Sample Questionnaire for Interviews
This is a sample of the kind of questions you can ask in an interview. You know your subject, so tailor the questions to fit them. You can add questions that relate to your genealogical research and touch on areas that you have information on or where there may be gaps in your research. This is just a starting point; feel free to rewrite it to fit your needs. Print out as many copies as you need.
What is today’s date?
What is your full name?
Is there anything special or unusual about your name or the way you were named?
When and where were you born?
So that makes you ____ years old now, right?
What was going on in the world that year?
Do you have any brothers or sisters?
What are their names and ages?
What are your parents’ names and when and where were they born?
Are they still living?
(If answer is no) When did (he/she/they) die?
What (are/were) your parents’ occupations?
Tell us about your aunts and uncles.
Did you know your grandparents?
Who were important adults to you, besides your family?
What is your most prominent memory of your grandmother? …your grandfather?
What can you tell me about your family farther back than your grandparents?
What is your ethnic origin, and how has it affected your life?
Is there anything else you can share with me about your family history?
Any unusual events or famous persons?
Is your family well known for anything?
Now I’d like you to think back to the earliest thing you can remember…..how old were you and what was going on?
What (else) do you remember about the time before you went to school?
Where did you live when you were little and what did your house look like?
Did you go to school before elementary school?
(If yes) Please tell me about it.
Did you have any farm animals and/or pets when you were little?
What was a typical day like when you were 5 years old?
Did you have a nickname when you were younger?
What sports or games did you like to play?
What was something you did as a child that was really scary?
Where did you go to elementary school and what year did you start?
Now I’d like you to think back to an incident in grade school which you remember well….what was going on?
What are some other vivid memories of your elementary school years?
How were your grades in grammar school?
How did you spend your summers during grade school?
While you were growing up, did you have any sense of whether your family was rich or poor?
What would you say now about your family’s economic circumstances when you were growing up?
Were you happy as a young child?
What would you say about your relationship with your parents?
Where, and in what years, did you go to high school?
Where did you live during this time?
Now I’d like you to think back to an incident in high school which you remember well….what was going on?
How were your grades in high school, and did you graduate?
What subjects and/or teachers did you particularly enjoy?
What social group did you belong to in high school what kind of kids did you associate with?
Who were your best friends during high school, and are you still in contact with any of them?
Did you have a favorite sport, and were you on any teams?
Who was the first (boy/girl) you ever seriously kissed, how old were you, and what were the circumstances?
When did you first learn to drive? What kind of vehicle? How fast did you go?
Did you attend your senior prom, and if so, who was your date, and what was it like?
If you could have changed one thing about your high school years, what would it have been?
What was going on in your family when you were in high school?
Did your family take vacations, and if so, what were they like?
Did you attend any college or vocational school after high school?
(If no, skip to the military section)
(If yes) When and where did you go to college?
Why did you choose to go there, and what did you study?
How did you do there, and did you graduate?
Now I’d like you to think back on an incident from college that you remember well….what was going on?
Who were your best friends from this period of time, and do you still see any of them?
Who did you date during this period of your life, and what sort of things did you do on your dates?
Did you serve in the Armed Forces?
(If no, skip to the adult section)
When, and under what circumstances?
What was it like?
When did you leave home, under what circumstances, and where did you go?
Where have you lived during your adult life?
What did you do between the time you (left home/graduated) and the time you got married?
What was your (first, second, etc) job after you left home? What was your starting salary?
Did you enjoy this work?
(Repeat the above two questions as necessary to get up to the present.)
What about your career have you found most satisfying?
What about your career would you like to have done differently?
Are you now, or have you ever been prominent, famous, or well known for anything?
What is your spouse’s name, and when, where, and how did you meet?
What did you do on your first date?
What was your courtship like?
How long after you met did you get married?
(If more than one marriage) How did this marriage end?
What would you say is the most important thing about choosing a spouse?
In what ways has marriage turned out to be different than you expected?
When were your children born and what are their names?
I’d like you to think back to the day your first child was born….what was the experience like for you?
What are some special memories of raising your children?
What is the best thing about children?
What is the most frustrating thing?
What is it like to be a grandparent?
Do you enjoy traveling, and where have you gone?
What would you say has been your greatest adventure so far?
What interests and hobbies do you have, and what do you like to do for fun?
What organizations do you belong to?
The last time you voted in a presidential election, who did you vote for and why? Which president from your life did you like the most? Why?
Is politics important to you?
Now to take stock…..as of this point in your life – has your life turned out as you imagined it would?
What’s the most important thing in your life right now?
What would you have done differently in your life, if you’d known then what you know now?
What are your goals right now and what do you hope to accomplish next?
If you could do anything you wanted to do, what would it be?
What are some of your favorite things to do now?
What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
What do you like about your life today?
If you could re-experience one thing in your life, what would it be?
What is the one most important thing you have done in your whole life?
What’s been your greatest disappointment or frustration?
Is there anything that you always wanted to do, but never did?
What do you think will be the major world events of the next ten years?
What are the most important things you’ve learned about life thus far?
What is your philosophy of life?
What role does religion play in your life?
Now…for some advice for your great-grandchildren….what would you say to them about the area of education?
What about choosing and managing careers?
What advice would you give them about money?
What do you have to say to them about love and marriage?
What about how to raise children?
Since future generations of your family will be watching this, what do you have to say to them?
Is there anything else you would like to add or to say to complete things?