Tips and Tools for conducting family history interviews – questions to ask for family history interview, what family history apps exist, and how to set the stage for a successful interview. This is a great way to honor your family members by preserving their history.
Thank you to Mormon.org for partnering with us on this post!
This Christmas season The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is asking us to #LIGHTtheWORLD. They have provided 25 days of ways to serve others with very simple ideas for each day. Regardless of your religious affiliation, this a great opportunity to serve others with your family this holiday season.
We were able to preview the campaign, including watch this video, a few months ago. Let me tell you, it’s powerful – especially in today’s world.
You can download the calendar with all the days and ideas here.
I know some of you may not be religious, but I feel it is helpful to cite the scriptural source of phrases we use and the things we do religiously.
The inspiration for this initiative comes from Matthew 5: 14-16.
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
During the month of December, the LDS church is inviting all to share the light of Christ through small acts of kindness and service. On December 2, we are specifically invited to honor our parents as Jesus honored his parents. Jesus is an example of this in John 19: 26-27.
26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother,Woman, behold thy son!
27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
Honoring your parents by preserving their history
As we thought about the different ways to honor our parents, we realized just how many there are. However, we decided to go for a little bit different approach – to interview them about their personal history and record it for posterities sake.
By doing this, it honors them by showing that you value who they are, and it allows you to save part of their voice and story for their family. I have found that these types of interviews help us to relate to and empathize with our parents more.
I think by doing this we realize that much of our parent’s advice comes from wisdom gained through life experience, and not simply antiquated opinions.
How to Conduct and Record Family History Interviews
There are a number of tools that can make interviewing parents relatively easy.
The first one that I heard of is called StoryCorps. StoryCorps created an app that can help you plan an interview for a particular person. You can then upload it to the National Archives for a year, and you can also save it for yourself.
Depending on the type of person, the app suggests a lot of great questions – it has categories from growing up, to relationships, all the way to political opinions! You can really customize the interview specific for the person you are interviewing.
It then can guide you through the questions during the actual interview while you record the interview with your phone. My sister has really tried to push everyone in my family to plan on using this app at Christmas-time.
Another great tool is FamilySearch.org’s Memories App. FamilySearch.org is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint’s free and publicly available website for family history.
FamilySearch.org helps you to build a family tree, and add photos, stories, and audio to a particular ancestor. That means you can have photos of grandma, write stories about grandma, and have interviews you recorded of your grandma in the same place.
Tips for a Successful Interview
- Pick who you want to interview, and prepare questions ahead of time accordingly.
- Use general and open-ended questions. Katie’s Dad was worried that we would ask questions like, “How did you feel on the first day of Kindergarten?” Most people are willing to talk about themselves if it doesn’t feel like a test.
- Find a quiet place, and set apart enough time to not feel rushed.
- Figure out where your phone’s microphone is located and try to keep it pointed at the speaker. It will help ensure consistent and clear audio.
- If the interviewee doesn’t initially feel comfortable, then you can share your memories of one of your shared experiences. It can help set the tone.
- Once the the interviewee is answering questions, make the interview as natural as possible. Ask follow-up questions if you’re interested.
Saving your Interviews
Store your interview in a place you can trust. Storing it on FamilySearch.org is a great option, because close and distant relatives interested in family history will be able to access it. Plus, the LDS church highly values family history, so you can be confident that the files won’t be inadvertently lost or corrupted. Be aware that you do not have to be LDS to use FamilySearch.
On December 2nd lets show how much we value our parents by really learning more about them, and preserving their stories! Make sure to check out Mormon.org for more details!
Forrest lives in Colorado with the wonderful Katie Clark and their two sons. Forrest was raised in North Carolina, graduated from BYU with a degree in political science, and loves to dabble in lots different things. Plus, he is a big MLS fan.
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