Tips from the Pros: Two Interviewing Suggestions

from Michael John Neill
Re-interview family members after new information or records have been located. An obituary or a death certificate for a relative may bring to mind questions you did not think to ask Aunt Marge the first time. Witnesses to a grandfather’s will or the informant on a death certificate may be people Aunt Marge knew about but could not remember when you talked to her the first time. And since you did not have their names either, it was difficult to ask about them. Many times early in my research (and occasionally even now) a new document causes me to ask questions I did not even think about asking the first time around.

Another idea when interviewing older family members is to use their 1930 census enumeration (or that of their parents). One of the things I wished I had done before my grandfather (born in 1917) passed away was to take the 1930 census enumeration for the rural township where he was born and raised and asked him briefly about each family. Not all were related, but in many cases I’m certain the names from the census would have jogged his memory about other things, things I had not thought to ask and questions that are not on any of the numerous lists of “genealogy questions” one finds on the Internet. Names are often great memory joggers…use them.

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One thought on “Tips from the Pros: Two Interviewing Suggestions

  1. I can’t support this one enough. In dealing with a bunch of relatives in their 70s, they remember things when I ask the right question. A follow-up question has brought me the story of my ggrandmother taking her laundry to the spring to wash, a family group that was totally lost to everyone but one person who figured out who they were when I asked the right question.

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