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Oral History Interview Questions for Holiday Gatherings

by Kimberly Johnson

One of the greatest legacies you can give your family is an oral history of your life. This is a priceless gift that only requires your time and some readily available technology. Below is a list of interview questions I used when taking the oral history of my grandparents on their 70th wedding anniversary. You can make this a fun part of your family celebration. There are many fun ways to record life memories. Ask family members record each answer on their phone. Later it can be transcribed on paper. However, it’s the original recordings with your voice that will be treasured most by generations perhaps not even born yet. Oral History Interview Questions for Christmas Gatherings


Interview Questions:

  1. Were you named after somebody else?
  2. What was it like for you to grow up in the 20s/30s etc.?
  3. What do you remember about your childhood?
  4. What kind of house did you live in when you were a child?
  5. What is your fondest memory?
  6. Can you share anything about your family’s heritage or name origin?
  7. Do you remember your grandparents or great-grandparents? What do you know about them?
  8. What are some family holiday traditions you remember as a kid?
  9. Who was the oldest person you can remember in your family as a child? What do you remember about them?
  10. Was there a chore you really hated doing as a child?
  11. What would you consider to be the most important inventions that have been made during your lifetime?
  12. How is the world now different from what it was like when you were a child?
  13. What kinds of books did you like to read?
  14. Do you ever remember not having enough food to eat because times were tough?
  15. What were your favorite toys and what were they like?
  16. What were your schools like? How did you get there?
  17. Did you and your friends have a special hang-out where you liked to spend time?
  18. Were you ever given any special awards for your studies or school activities?
  19. How many years of education have you completed and where did you attend?
  20. Were there any fads during your youth that you remember vividly?
  21. How old were you when you started dating?
  22. How did you meet your spouse? Can you tell us about your first date?
  23. Describe your wedding ceremony. Who was there? Date and Place?
  24. Tell us about your honeymoon.
  25. What wise advice would you give your grandchildren about marriage?
  26. What did you find the most difficult about raising children?
  27. What did you find the most rewarding about being a parent?
  28. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  29. What was your first job?
  30. How did you decide your career?
  31. What were the hardest life choices that you ever had to make?
  32. Who was the person that had the most positive influence on your life? Who were they and what did they do?
  33. Tell us about your military service.
  34. What social changes in the U.S. were difficult for you? How did they impact you?
  35. What major illnesses or health problems do you remember having?
  36. What part of your faith would you like to pass along to your grandchildren?
  37. What activities have you especially enjoyed as an adult?
  38. Where have you traveled and what was the best trip?
  39. Is there anything you have always wanted to do, but haven’t?
  40. What did you learn from your mother?
  41. What did you learn from your father?
  42. Tell us about your proudest moment(s)?
  43. What is the most frightened you’ve ever been?
  44. What parent are you most like and why?
  45. What political or historical event has had the most impact on you personally?
  46. What is your earliest memory?
  47. If you could go back and change one thing about your life, what would it be?
  48. What has provided you the greatest satisfaction in life and why?
  49. What was your first impression of your spouse/partner the first time you met?
  50. What was your proudest moment as a parent?
  51. Which of your children is most like you and why?
  52. What was the most exciting day of your life?
  53. What is the one thing you’d like people to remember about you?
  54. How has the world changed since you were young?
  55. Does the idea of death frighten you? Why or why not?
  56. What life event damaged you the most?
  57. What life event strengthened you the most?
  58. How do you feel about money?
  59. Did you have conflicts with your parents as a teenager? What were they?
  60. What is your greatest talent?
  61. What talent do you wish you had that has eluded you?
  62. What is your greatest weakness?
  63. What is the most important object you own and why?
  64. What do you wish you could change about your education?
  65. What invention during your lifetime has had the greatest impact on you personally?
  66. If there is one piece of wisdom you could pass on to your descendants, what would it be?
  67. What could you not live without in your life?
  68. How would you like to be remembered?

This is just a sample list of questions to start a conversation. Once you get started, you’ll realize it is so fun to learn the stories and share memories together. Chances are, you will have to pick just a few favorite questions for a family gathering and plan to tackle a few questions each time you gather. It is courteous to give your questions to elderly family members before you gather so they can begin to think about their answers. Talking more than a few hours can be tiring for seniors. Oral History Interview Questions for Thanksgiving Dinner
For our family, these interviews made time with great-grandparents especially exciting. It’s a project that unified the different generations as we shared family history. Knowing where you come and the stories that have shaped your family gives greater meaning to life. Why not schedule a time to gather your family for an interview? Now that my grandparents have passed, these interview sessions are treasured family memories. We are forever grateful we still have the recordings to share with generations to come!

Oral History Interview Questions for Christmas Gatherings


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