Coming up: Our top 10 tips for genealogy interview questions

Are you interested in recording life stories as part of your genealogy research? One of the most effective ways to do this is by interviewing your existing family members.

Interviewing family members is both a great way to get started on your ancestry documentation and as a way for experienced genealogists to expand on their work. But there is more to interviewing than simply having a casual chat with pen and paper. You need to go in with a plan of action to achieve incredible results that can become treasured family heirlooms.

So without further ado, see our list of top 10 genealogy interview tips to get you recording your family’s life stories today.


1.      Interview with purpose

Professor Simon J Gibson’s top tip for interviewing is to interview your relatives with purpose. Sit with your family and ask the questions you don’t normally ask them about. Get to know about their life, their stories and feelings and record it. It will give your family members a chance to tell their stories that don’t die with them.


2.      Use an app to record and store your interviews

If you’re going to interview your family members then you’ll need a safe and accessible place to access these interviews. That’s why using an app to document, save and store these interviews is ideal as you can record and save all interviews with family members and keep them organised in one accessible place.

Why not try our app to get you started? Check it out here! 


3.      Interview in couples or groups

The best interviews come alive when both the interviewer and interviewee is comfortable and relaxed.

A one-on-one interview can be nerve-racking and feel quite formal. It put a lot of pressure on the interviewee, especially if they are shy. So interviewing a couple, siblings or even small groups can settle those nerves and create a high energy feeling where memories can be triggered between both parties. This way you’ll also capture the true essence of their relationship.


4.      Use Video Recorder!

The best way to remember and cherish our loved ones is to share their life stories through video interviews. Not only can you capture the way they look, but you can also capture their mannerisms, tone of voice and accent- things that you aren’t able to pass on through traditional family tree documentation.

These qualities are especially interesting for future generations to discover, as they may recognise their own resemblance to their ancestors in not only looks but mannerism or body language too.


5.      Prepare your questions in advance

You don’t need to be a professional interviewer to capture great stories. Let’s face it, most of us interviewing our families are going to be the everyday genealogists with a passion for this hobby. However, as the interviewer, you still need to be prepared. For an extensive list of interview questions to give you ideas, check out this post: Family History Interview Questions.


6.      Bring photographs or documentation to trigger memories and emotions

This interview is about your relative’s life. It is personal to them and a chance for them to express their story. You want to be able to capture every essence of their tale, so re-jogging their memories with old photographs, music, newspaper clippings or anything you can find will always make the interview more interesting and enjoyable for the interviewee.


7.      Ask open-ended questions focusing on memories and experiences.

This will avoid them answer yes or no to questions, and will make for more interesting answers. It will also give them more opportunity to express in their own words their thoughts, feeling and facts on the answers.

8.      Know your interviewee a little

Knowing your relative and their life story beforehand is necessary as you can avoid asking certain questions that you know won’t apply, or that can even upset them. Knowing them, allows you to ask more personal questions that will make for a more interesting interview.


9.      Have great lighting

If you choose to interview with video too, chose a light room where you can see your relatives face clearly. But don’t have a crazy set up of lights blaring into their face, as you want them to feel comfortable and relaxed, and not like they are isolated and singled out from you in the room.


10. Minimise background noise

For clear audio to understand what is being said, select a room with minimal background noise. So close all windows, find a room away from a busy outside road and do a test before you begin to see if the audio can be properly heard.



Over to you!

Capturing the lives of your family members enables your future family to fully understand who they came from. We believe video and voice interviewing is the best way to capture life stories and pass them on- especially for the younger generation.


If you want to encourage our youth to share in the genealogy passion, then share this post and get them involved in interviewing your family!