Senior family members hold a wealth of knowledge and information. They can be the doorway to learning, understanding, and tracing lineage. We often want to hear the unique stories and experiences our senior relatives have but are never sure where to start the conversation.
Genealogy industry experts at ThoughtCo. say asking the right open-ended questions ensures you will collect a wealth of family tales. The right questions can prompt storytelling that allows a person to focus on memories and experiences. We put together 20 fun questions to help you start family history conversations with ease and get the entire family involved, young and old, during holiday gatherings.
Family Tree Magazine suggests using important questions to get a glimpse of history through your senior relative's eyes.
- What’s your first memory?
- What did you do with your first paycheck?
- What is your experience with or opinion of computers? (Or other modern conveniences like television, microwaves and cell phones.)
- Tell me about some of your favorite songs, books, movies and television shows.
- How did your family celebrate holidays when you were a child?
You can read their full list of suggestions in 20 Questions for interviewing relatives.
These 5 questions suggested by Deseret News help you explore what your relatives may have done for fun.
- What were your favorite toys and what were they like?
- What were your favorite childhood games?
- Were there any fads during your youth that you remember vividly?
- What did your family do for fun when you were a child?
- Did you and your friends have a special hangout where you liked to spend time? Where was it and what did you do there?
Read their list of 150 questions in Genealogy: 150 questions to ask family members about their lives.
ThoughtCo.com suggests using their list of questions as a conversation starter and encourages personalizing the questions for the best results. Here are 10 we thought would prompt the best stories:
- Were there any special items in the house that you remember?
- Did you have family chores? What were they? Which was your least favorite?
- Did you have any pets? If so, what kind and what were their names?
- Are there any stories about famous or infamous relatives in your family?
- Have any recipes been passed down to you from family members?
- Are there any special heirlooms, photos, bibles or other memorabilia that have been passed down in your family?
- If you could have had any other profession what would it have been? Why wasn't it your first choice?
- Of all the things you learned from your parents, which do you feel was the most valuable?
- What accomplishments were you most proud of?
- What is the one thing you most want people to remember about you?
See their full list of 50 questions in 50 Questions to Ask Relatives About Family History.
These questions will be a great starting point for family history sharing during the holidays. One expert tip from Deseret News states, “[c]onversations about family can go many directions. When possible, record the [conversation] on audio or video.”
Once you have this information, what do you do with it? Get creative in your preservation of family history. You can start new traditions, give family heirlooms, create a scrapbook or family history book. The most important part of sharing and learning family history is the memories you make this holiday as you document your history.
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