it’s a good idea to get approval!  Take your time…you’re probably not going to get this done in one session.

I’ll be hosting some classes in the interview process and possibly record a “lesson” to post on YouTube wich I’d link here.

Stay tuned!

3 thoughts on “Old Bones on LCTV—Interviewing Relatives

  1. Karen Bobrow

    I love your questions and am going to try some out with my mom today. Several years ago, I tried asking her some very vague questions about growing up like “What do you remember about your childhood.” I got nothing but a blank stare. So I bought some post cards and sent them to her with more specific questions like “What did you and Dad do on your dates?” “Tell me about your first job.” Bingo. Mom sat down and wrote entire letters, and I continued baiting her with more postcards. So that is the key– very specific, thought-provoking questions.

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