Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday's Tip #2 -- Interviewing

I have interviewed my grandparents multiple times over the years and each time I always learn more information.

This past Sunday I spent the enitre day with my Grandmother and ofcourse we discussed family history.  I had brought with me a small album with copies of pictures my Grandfather had given me about 15 years ago.  AMong the pictures there were several photos of my Grandmother as a little girl and on the back it said "Gin, Baboosic Lake, New Hampshire."  I knew her parents had a summer home on Cape Cod and I asked her why there were so many photos from Baboosic Lake, had they had a home there as well? 

"Oh no" she says, "my grandmother's brother lived there and we woiuld visit him."

"WHAT???" I said stunned.  Never in ALL the years had she EVER said her grandmother had a brother!!!  Two sisters, yes, brothers....NEVER!!!!!   

It turns out she had TWO brothers!  One, Andrew Nielson (Nilsson), lived with his wife Sarah in New Hampshire, while her other brother, Peter lived in Connecticut with his wife Jeanne.

So with that new discovery I've been reviewing my "list" of questions, and learned one vital rule..............MAKE YOUR QUESTIONS VERY SPECIFIC!!! Do not ask general questions!!

Another thing I learned......always, whenever possible, have handy visual prompts, which may help the person you are interviewing "remember" more detail.

A blog that currently has a list of 50 great questions to ask a relative is Family History with the Lineage Keeper  This is a great list to get you going, but again, whenever possible make the question very specific!!


  1. One of the big questions I forgot to ask my in-laws: "Do you have any old documents - birth certificates, etc. - for your parents, grandparents and so forth?" Turns out they did and one of them broke down a brick wall. Maybe that should have been the first question I asked....

  2. Hi -

    Welcome to GeneaBloggers! You couldn't be more right about interviews! They are the best way to start your research.

    I just wanted to let you know about WikiTree, a free family tree building website with unique privacy controls. WikiTree encourages collaboration and it is perfect for getting all of the living relatives in one place to share information and memories. Sometimes seeing the information that is already posted can stir up some memories. WikiTree also offers family tree widgets, which can be embedded into a blog post or a webpage and they add a nice visual touch to a family story. The widgets are also dynamic, so they are updated any time new information is added to WikiTree. If you have any questions, please let me know.

    Elyse Doerflinger
    WikiTree Evangelist