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PERSONAL HISTORY INTERVIEW PROMPTS

 

PERSONAL HISTORY INTERVIEW PROMPTS

 

LIVING LEGACY PROJECT

 

Prepared by

L. A. (Butch) Hibben, CLA

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

951-322-5977

www.circlemending.org

GENERATIONS

  • Where did your great-grandparents come from?
  • If it was other than the United States, why did they leave their homeland?
  • Where did they live in the United States?
  • What did they do for a living?
  • How many brothers and sisters did they have?
  • How many children did they have?
  • What do you remember about your great-grandparents?
  • Where did your grandparents live?
  • What did they do for a living?
  • What do you remember about your grandparents?
  • How many sisters and brothers did they have?
  • How many children did they have?
  • Did their sisters and brothers have any children?
  • Did anyone in these generations serve in the military?
  • What type of education did they have?
  • What stories did your parents tell you about them?
  • Where did your parents live while they were growing up?
  • What schools did they attend?
  • How did they meet?
  • When and where did they get married?
  • Are there any customs or family traditions that have been passed down through the generations?

 

CHILDHOOD

  • Where and when were you born?
  • What was it like there?
  • What was the residence like that you lived in?
  • What were your parents like?
  • What are your favorite memories of them?
  • What is the most important thing they taught you?
  • Did you have any brothers or sisters?
  • What were they like as children?
  • What kind of things did you enjoy doing together?
  • What were you like as a child?
  • Did you have any pets?
  • Who was your best friend?
  • What was your school like and did you like it?
  • What were your best and worst subjects?
  • What were your favorite foods?
  • What were your favorite things to do?
  • Did you have chores around the house?
  • Did you participate in sports, scouts, clubs, or church?
  • What were your family vacations like?
  • How did you celebrate holidays?
  • What was your most memorable birthday?
  • What is the best present you ever received?
  • What is the most memorable present you ever gave?
  • What did you want to be when you grew up?
  • Did you have any jobs before you left high school? What?
  • When did you get your driver’s license?
  • When did you get your first car? What was it?
  • What did you like most about your childhood?
  • When you misbehaved, what was your punishment?

 

ADULT LIFE

  • Where did you live when you left home?
  • Did you further your education? What degrees?
  • What was your first job like as an adult?
  • What were the best and worst jobs you ever had?
  • What is your present job or was your last job before retirement?
  • Did you serve in the military? What was your assignment? (refer to Veteran section)
  • Have you belonged to any organizations?
  • What was your favorite activity/sport?
  • When did you buy your first house?
  • What was your favorite car?
  • Have you done any traveling? What places did you visit and what did you do there?
  • What do you remember about the world at different times in your life?
  • Where were you and what did you think (about) during historic events?
  • What were some of your greatest accomplishments?
  • What was the most embarrassing thing you ever did?

 

FAMILY STORIES

  • Did you marry? If not why did you chose to remain single?
  • If you married how did you meet your spouse?
  • How old were you when you got married?
  • What was it like when you were dating?
  • What was popular at the time? (music, movies, clothes…)
  • Did you marry for love or another reason?
  • What was your wedding like?
  • Where did you get married? Where was your honeymoon?
  • Where did you live when newly married?
  • Do you have any children?
  • What were your feelings when your children were born?
  • How do your children’s lives differ from yours?
  • What were your children like as kids?
  • What were they like as teenagers?
  • When your kids misbehaved, how did you punish them?
  • When they excelled how did you reward them?
  • What were holidays like in your family?
  • What traditions did you observe?
  • What was your home and neighborhood like?
  • Why did you chose to live where you did?
  • What were the happiest days that you remember?
  • What were your proudest accomplishments?
  • What do you recall as the time you felt most proud of each of your children? Why?
  • Do you have any grandchildren or great-grandchildren and where do they live?

 

LOVE STORIES

  • Who did you first fall in love with?
  • How and where did you meet?
  • What did you talk about?
  • Do you remember a special present you bought or received from him/her?
  • Did you have a favorite place to go together?
  • Did you have a favorite song?
  • Do you have a special memory of a time you spent with that person?
  • Are you still together or, if not, why did you part?

 

PHOTO MEMORIES

 

Select a dozen photographs that are important to you and tell the stories they bring to mind.

 

  • What is the date (year) of this photo?
  • Who is in the photo?
  • Who took the picture?
  • Where was the photo taken?
  • Who brought you there?
  • What is happening in the photo?
  • Why is this photo important to you

 

WISDOM STORIES

 

  • If you could go back and re-live any part of my life, what it would be?
  • What was your proudest moment?
  • What main things guided your life decisions?
  • At times of stress in your life, what got you through it?
  • What was your greatest fear growing up? How did you dealt with it?
  • What is the most important lessons you have learned so far?
  • Who was the one person you admired most? Why?
  • What are you most sorry about?
  • What cause were you most concerned with?
  • What was the hardest thing you ever had to do?
  • What/Who was the greatest influence in your life.
  • What thing(s) did you mother/father always say?
  • What movie or book impacted the way you lived your life? Why?
  • What is your most treasured possession and why?
  • As you look back, what are the three most fantastic changes you witnessed?
  • What are some of the principles that you have lived by? What guides you?
  • How well have you been able to live by those principles?

 


 

MEDICAL HISTORY

  • How old did your great-grandparents live to be or how old are they, if they are still living?
  • What illnesses or allergies did they have during their lifetime?
  • If they have passed, how did they die?
  • How old did your grandparents live to be or how old are they, if they are still living?
  • What illnesses or allergies did they have?
  • If they have passed, how did they die?
  • How old are your parents?
  • What illnesses or allergies did they have?
  • If they have passed, how did they die?
  • What illnesses or allergies have you had in your lifetime?
  • Do any specific illnesses run in your family?
  • If there are allergies what are they?

 

BUSINESS, CAREER, & FINANCE

This part of life is one that everyone has opinions on. Whether you own your own business, worked with or for someone else, or just had to pay the bills, you have stories to tell. The ones who will follow your trail need to know how you dealt with these issues, for better or worse. Answering these questions can help your descendants make wise decisions.

  • If you have your own business or manage one that has been in the family, what kind of business is it?
  • What do you like most about what you do for a living?
  • What are your feelings about using credit?
  • What have been your experiences with professionals like attorneys, CPAs, brokers, real estate agents, lenders, etc.?
  • What accomplishments and recognition have you received? How did they make you feel?
  • What did you do that led to those accomplishments?
  • How did you manage your money?
  • Have you ever gotten in over your head? How did you get out?
  • What was your typical workday like?
  • Was your work stressful? If so how did you deal with it?
  • Do you have any special thoughts on dealing with bosses, subordinates, coworkers, or customers?
  • How do you define SUCCESS?
  • What gave you the most satisfaction in your career?
  • Does someone you mentored stand out in your mind?
  • What were the main ingredients of your success?
  • What would you have done differently in your business life, if you had it to do over?
  • A great deal of success in business is the quality of people you hire. What special traits did you look for when considering a new hire?
  • Where you ever fired? If so what were the circumstances?
  • Did you ever fire someone? If so, for what reasons?

 

SPIRITUAL LIFE

Spiritual life has a different definition for everyone. For some it may mean participating in organized religions; for others it may mean communing with nature. It’s a very personal part of life and can provide important insight about you to those who hear your stories.

  • Describe your spiritual or religious beliefs.
  • What were your grandparents’ and parents’ beliefs?
  • Do you still practice the faith you were born into? If not, when and why did you change?
  • Have you participated in any celebrations with your faith? If so, what were they, and how old were you?
  • Have you done any work with youth groups?
  • Have you traveled to spread your faith to other people?
  • Tell a story about a memorable experience from that time.
  • How has your faith helped to guide you through life?
  • Was there a special time in your life when your faith sustained you in a time of crisis?
  • What is your favorite Scripture and why?
  • Share a story about a prayer that was answered.
  • Do you believe in miracles? If so, did you ever experience one?
  • Describe some of the ways that your life has been blessed by your faith.
  • What would you like to share in regard to your faith?

 


VETERAN’S HISTORY

The following questions are based on the Veteran’s History Project Sample Interview Questions. Some questions may not apply to every veteran. The more you can find out about a veteran before an interview the more successful the interview will be.

If you are the interviewer, it would be helpful for you to read up on any conflicts that the veteran participated in and to look at maps of the areas where he or she was stationed.

Jogging the Memory:

  • Were you drafted or did you enlist?
  • Where were you living at the time?
  • If you joined, what was your motivation?
  • Why did you pick the service branch you joined?
  • Do you recall your first days in service? What did it feel like?
  • Talk about your boot camp/training experiences. What do you remember about your instructors?
  • How did you get through it?

Experiences:

  • Which war (s) did you serve in?
  • Where exactly did you go?
  • Do you remember your arrival and what it was like?
  • What was your job/assignment?
  • Did you see combat?
  • Were there any casualties in your unit?
  • Talk about a couple of your most memorable experiences.
  • Were you a prisoner of war? If so, talk about your experiences and when freed.
  • Were you awarded any medals or citations? What did you do to earn them?

Higher ranks may be asked about battle planning. Those who sustained injuries may be asked about the circumstances.

Life in the Service:

  • How did you stay in touch with your family?
  • What was the food like?
  • Did you have enough supplies?
  • Did you feel pressure or stress?
  • Was there something special you did for good luck?
  • How did people entertain themselves?
  • Were there entertainers?
  • What did you do when on leave?
  • Where did you traveled while in the service?
  • Do you recall any particularly humorous or unusual events?
  • Did you and others pull pranks? If so, describe some.
  • Do you have photographs? Who is in them?
  • What did you think of officers or fellow soldiers?
  • Did you keep a personal diary?

After Service (appropriateness of questions will vary if the veteran had a military career.):

  • Do you recall the day your service ended? How did you feel? Where were you?
  • What did you do in the days and weeks that followed?
  • Did you work or go back to school?
  • Was your education supported by the GI Bill?
  • Did you make any close friendships while in the service?
  • Did you continue any of those friendships? For how long?
  • Did you join a veteran’s organization?

Later Years and Closing:

  • What did you go on to do as a career after your service?
  • Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general?
  • If you are in a veteran’s organization, what kind of activities does your post or association have?
  • Do you attend reunions?
  • How did your service and experiences affect your life?
  • Is there anything you would like to add that we did not cover in this interview?

 

If you are the interviewer:

Thank the veteran for sharing his or her recollections and for their service. Let the veteran know that, by signing a release form, his or her story can be archived with others in the Library of Congress and made available for future generations. Release forms that must be signed by the veteran and the interviewer are available from the Veterans History Project website at

 


 

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