It’s the beginning of the holiday season and time to get together with family. Here are 40 questions you can ask parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to collect your family history.
Some of these questions will provide details to help with genealogy research. However, most of these questions will help in preserving details of your family for future generations.
Bonus: Take out a pen and paper and answer some of these questions about yourself! Family historians often leave themselves out and do not preserve their own stories.
School and Work
- What was the worst (or best) job you ever had?
- What was your favorite class in school?
- Have you ever been absolutely dead broke?
- Have you ever had to take someone to court?
- What was the most memorable sports event you ever watched? Did you see it live or on TV?
- What kinds of things did you do for fun at night and on weekends?
- What was your favorite TV show, movie, and/or song?
- Did your family take vacations together? Where did you go?
- If you had to pick one year as the best year of your life, which one would it be and why?
- If you have to pick one year as the worst year of your life, which one would it be and why?
- How did you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah growing up?
- Is there a memorable gift you received? (Or maybe something you wish you had gotten, but never did.)
- How did you celebrate Halloween growing up? Did you do pranks in the neighborhood?
- Where did you go for Thanksgiving dinner when you were a kid? What side dishes did you have with the meal? Any memorable years?
- What did you do to celebrate New Year’s Eve?
- How did you celebrate birthdays in growing up?
- Did your family go to religious services? What was the religious faith of your parents and grandparents?
- If you could pass a message to the future - to your great great grandchildren - what would it be?
- If you could put anything on a bill board for everyone to see, what would it be?
- In what ways were things done better in the past? What do you wish we still did that we don’t do anymore?
- What were some of the home remedies your mom or dad did when you were sick?
- Do you have any memories of trips to the doctor? Did you break any bones as a kid? Have your tonsils out?
- Tell me about a time you had the flu growing up.
- Were you ever in hospital growing up? What was it for? What was the hospital stay like?
- Describe the home you grew up in. Have you been back to visit it?
- Who did you play with in the neighborhood when you were a kid? What happened to all the kids you grew up with?
- Did you have a best friend growing up? What kinds of things did you do together?
- Tell me about all the different places you lived. Which one was your favorite? Why did you move?
- Who was the most memorable character from your home town? Whatever happened to him or her?
- Were you ever in fights as a kid or beat up by other kids?
- Would you say you were close to your brothers and sisters? Were you close to your cousins? Which ones?
- In what ways are you similar to your mother? What ways are you different?
- In what ways are you similar to your father? What ways are you different?
- Which family member were you closest to growing up? Who did you most look like? Who are you named after?
- Who was your first love? What happened with him or her?
- What’s a family story that got told every time the family got together?
- Did you or anyone else do genealogy research on our family? What did they find?
- What family photos do you have? Could you sit with me and tell me who is in them, and where and when the photo was taken?
- What letters and postcards did you keep that family wrote to each other? Can I see them?
- Which family stories are your favorites? Which ones do you know are true? I’d love if you shared them now.
Capture your family's responses to any (or all!) of these questions and preserve some of your family history.
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