With the holidays upon us, here are some tips for interviewing relatives for family history, courtesy of the Society of California Archivists with a bit of my own experience mixed in. 1. Planning the Interview Place the recorder where you can see it, but where it is out of the line of sight of your narrator. Work from an outline of major topics with prepared questions for each topic. In general, a chronological organization is best, because it can show how their ideas and experiences have developed over time. Make a list of the specific dates and places of events missing in your family tree. Interview and record in a quiet place! Close windows and doors to avoid traffic noises, put pets outside, silence all phones. Do a brief test recording with the interviewee at the interview location and play it back immediately to make sure the equipment is working and [...]
Today’s Follow Friday is the Oral History Association, a non-profit organization started by academic historians that has much to offer the genealogist. The Oral History Association advocates for “the oldest type of historical inquiry, predating the written word, and one of the most modern, initiated with tape recorders in the 1940s and now using 21st-century digital technologies.” Their Web site, Wiki and Best Practices standards are very helpful to the genealogist planning to interview a relative. […]
Want to brush up on your interviewing skills before you see relatives over the holidays? Becoming a better family history interviewer is easier with this straightforward primer: Oral History for the Family Historian: A Basic Guide by Linda Barnickel, published by the Oral History Association. This is 70-page guide containing practical advice for conducting family oral history interviews. It also contains an extensive list of sample questions, a legal release form, and some tips about common pitfalls, and other suggested resources. Novice or experienced interviewer, this book helps you get great results from your family history interviews.
Will you have the opportunity to talk to some relatives during Thanksgiving weekend? If some of those stories you’ve heard more than once or the family member says they can’t remember, then ask about historical events. One of the best ways to prompt memories in an interviewee is to ask where they were during historical events. I remember asking my grandmother about living in Chicago when she was first married. She was convinced she didn’t have any interesting stories, couldn’t remember what neighborhood or address they lived in, nothing. […]