Researching your family history can often lead to amazing stories and uncovering astounding facts. Imagine learning that your great grandparents were prominent local citizens back in the 1800s or that your great uncle invented something that is still used today! These are the types of stories that allow family history to live on and strengthen familial bonds.
Your elderly relatives are treasure troves of family information. If you document their stories, someday you could give the precious gift of family history to your grandchildren. Sit down with a favorite elderly relative and ask these questions to learn more about your family. The sheer differences between their childhoods and your own might astound you! Make sure to write down or record the answers so that you can share the information with future generations.
- Where were you born?
- What’s your earliest memory from childhood?
- Describe the house you grew up in. How many rooms and bathrooms did it have? What was the kitchen like? What was the neighborhood like?
- What kind of games did you play growing up?
- What was your favorite toy as a child?
- What did you do for fun?
- What kind of fads (hair, clothing, music) were popular when you were growing up?
- What were your family’s holiday traditions?
- What world events do you remember happening while you were growing up?
- What was your favorite family meal as a child?
- Do you have any recipes that have been passed down through your family?
- Are there any physical characteristics that run in your family? Who has them?
- How did you meet your spouse?
- When and how did you decide to get married?
- What is your favorite memory from your wedding day?
- What do you think is the key to a successful relationship?
- What was your career? How did you decide on it?
- What do you think the key to being successful at work is?
- Who are your heroes?
- Who was your favorite relative? Do you remember any stories about him or her?
- Who was the oldest relative you remember having growing up? What do you remember about him or her?
- Do you have any old photographs or memorabilia that has been passed down to you?
- Where were your parents born? What do you know about their childhoods?
- Where were your grandparents born? What do you know about their childhoods?
- Are there any family stories that you would want your great-great grandchildren to hear someday?
Use these questions as a way to spark your relative’s memory. Who knows what funny, sad, or emotional family memories you could unearth! If your relatives have old photo albums, ask to see them and take a trip down memory lane together.
Have you ever interviewed a relative to learn about your family history? What was the best question that you asked? If you missed an opportunity to learn family stories from a relative, what do you now wish you had asked him or her?