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Nine Tips for a Great Family History Interview

Family Interviews

Tip One: Set the Stage

Before an interview, you may want to ask the storyteller to gather important information such as the birth dates and places of their parents and siblings, dates and locations of places they lived, or the names of schools they have attended.  Old photos and documents can also help jog the storyteller’s memory.

Tip Two: Do Some Homework

Jot down what you know about the storyteller’s family – names of relatives, family structure, timeline and history – or items of special interest that you want to ask questions about.

Tip Three: Prepare Your Tools

Make sure you have everything you need for the interview so that it goes as smoothly as possible. Your checklist might include the interview questions, something to write on, extra pens or pencils, a working recorder (your smartphone or tablet will work great.

Tip Four: Be Sensitive

Sensitive issues, such as divorces, legal problems, trauma, or tragedy, must be handled with care, but they need not be avoided. The telling of unfortunate stories can bring healing and transformation to both the teller and the listener.

Tip Five: Look for Clues to Family Treasures

Make a special note of any family treasures that might be mentioned, such as family Bibles, journals, pictures, or heirlooms.  Some of these could open up new avenues of discovery in your family’s history.

Tip Six: Verify Names and Places

At the end of the interview, go over the name of every person and place mentioned. Verify these with the narrator for accuracy and correct spelling.

Tip Seven: Share the Wealth

With permission, make copies of whatever you create from the interview to share with family and friends.

Think about sharing the story of your life with your family, or about creating a history of your family, that can be passed on. We have an obligation to those who came before us and also to the unborn to instill the importance of family connections in their hearts. The benefits are just waiting to be discovered.

Tip Eight: Ways to Share

Scrapbook, Stapled, Comb Bound with Cover or Mylar Cover, Perfect Bound, Hard Bound, CD or DVD, online (blog, website, YouTube, etc).

Tip Nine: Places to Share

Immediate Family, Family Organization, Family Reunion, Societies, Newsletters, Journals, Magazines, Internet Websites, Libraries.

Have a great interviewing your family and sharing your discoveries with others. It’s a great time to share family history memories!


Holly T. Hansen is the owner of Family History Expos and answers many of the questions submitted to Ask-the-Pros Q & A. Family History Expos sponsors online classes and live events where you can learn in-depth research skills from the experts.

Family History Expos offers numerous products, books, video classes and research events for personal and in-depth learning. Check their offerings online at


Register online for the “Research Like the Experts and Family History Christmas Gift Expo”