Interview your parents or grandparents
Ever wonder what questions to ask your parents or grandparents? I have have years of experience doing oral history interviews and writing family history, so this article shares my best oral history tips, questions to ask, and free printables for your family story. If you have not interviewed your parents or grandparents, do it. Set a date. Sit down as a gift for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, a birthday or Christmas. Or just do it because. Give them a digital recorder (the Olympus WS-852 is my all-time personal favorite) or get a free voice recorder app. Are you on a budget? At the bottom of this article we’re sharing a free printable book of memory-evoking questions that you can put together at home. It makes a thoughtful gift combined with the interview.
If you do it now, it will be enough
Our very best advice is just to do it. Even one oral history interview is more than most people ever leave behind. If you do it now, it will be enough. Someday you will cherish the audio. Plan a time and sit down, but also take advantage of spontaneous opportunities that may come along. If you install a recording app, you can turn it on without any prior planning. I can’t tell you how many times I have done this with my own family, such as while driving in a national park with my mother-in-law, or as we wound down a tender family evening with my mom.
Another reason to interview someone is that listening to their story is a gift. It honors them, and will be a gift to future generations. If you give this as as a formal present, it is a thoughtful way to make some one feel loved according to the love languages: acts of service, words, gifts and quality time.
On a personal level, I am forever grateful I took the chance to record my dad’s voice while he was still here, and also for the gift of writing my parents’ life story. My mom and I collaborated to write her memoir, Every Essential Element, and now I have a daughter who will know her grandpa through those interviews. Here is a 90-second video I made with the audio.
7 reasons you should ask your parents about their lives:
- Stories are the only way we will be remembered. (Related article: The Power of Story)
- Learning your parents’ story will help you see them as heroes in an epic story, rather than just “the mom” or “the dad.”
- Stories convey values to future generations. This is how we teach without being preachy.
- Stories bind families together. (Related article: Getting it right: Five ways Bruce Feiler taught me how to be a better parent)
- Children who know their stories are more resilient.
- Listening to someone honors them.
- Hearing stories is so rewarding…and fun!
Make a book with questions to ask your parents or grandparents with free printable:
We’ve puzzled over how to encourage more people tell their story, so we created a free downloadable book. Print it from home and give it as a lovely gift or for yourself.
Printable Question Book
Free download makes a great gift for parents or grandparents.
Easy steps and questions to ask your parents about their life:
- Download the PDF book of questions and print it from home, or get our book on Amazon. The printable looks nice on cardstock.
- Insert the printouts into a 3-ring binder. Dividers tabs will make it look polished.
- Interview your loved one and record the audio! If you need some help, get our free oral history tutorial (click here).
- Insert answers and write-ups into the binder to keep everything together.
- Transcribe the audio, if you wish. Here is a detailed article about that process.
- Write stories. Does that seem daunting? Read our article about why writing a memoir is possible, and how to overcome feelings of being stuck.
What you need to interview your parents:
Interview a Veteran:
If someone in your life is a Veteran, check out this article about the Library of Congress Veteran History Project. Click here for the article and related questions to ask a Veteran.
Record Stories at Family Reunions:
Want to make your family reunion more memorable? Read 7 ideas to make your family reunion count. Memorial Day is another perfect time to record family stories. How I wish I had while relatives were still alive. Some quick ideas for family storytelling on holidays like Memorial Day are in this article.
Here is another quick article we wrote related to recording family stories for Memorial Day, but the same principles apply for any holiday or family gathering.
Rhonda Lauritzen is the founder and an author at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. Rhonda lives to hear and write about people’s lives, especially the uncanny moments. She and her husband Milan restored an 1890 Victorian in Ogden, Utah and work together in it, weaving family and business together. She especially enjoys unplugging in nature. Check out her latest book Remember When, the inspiring Norma and Jim Kier story.
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