Research Tip of the Week

Tip Tuesday

Take advantage of family gatherings.

This week many families will gather together to celebrate the things they are thankful. These multi-generational events are an excellent opportunity to share the latest genealogical discoveries because the audience is captive at least until someone cuts the pie. Beyond the chance to share family lore though, holiday gatherings can often provide a great chance to preserve family history. Holidays are a wonderful time to do family interviews.

Personal interviews do not have be a formal affair. All you really need is a willing participant, your cell phone to record the interview, and a few questions. Pick a quieter area and have a casual chat.

people at dinner
Photo by cottonbro on

The best idea is to start with the oldest member at the gathering if they are willing and able. Start the interview by turning on your cell to record audio and announcing the name of the interview subject and the date of the interview.

Try to guide the interview toward more positive memories but allow the conversation to flow. Family history interviews can provide some interesting genealogical tidbits, but only if you ask. After your interview make sure to thank the individual you interviewed and save your recording. Holiday season can provide many great situations for genealogical digging.

Get started with a few easy questions!

  • Where and when were you born?
  • What is your earliest memory?
  • Who is the oldest relative you remember?
  • What is your favorite childhood memory?
  • Who was your favorite relative growing up?
  • What were some of the holiday traditions of your childhood?
  • What was your childhood home like?
  • What were the names of their parents?
  • Did you have siblings?
  • What is the longest trip you have even been on?

UCLA Library has a center for Oral History Research. They have a great outline for a family history interview.

Family history is not only digging up old records. It is creating new records today to leave for future generations. Take the time to sit with an older relative this holiday season and record their memories for generations to come. It can add a great extra element for future generations to find and add a fun layer to your current holiday season.

Here is a great article from Family Search about how to easily capture audio with their app.

  8 comments for “Research Tip of the Week

  1. Amy
    November 26, 2019 at 8:12 am

    Suddenly I have become the oldest person at our Thanksgiving table. So someone needs to interview me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 26, 2019 at 8:19 am

      I bet it would be a great interview! This year we will have a small gathering. One kid is deployed with the Army and another (and all the grandkids) are stuck in NC this Thanksgiving. We’ll just be a sad little group of 3 this year.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Amy
        November 26, 2019 at 8:19 am

        We are traveling to my cousins for the day. Otherwise we would also have been a sad little group of four.

        Liked by 1 person

      • November 26, 2019 at 8:21 am

        I hope you have a safe and wonderful trip!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Amy
        November 26, 2019 at 8:37 am

        Thank you! Have a great holiday!


  2. November 27, 2019 at 9:58 am

    I wish I were a better interviewer. I know all these questions, but find it difficult to formally do it. I have done some phone interviews in the past and taken notes, but never done a recorded session. I looked at that Family Search app you linked, but it wasn’t clear how to move these files to my computer from my phone, since I don’t use FS for my family trees.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 27, 2019 at 10:40 am

      I’m terrible at interviews too. I have a living grandmother in her 90’s that I need to interview formally. It never works out. We wind up down this path or down that path of memory lol. I’ll have to work on figuring out the app for FS. I don’t use them much either honestly.

      Liked by 1 person

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