Family history: what would you ask?

I mentioned that one reason I am so excited about the upcoming Sony mommy blogger event is that it will help us to accomplish another goal: a visit with my grandparents for the purpose of creating a family history.

The workshop will give me greater skills and training with my new cameras (Andrea U., is that really what you told me on the phone?  There was a lot of background noise and my own brain was screaming no way so I’m still not sure I heard correctly) – and can you believe this:  Sony has graciously agreed to buy the airline ticket for my extra little jaunt up north before sending me home!

I’m going to spend a week with Grandpa and Grandma, asking questions and interviewing them, getting videos of their childhood stories and other memories, hearing stories of my mom’s childhood, taking down their advice and wisdom and whatever else I can think of.  Hubby has also suggested taking a drive around the area to visit some or all of my old childhood homes.  We moved a lot, so that could take a while.  (umm…Grandpa?  Grandma?  Did you know my visit was going to be this much work?)

So here’s where I need help: What would you ask? There is so much to cover, I have the feeling I ought to go in with a plan.  I don’t want to forget the important stuff because we’re having too much fun just enjoying each other’s company, though I’m sure there will be plenty of that!  Help me out.  This is for our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren.  What would you want to know about your ancestors?  What would you want to hear in their own words?


  1. Hi! I have nothing helpful to add, just wanted to say hi, as I am also attending the Sony event and I found you by googling it. 🙂 See ya there!

  2. If you have old photographs (or if the grandparents do), definately ask for the names of the people and for the place they were taken. Maybe even the story behind the picture? I have lots of old photographs and it is so hard to identify people or places. Unfortunately my grandma’s memory is not the best anymore (she’s almost 90).
    What else? How couples met, stories about their wedding, special character traits or quirks, favorite things or dishes, any heroic or exiting family stories/secrets?
    I’ve bought two books on family history scrapbooks, Becky Higgins’ ‘Family history Scrapbooking” and the Workbook on family history scrapbooking from Creating Keepsakes and found both of them helpful (they mainly cover the same ground).
    Have a wonderful exploration of family history!

  3. Wow – thanks for all the great ideas! There are some wonderful questions that I never would have thought to ask, and many resources to look into.
    I knew I could count on you!

  4. Erin M in MO says:

    I would ask them what Scriptures were special to them at different points in their lives. And other excellent suggestions about, like events that shaped their lives, names of their relatives and friends, and favorite memories.

    I really like this one b/c it’s a little easier sometimes to separate time frames:

    I googled “life history Personality, characteristics, stature, coloring” because the Word doc I have had stuff about life history, journal in a jar at the top then under father was personality, characteristics, stature, coloring. E-mail me if you’d like the doc, I’m not tech-savvy enough to “embed” it right here! 🙂 And I don’t have any source info to give credit.

  6. Kim~

    I would want to know about an event or something that happened that shaped their lives. I would ask who their mentors were/are and people they admire. What presidents were their favorites and why? Get some prices on some things like gas, milk and a loaf of bread, from when they were young. What were the most difficult things about raising a family in their day? Did they listen to radio shows, and which were their favorites?

    Those are just a few things that I would find it interesting to know!

    Have a great trip…..

    How are you feeling at this stage of your pregnancy??

    Have a great night!

    Leanne in Longview

  7. War stories. Really. If they were in a war, dates and places, names of battles, ships, etc. I find that stuff so interesting, then I can look up stuff about that battle or here about it on the ‘net or History/Military channel.

    Recipies. Names. And I echo the one above with “lean times”. Sibling stories (my FIL has a good one when their parents had to leave 4 teenage sons at home for a few days. One brother was in charge of cooking, but all he knew how to fix was Brownies. Well, during gym class, they had to run laps. And the wind they broke smelled so good, the coach insisted on coming home with them to sample the Brownies! LOL!).


    Here are some great links with questions I’ve ben using for my heritage scrapbook. Hope these help you as much as they’ve helped me. They’ve started great conversation with my grandparents!


  9. Kim- Since genealogy is one of my hobbies, I have a few interview lists here at home. If you want I can make copies and mail them to you. Let me know if you want them. Email me or call or something and just let me know.

  10. I was just recently visiting my mom in TN and I did the very same thing. I asked specific questions about my grandmother. She died when I was 3. My mom is 72, but her memories of her mother are wonderful.
    I asked her how my mamaw handled the “lean” times. What sorts of things she did to feed her family during the depression. I found out that my grandmother was an incredible homemaker. My mom still remembers how good certain foods tasted that my mamaw would make! I also asked about their garden and what they planted and how they stored their food through the winter. I was fascinating. I cannot wait to go back in July. I will be asking more and writing it all down!

  11. Names, names, names! My grandparents are no longer with us, and i really wish that I’d had the foresight as a teenager (unlikely, I know ;-)), to sit down and just have them help me draw up a family tree, even a basic one. My mother and I are now working on one together, but it’s very difficult piecing together names and birthdates from her comments, e.g. “there was a lady we called Aunt Betty, but she may not have been related” from 50 years ago! Also, the commenter who mentioned old photos is right on the money – we have suitcases of photos, many of which are over 100 years old, and we have NO IDEA who so many of them are of. We keep them, of course, as they’re all family and friends, but it would be lovely to know who they were and why they were special.
    Enjoy your trip – and your grandparents. I’m sure you know how blessed you are to be able to spend time with them.


  12. Rebekka says:

    Definitely how they met, how they married, where they were when they had their children, when big things happened (wars starting and ending, stuff like that) what kind of work they did when they were young, how they relaxed, what was it like before they got whatever sort of fantastic invention we now take for granted (a car, a washing machine, a vacuum cleaner, a television, a telephone…)

  13. I’ll have to look through my favorites and word files b/c I know I did some research on this for the last visit we made to my dad (we knew it was probably the last time and it was).

  14. Maybe you can collect some copies of your grandma’s favorite recipes to add to your information. I would also be curious about the price of things “back in the day”…eggs, milk, meat, newspapers, homes, etc.

  15. I would ask them what special smell or taste do they remember from their childhood and what does that remind them of.

    Blessings as you share this special time with them

  16. I would ask where people were born and where they were buried, what weddings and funerals were like, how they came to do the work that they did- all the little rituals of life.

  17. If you have old photos, be sure to find out who is in them/where they were taken. We have lots of photos from my grandparents but so many people we don’t know. I wish we had asked them!

    I would always ask health questions too. I would love to know how they dated, how they met, etc. The list is neverending!

  18. Kim,
    I think what you are aiming to do is wonderful!

    I would ask them to describe just a normal day, not a special event, but just a regular day.

    Also, if they can remember the basic items they had in their home, entertainments they attended at different ages.

    Any old journals they may still have would be fun to go through, maybe copy some stories to add to your collections.

    A good person to maybe ask would be Jill Novak, from Rememberance Press (The Gift of Family Writing – excellent book) Her blog: through the windowpane –

    Have a great trip!


  1. […] you so much for all the ideas and suggestions of what to ask. We have used many of them. Kaitlyn also loaned me a 2 page questionnaire that she brought home […]

  2. […] my post.  Go look at Life in a shoe, and then come […]

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