117 Questions to Ask Your Family

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As genealogists, we must always think about how to obtain the information we want in the most efficient way. When interviewing family members, what are the best questions to ask to get a clearer picture of our relatives’ past, especially within a limited time frame?

It is often quite difficult to come up with great questions on the spot. So here we offer a collection of 117 questions to take with you when you’re interviewing relatives. These are sure to get your relatives talking!

  1. Do you share a name with someone else in the family?
  2. Did you have a nickname growing up? If so, what was it and why?
  3. Have you had a nickname as an adult?
  4. When and where were you born?
  5. What was your parents’ and grandparents’ religion?
  6. Do you follow a religion?
  7. Where was your first house?
  8. What other houses did you live in?
  9. What are your earliest memories of your home?
  10. Can you tell me a story or memory about your brothers and sisters?
  11. What are your brothers and sisters’ full names?
  12. What did your family do for leisure when you were a child?
  13. Were there tasks you hated doing when you were a child?
  14. What types of books do you like to read?
  15. Do you remember a favorite lullaby or song?
  16. When times were tough, do you remember having enough food?
  17. What were your favorite toys?
  18. What were your favorite games?
  19. Was there any fashion that you liked the most?
  20. What school did you go to and where was it?
  21. How did you feel about going to school?
  22. What was your favorite subject at school and why?
  23. Which subject was the most difficult?
  24. Who was your favorite teacher and why?
  25. What is your favorite school memory?
  26. What were your grades like?
  27. What did you wear to school?
  28. What sports did you participate in at school?
  29. Was there a meeting place where you liked to spend time?
  30. Did you receive any special awards for studies or activities at school?
  31. How many years of education have you completed?
  32. Describe what you were like as a young adult.
  33. Do you have a technical diploma or degree?
  34. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  35. What was your first job?
  36. How old were you when you retired?
  37. How did you decide on your profession?
  38. What jobs have you done over the years?
  39. If you were in the military, what were your duties and when and where did you serve?
  40. How old were you when you started going out at night?
  41. Do you remember your first date?
  42. When and where did you meet your current partner?
  43. How long did you know each other before getting married?
  44. How did you propose?
  45. When and where did you get married?
  46. Describe the ceremony.
  47. Who was present? (witnesses, bridesmaids, etc.)
  48. Did you have a honeymoon? Where?
  49. Have you been married more than once?
  50. How would you describe your spouse?
  51. What do you most admire about him or her?
  52. How long have you been married?
  53. When and where did your spouse die?
  54. What advice would you give to a child or grandchild for their wedding day?
  55. How did you find out you were going to be a parent for the first time?
  56. How many children do you have?
  57. What are their names, dates of birth and where do they currently live?
  58. Why did you give them those names?
  59. Do you remember things that your children did when they were little that really surprised you?
  60. What is one of the funniest things your children did when they were little?
  61. What was the most fun you had while raising your kids?
  62. If you had to do it again, what would you change about the way you raised your family?
  63. What was the most challenging part of raising children?
  64. Did you consider yourself as a strict parent?
  65. What was the most rewarding thing about parenting?
  66. Did any of your children break anything of yours?
  67. Did you have to treat any of your children differently? Why?
  68. How did you feel when your oldest child began school?
  69. What advice would you give your children and grandchildren about being a parent?
  70. Where did your in-laws live?
  71. When and where did your parents die? What do you remember about them?
  72. How did they die? Where were they hospitalized?
  73. Which cemetery are they buried in?
  74. What do you remember about the death of your in-laws?
  75. Do you remember listening to your grandparents talking about their lives? What did they say?
  76. Did you ever meet any of your great-grandparents?
  77. Who was the oldest person you remember from when you were a child?
  78. Did you suffer from any childhood illnesses?
  79. Do you have any genetic health problems?
  80. Do you exercise regularly?
  81. Have you every had any bad habits?
  82. Have you ever been a victim of a crime?
  83. Have you had any major accidents?
  84. Has anyone ever saved your life?
  85. Have you ever been hospitalized? For what?
  86. Have you ever had surgery?
  87. What do you consider the most important inventions in your lifetime?
  88. Do you remember the first time you saw a car, a TV or a refrigerator?
  89. How different was the world when you were a child?
  90. Do you remember your family talking about politics?
  91. How would you define yourself politically?
  92. Did you live through any war?
  93. Have you admired any president or world leader that you’ve seen in power?
  94. How did you live the days of food shortages?
  95. Tell me the name of a good friend who has been your friend for many years.
  96. Has there been anyone in your life that you would consider a soul mate? Who was it and why do you feel that special bond?
  97. What are the hardest decisions you’ve had to make?
  98. Who has changed your life?
  99. If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?
  100. What is the most difficult thing you have ever experienced?
  101. Have you ever played a musical instrument?
  102. Do you consider yourself creative?
  103. What’s the funniest joke you’ve ever known?
  104. What activities have you enjoyed as an adult?
  105. What are your hobbies?
  106. What do you like to do when you are not working?
  107. What is the most incredible thing that has happened to you?
  108. Have you ever met someone famous?
  109. Who were your grandparents?
  110. Where were they from?
  111. How do you feel about your major decisions in life, such as profession, studies, and spouse?
  112. What organizations or groups did you belong to?
  113. Have you ever won an award as an adult?
  114. What is the longest trip you’ve ever made?
  115. What has been your favorite vacation spot?
  116. What pets have you had?
  117. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but have not done yet?

Make sure to check out our hints and tips for interviewing family members.

10 tips for interviewing family members

Let us know how it goes, and which questions were most successful! Can you think of other questions to ask? Share them below in the comments.

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