20 Family History Questions
to ask at the next family reunion

Ask insightful family history questions and you'll discover plenty of family stories. Use the family reunion to gather, document and share your family stories.

family tree with quote

tip

Take your family history questions and family stories a step further with storybooking. Simply combine your family narratives and a few pictures into a one-of-a-kind, easy-to-read keepsake. Check out the e-course for more family memory keeping ideas to coincide with your family reunion.

I love fascinating family stories, or "tales about people, places, objects, and events related to the members of the immediate family or their ancestors." (www.storyarts.org)

elderly woman with wild flowersMy grandma loved picking wild "curlies" each spring.

Family history stories are about the pet dog named "Montana," Grandma’s homemade raspberry jam and the annual spring drive to the mountains to pick flowers. They are the narratives that add personality and identity to casual family reunion conversations. Family stories can also be the glue that bonds a family together.

"Deeply embedded in the soul of every family is a vision of what the world is like... and how best to survive it."

- Author Elizabeth Stone

Our unique stories help us better understand ourselves and can ground our decision making. Family stories:

Family stories are critical for genealogical research, as they are often rich in details that identify ancestors and define family history. But sometimes it's hard to start meaningful conversation that stir up memories and get people talking. These family history questions will help.

"There are no ordinary people."

- CS Lewis

20 FAMILY HISTORY QUESTIONS

Every individual and each family has a story - or many stories. Ask the elders these family history questions at your next family reunion to discover your family stories.

green trees against blue sky
  1. How did your parents choose your name? Do you have any nicknames?

  2. What chores did you have as a child? 

  3. Where did you go to school? What were your favorite subjects?

  4. What foods did you hate as a child? What foods do you hate as an adult?

  5. How often did you see your cousins as a child? Do you still see them?

  6. What's a favorite memory of your mother? What's a favorite memory of your father?

  7. What kinds of things did your family do together when you were young?

  8. What trips or vacations do you remember?

  9. Did you go to family reunions?

  10. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

  11. How did you meet your spouse? What do you admire most about your spouse?

  12. When and where did you get married? Did you go on a honeymoon?

  13. How did you find out you were going to be a parent for the first time? How many children do you have all together?

  14. What did you find most difficult as a parent? What do you find most rewarding as a parent?

  15. How many grandchildren do you have? How is being a grandparent different than being a parent?

  16. What is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?

  17. Do you go to church? How does religion influence your life?

  18. What do you consider the most important inventions during your lifetime?

  19. What are two things you'd like people to know about you?

  20. What advice do you have for your children and grandchildren?

asking the questions

There are many, many more wonderful interview questions out there.  Find the ones you like by looking for books on "personal storytelling" or "life history" at your local library. Browse interesting conversation starters and gather journal writing prompts that are specifically written for drawing out memories.

Establish what you want to accomplish before you get to the family reunion. Create a theme or focus on a particular person. Don't try to capture someone's entire personal history at once - it's too overwhelming. Focus on small portions at a time.

Prepare your specific questions and conversation topics in advance. Determine the format you'll use and ask relatives for help.

For a completely unique experience and perspective, let (or help) a child conduct the interview. I recently took my 6-year-old son with me to visit with my husband's Great Grandmother. He asked questions I didn't think of and was able to elicit information I couldn't draw out!

Depending on your family dynamics and reunion schedule, you could pair kids and adults with elders for an hour or an entire afternoon and have many interviews happening at once.

"Family stories should reflect change and life’s realities and be allowed to develop and grow organically to reflect a changing family. Stories are important - whether we tell them in our annual newsletters, in person or over the phone. Connecting to one another through our family lore is as important now as it has ever been." 
Freelance writer Kori Rodley Irons of Eugene, Oregon

recording the answers

yellow wild flowersCurlies will forever remind me of my Grandma. What will you remember about your loved ones?

Keep notes during the interviews. But you might want to consider recording the conversation as well.

Did you know that a story can change with each oral telling? As a matter of fact, according to Roots Tech, the largest family history and technology conference in the world, oral history can be lost in just 3 generations.

It's easy to record conversations with today's technology and smart phones. With the app from FamilySearch, you can even upload and store them for free.

Combine your notes, recorded interviews and a few photos into a written story. Such a one-of-a-kind storybook will become a family heirloom in and of itself. 

If you like the idea of purposely planning, creating and then documenting memories, check out the free e-course. I do most of my printing projects through Heritage Makers. They have TONS of creative templates so once you know the program, the project comes together very quickly.

 -take the E-Course -

PLANNING & PRINTING FAMILY REUNION MEMORIES
Work through the family reunion planning process by
focusing on three phases of printed materials.

It's Free!

There are many online resources, classes and books that can teach you the skills necessary for documenting your personal and family histories. But the family reunion is perhaps your most valuable resource. While everyone is together, build in opportunities to share family stories and ask insightful family history questions.

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