The hardest part of beginning a family history book can be knowing where to start. If you have a story in mind or a manuscript on the back burner, you’re well on your way. (If this is the case, check out the Samples page for ideas of how to bring this idea to life!) If you don’t have a story already percolating, the process often begins with a family interview. This gives you the opportunity to learn more about yourself, your family, and the history of how you came to be where you are today.
Open-ended questions help keep the family interview session flowing productively, unveiling stories and memories you might never have heard before. Preparing a list of questions to ask before you begin your family interview allows you to naturally follow up on ideas without struggling to find a suitable next question or getting lost in brain fog.
Here are ten open-ended questions you might ask in your family interview session:
1. How did your parents choose your name? Did you have any other nicknames – if so, how did they come about?
2. What traits did you most admire in your parents? Tell a story from your life that illustrates these traits if you can.
3. Who is/was your favourite relative and why? Who is/was your least favourite relative and why?
4. How far back can you trace your family history? Do you recall stories of your grandparents on either side?
5. What achievements are you most proud of?
6. How did you meet your current spouse? How long did you know them before you got married?
7. How old were you when you became a parent, and were you ready? Were you strict or lenient as a parent?
8. What values do you feel were most important to pass on to your children, and do you think you were successful?
9. Describe one event or experience that changed the way you thought about the world.
10. What significant life challenges have you experienced? How did this event change your life?
Hopefully, these questions begin to help you think about your own life and give you ways to ask productive questions to your friends and family about their own life stories. When your family interview is complete, head over to the Samples page to see how these memories can be transformed into a beautiful book for your whole family to share.