Questions to ask when researching your family history
This list of oral history questions was compiled from a
variety of sources by Joanne Todd Rabun in 1993.They included a 6th grade class
project of her daughter and a college-level Women's Studies class project of her
nephew. She used them to produce a booklet entitled "The Life and Times of
Winnie Lackore" to commemorate Winnie's 90th birthday celebration.
- What is your full name and why were you named it?
- Were you named after somebody else?
- Did you have a nickname as you were growing up?
- If you did, what was it and why did they call you that?
- Have you had other nicknames as an adult?
- What do family members call you now?
- Where were you born and when?
- Do you remember hearing your grandparents describe their lives? What did
- Do you remember your great-grandparents? What do you know about them?
- Who was the oldest person you can remember in your family as a child? What
do you remember about them?
- Do you remember your family discussing world events and politics?
- Was there a chore you really hated doing as a child?
- What would you consider to be the most important inventions that have been
made during your lifetime?
- How is the world now different from what it was like when you were a
- What kinds of books did you like to read?
- Do you remember having a favorite nursery rhyme or bedtime story? What was
- Do you ever remember not having enough food to eat because times were hard
for your family?
- What were your favorite toys and what were they like?
- What were your favorite childhood games?
- What were your schools like?
- How did you get to school?
- What was your favorite subject in school and why?
- What subject in school was always the easiest for you?
- What was your least favorite subject in school and why?
- Who was your favorite teacher and why were they special?
- How do your fellow classmates from school remember you best?
- What school activities and sports did you participate in?
- Did you and your friends have a special hang-out where you liked to spend
Where was it and what did you do there?
- Were you ever given any special awards for your studies or school
- How many years of education have you completed?
- Do you have a college degree? If so, what was your field of study?
- Did you get good grades?
- Did you like school?
- What did you like the most and the least about it?
- What did you usually wear to school? Describe it.
- Were there any fads during your youth that you remember vividly?
- How old were you when you started dating?
- Do you remember your first date? Describe the circumstances.
- Name a good friend that you have known for the longest period of time? How
many years have you been friends?
- Has there ever been anyone in your life that you would consider to me your
kindred spirit or soul mate?
If so, who were they and why did you feel a special bond to them?
- How did you meet the person that you would later marry? Describe them?
- Do you remember where you went on the first date with your spouse?
- How long did you know them before you got married?
- Describe your wedding proposal.
- When and where did you get married?
- Describe your wedding ceremony. Who was there?
- Did you have a honeymoon? If so, where did you go?
- How would you describe your spouse? What do (did) you admire most about
- How long have you been married (or were you married)?
- What wise advice would you give to a grandchild on their wedding day?
- How did you find out that you were going to be a parent for the first
- How many children did you have all together?
- What were their names, birthdates and birthplaces?
- Do you remember anything that your children did when they were small that
really amazed you?
- What is one of the most unusual things that one of your children did
regularly when they were small?
- What was the funniest thing you can remember that one of your children
said or did?
- If you had it to do all over again, would you change the way you raised
your family? How?
- What did you find most difficult about raising children?
- What did you find most rewarding about being a parent?
- Did you spoil any of your children? How?
- Were you a strict or lenient parent?
- Did you find that you had to treat each of your children differently? If
- How did you first hear that you were a grandparent and how did you feel
- What advice do you have for your children and grandchildren?
- As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
- What was your first job?
- What kinds of jobs have you had?
- How did you decide on your career?
- Did you make enough money to live comfortably?
- How long did you have to work each day at your job?
- How old were you when you retired?
- What were the hardest choices that you ever had to make? Do you feel like
you made the right choices?
- Who was the person that had the most positive influence on your life? Who
were they and what did they do?
- Is there a person that really changed the course of your life by something
that they did?
Who were they and what did they do?
- Do you remember someone saying something to you that had a big impact on
how you lived your life?
What was it?
- How would you describe yourself politically?
- Are you Conservative or Liberal and why?
- What wars have been fought during your lifetime? How did you feel about
- If you served in the military, when and where did you serve and what were
- If you served in the military, were you ever injured in the line of duty?
What were the circumstances and what were your injuries?
- What U.S. President have you admired the most and why?
- As you see it, what are the biggest problems that face our nation and how
do you think they could be solved?
- How tall are you?
- What color was your hair as a young child and then as an adult?
- What color are your eyes?
- Where have you lived as an adult? List the places and the years that you
- Why are you living where you are today?
- Do you wish you lived somewhere else (If so, where would it be)?
- Describe your general health.
- What major illnesses or health problems do you remember having?
- Do you have any health problems that are considered hereditary in nature?
If so, what are they?
- What do you do regularly for exercise?
- Do you have any bad habits now or in the past? What were they?
- Have you ever been the victim of a crime? What happened?
- Have you ever been in a serious accident?
- Has anyone ever saved your life? Describe.
- Have you ever saved anyone else's life? Describe.
- Have you ever been hospitalized? If so, what for?
- Have you ever had surgery? If so, what for?
- If you could change something about yourself, what would it be?
- Have you ever had an experience that you would consider to be
super-natural or psychic? Did you ever know something was going to happen
before it actually did? What was it?
- What do you usually dream about?
- What church, if any, do you attend regularly?
- Describe your religious beliefs.
- Do you believe in an after life?
- What was the most stressful experience that you ever lived through? What
helped you get through it?
- What is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you personally?
- What kinds of musical instrument(s) have you learned to play?
- Would you consider yourself creative?
- What things have you made that others have enjoyed?
- How would you describe your sense of humor?
- What is the funniest practical joke you ever played on anyone?
- What activities have you especially enjoyed as an adult?
- What are your hobbies?
- What did you like to do when you were not working?
- What is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to you?
- What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?
- Have you ever met any famous people? Describe what happened.
- What organizations and groups have you belonged to?
- Have you ever won any special awards or prizes as an adult? What were they
- Describe a time and place when you remember feeling truly at peace and
happy to be alive.
Where were you and what were you doing?
- What is the most beautiful place you have ever visited and what was it
- What is the longest trip that you have ever gone on? Where did you go?
- What has been your favorite vacation? Where did you go and why was it
- What was the favorite place you ever visited and what was it like?
- What pets have you had?
- Do you have a favorite story about a pet? What is it?
- Is there anything you have always wanted to do, but haven't?
- What is your favorite style of music?
- What is your favorite musical instrument?
- Who is your favorite musical group?
- What is your favorite song?
- Who is your favorite singer?
- Who is your favorite movie star?
- What is your favorite movie?
- Who is your favorite artist?
- What is your favorite painting?
- Who is your favorite poet?
- What is your favorite poem?
- What is your favorite TV program?
- Who is your favorite author?
- What is your favorite book?
- What is your favorite season?
- What is your favorite tree?
- What is your favorite flower?
- What is your favorite holiday?
- What is your favorite color?
- What is your favorite sport?
- Who is your favorite athlete?
- What is your favorite animal?
- What is your favorite meal?
- What is your favorite fruit?
- What is your favorite vegetable?
- What is your favorite candy?
- What is your favorite cookie?
- What is your favorite drink?
- What is your favorite restaurant?
- What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
- What is your favorite board game?
- What is your favorite card game?
- IF YOU HAD TO PICK A LABEL FOR YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS (your spouse,
children, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts & uncles,
cousins), WHO BEST FITS THE FOLLOWING DESCRIPTIONS? The best cook; The
hardest-worker; the quietest; the best memory; the best gardener; the
funniest; the best-looking; the animal lover; the most politically-active;
the most mischievous; the calmest; the most athletic; the most
intelligent; the most educated; the best career; the most creative; the
wildest lifestyle; the most sociable; the biggest tease; the best
housekeeper; the most reclusive; the most colorful; the most relaxed; the
most frugal; the most generous; the tallest; the shortest; the best
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