Several years ago, I started doing random interviews with my Grandma and am so thankful for the memories that I recorded with her. But I will be the first to admit that I’m not really good at the interview process. When I listen back to the recordings, I realize that I could have benefited from a little help and forethought. There are questions I wish I had asked and stories that I wish I knew. So to help us all as we record the memories of our older generations, I’m providing some thought starters to help us out. I also have some great resources to help capture the memories if interviews are not convenient.
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Interview Questions for Grandparents
Over the years, Grandma and I talked about many things. But there are still topics I wish I had asked her about. Now that I can no longer do interviews with her, I’m already planning to turn the camera toward my parents. But this time, I’m going to plan a few of the interviews so I don’t miss some of these important conversations. To help you with the interviews, I’ve even made it easy for you so you can just print the questions and start planning your next recorded conversation!
- What was your favorite gift?
- Did you believe in Santa Claus?
- Where did you shop for gifts (Sears catalog, homemade gifts?)
- What did you get/give in Christmas stockings?
- Did you read the Nativity story on Christmas Eve? Other traditions?
- Did you finish high school? go to college?
- Did you have homework?
- How did you get to school every day? walk/wagon/horse
- Did you ever miss school to help on the farm?
- Did your kids/grandkids/great grandkids have any educational accomplishment you are proud of? (i.e all the boys graduated from college)
- How many states have you visited?
- Did you go on vacations as a kid?
- Did you ever go camping, to the beach, mountains, road trips?
- When did you make your first quilt (afghan)?
- Did you enjoy learning? Who taught you?
- What was your favorite?
- Where did you get the fabric?
- Did you grow up in church?
- When did you get saved? baptized?
- Did you ever sing in the choir?
- Favorite Sunday school teacher/class?
- Did you ever go on a mission trip?
- What do you think about Heaven?
- Did you have a boyfriend/girlfriend in high school?
- Where did you meet your spouse?
- Where did you go on the first date with your spouse?
- What is your favorite memory of your wedding?
- Who performed your wedding?
- What is your favorite food? least favorite?
- Did your parents ever make you eat something you didn’t like?
- Did you always love to cook?
- Who taught you to cook?
Remember that interviews don’t have to be formal or planned. Just pull out your phone and ask questions. Sure, you’ll have background noise, hiccups, coughs and missteps, but that’s part of the fun. Don’t wait for perfect timing, just get started!
This 20 second interview snippet was taken in McDonalds while we were finishing coffee before a family event. It was a bit noisy, but I’m so glad I started recording because I got some perfectly unscripted treasured responses!
- What was your favorite book to read when you were a child?
- Did your parents love books too?
- Where was your favorite place to read? by the fireplace, in a tree, in your room?
- Do you have a favorite author?
- What do you think of ebooks vs paperback?
- Did you have pets when you were a child?
- Tell me about your favorite dog/cat/horse.
- Did you go fishing/hunting? best story or memory?
- Any unusual stories of animals in your past? captured a snake, brought home a frog in your pocket
- Did your parents talk about politics?
- What was the first election you voted in?
- Have you always thought it was important to vote?
- Who was your favorite president?
- Do you remember when…. (Pearl Harbor, Walk on Moon, JFK assassination, Martin Luther King Jr I have a Dream speech)
- How did you learn to drive? Did your parents teach you? Did you drive tractors?
- When did you first get a TV, phone?
- Do you remember the first time you used a computer?
Recently we gave my mother-in-law a journal called My Life Story so she can start recording her memories. We are excited to have these stories on paper so we not only have her thoughts but also her own writing style that records the memories.
Have you done any interviews with your grandparents or parents? Got any tips or questions that you think I should add? Are you recording or journaling with the older generation so future kids and grandkids will have these memories? I’d love to hear how you are connecting!