Preserving Memories – What to Ask

So, now you decide you do want to take the steps toward preserving memories of family members.  Now what? If you have been reading my previous posts, you already have all the information you need to get you started.  If you haven’t read the previous blogs, you might want to check them out before reading this one. You know how to begin, what choices you have regarding recording and choosing the right location to record. All you need now are a few questions to get you started.

Before looking at my list of questions, have pen and paper nearby. When you read from my list, you might think of a few things to ask of your own. Write them down as you go so you won’t forget later.

Below are thirty questions to get you started.


Interview Questions


This is in no way a complete list of questions.  Once you begin talking to the interviewee, you may want to delve into something he or she brings up during the interview. Your family history isn’t like mine.  You certainly have the freedom to include questions that may be unique to your family.




  1. List as many of the names of your parents, grandparents and great grandparents as you can recall.  Include any of their siblings or pertinent family members. Include your siblings and their birth dates (if known).
  2. Expound on the earliest childhood memories you have.
  3. What was school life like for you?  How did you travel to school? What is your favorite and least favorite school memory?
  4. Recall Friends and classmates. What activities did you do with them?
  5. Who were some of your teachers? Mention any memories of them that you can recall.
  6. Did you graduate from high school? If so, describe what your graduation was like.
  7. List addresses, streets, towns or states that you have lived in.
  8. What was life like growing up in your household?  What types of disciplinary actions did your parents use against you?
  9. Describe the home you lived in as a child.  Walk through the house in your mind, and describe the smells, what you see and the sounds.
  10. Were there any family member who divorced? What were the circumstances surrounding the divorce?
  11. What do you remember most about your parents? Describe your mother – her appearance, mannerism and memories of her. Describe your father – his appearance, mannerism and memories of him.
  12. Did you go to church as a child?  If so, what was church life like?  Do you have favorite or least favorite memories of church when you were growing up?
  13. What denomination or religious upbringing did you and your family observe? Are you still observing the same religion? Why or why not?
  14. If you accepted Christ as your personal Savior, what age were you when you did so, and mention anything you recall about your conversion and baptism.
  15. Did you have any pets at home when you were a child?  Expound on memories of your pets.
  16. What was Christmas like when you were a child?  Did you receive many gifts?  What kind of gifts did you receive?
  17. What was life like growing up in your town, on your farm, in your city?
  18. What age did you begin to work outside the home? What jobs did you hold?
  19. How old were you when you began to date?  Who was your first boy or girl friend? 
  20. When did you learn to drive an automobile?  Are there any funny or not so funny stories to go along with the memory of learning to drive?
  21. How did you meet your mate?  What year did you marry? Who married you, preacher or judge? What kind of wedding did you have?  Did you go on a honeymoon?  If so, where?  If not, why?
  22. What was life like the early years of your marriage?  What age were you when you had your first child? Where were your children born? In a hospital or at home?
  23. List all of your children and their birthdays. 
  24. Do you have any funny stories you can share about raising your children?  Anything sad you care to mention. 
  25. Do you have advice for current day family members? 
  26. Is there anything else you can think to share about your past?
  27. Do have any stories about my father, mother etc you can share?
  28. Describe a defining moment in your life. The birth of your first child, a moment in time that changed you and your way of thinking, or something so dramatic or traumatic that it changed you.
  29. Describe hobbies, list favorite books or movies.
  30. When did you leave home? Describe you feelings of leaving as well as how your parents responded.


Other questions  you might consider may include criminal background, step family and health issues.


If there is no other information they can share, you may want to insert your questions here.  If at anytime during the interview you think of a question, feel free to ask it.  




Listening and transcribing



If your recorder is battery operated, make sure to replace or recharge the batteries.    When you are ready to transcribe, find a nice quite location to play back the tapes.  If your recorder has earphones, you will probably be able to transcribe sitting in front of your flat screen. 


Type word for word everything the interviewee said.  Don’t worry about sentence structure, correcting their English or punctuation.  The important thing is to get the words on paper the rest will come later.  If you took notes during the interview, this step may not be necessary.


You now should determine which direction you want to go.  You may choose to use this guide and simply fill in the blank on the Memoir sections.  When I transcribed my father’s memories, I made myself a word for word history. Later, when I organized it, I wrote from my voice telling what  my father relayed to me in the interview.


I hope you enjoyed these posts about preserving family memories. Let me know if you need any help and I’ll do what I can to guide you

I’d  enjoy reading your finished compilation when you complete it. Don’t worry about how long the process is – the thing you should remember is how precious the finished product will be when completed.