Have you ever wondered who your great-great-grandfather was or if you have any relatives who made monumental changes in history?
Have you ever thought about where your curly locks came from, or if you may be related to a famous historical figure or true crime legend?
This article will go over how you can ask the family interview questions to learn about your family history.
Finding out who we are and where we came from is a common curiosity among people across the globe.
The best way to gather this type of information is simply asking those who would know your ancestors the best: your family.
So, what is the best way to ask these intimate questions? Continue reading for 100 questions to ask your family about your family history.
- 100 Questions to Ask About Your Family History
- What Is the Best Way to Research My Family History?
- Why Should You Ask About Your Family History?
- How Should You Bring It Up?
100 Questions to Ask About Your Family History
When asking questions regarding your family’s history, you are looking for information that can date back hundreds of years.
That type of information can draw up thousands of questions specific to every detailed event.
That’s why it is important to know where to start and then let the conversation go from there.
Some of the best memories come from our childhood. This is a great place to start when you are interviewing your family about your history and theirs.
Ask them the basics regarding who they were growing up and what their family and life were like:
- What was their full name?
- Did they have any nicknames?
- Were they named after anyone in particular?
- When were they born?
- Where were they born?
- Did their birth take place in a hospital?
- What are their favorite memories of their grandparents?
- What memories do they have about their mother?
- What memories do they have about their father?
- What was their childhood house like?
- What types of chores were they responsible for?
- Did they have any pets? If so, which was their favorite?
- What was their religion?
- If they were religious, what place of worship did they attend?
- What did they do for fun?
- Were they close with anyone in particular?
Remember, this type of information can be hard to remember or even difficult to talk about. Never rush the conversations and focus on questions that really matter.
Intermediate Family Information
After you get a good feel for who that person was growing up and what life was like throughout their childhood years, you can move onto their family and what those relatives’ lives were like.
Who were your grandparents, cousins, aunts, 3rd cousins twice removed?
You may find that you had some very interesting characters in your family tree that you never knew existed.
What to ask regarding intermediate family information:
- Who were their parents?
- Where did their Parents live growing up?
- Where and when did their parents die? (If applicable)
- Where are their parents buried? (If applicable)
- What types of jobs did their parents have?
- Where do their siblings live now?
- Were their Siblings married? (If applicable)
- What was the name of their sibling’s spouses?
- Did their Siblings have any children, and what were their names?
- Do they know their uncles and aunts?
- Did they have any cousins they were close with?
- How old were they when their uncles, aunts, or cousins passed? (If applicable)
When putting together a family tree, you will quickly notice how far the branches reach. Try and get your family members to remember as much as they can about all of their relatives.
Times have certainly changed, and the way schools are now are nothing like they used to be.
Learning about your family’s past experiences in education could be extremely interesting and may help you decide what you want to accomplish in your future endeavors.
What to ask regarding education:
- Where did they go to elementary school?
- Where did they go to high school?
- Did they finish high school?
- What were their favorite subjects?
- What was school like?
- Did they go to college?
- If they went to college, what did they major in?
- What were teachers like back then?
- Who were their friends in school?
- What were school rules like back then compared to now?
- What types of books did they read?
I’m sure we have all heard the stories about walking to school uphill 10 miles, barefooted, in a foot of snow. Find out if this is something your relative really did.
Maybe spanking in class was also something that happened?
Marriage and Children
Now it is time to talk about them specifically and what life was like for them and raising their children.
About their adult lives and how they have gotten to where they are now, this may be a lot more recent information but is still fun to learn and can provide a lot of beneficial clues into your life.
What to ask regarding marriage and children:
- Where did they meet their spouse?
- Who Proposed? How and where did it happen?
- Where did they get married?
- What was their wedding song?
- Where did they go for their honeymoon?
- Where was their first home located?
- If they moved, where and why?
- What jobs did they have?
- What jobs did their spouse have?
- Did they have any children, and how many?
- What are their children’s names? (If applicable)
- Do they have grandchildren?
- What are their children and grandchildren like? (If applicable)
- Where did their family like to vacation?
- How were chores divided in the home?
- What were the family’s favorite meals?
- Were times tougher than they are now to raise a family?
These types of questions can get very personal and touch some emotional nerves quickly, try to tread lightly and be respectful.
There have been many historical events that have changed the world. Living through these times was probably extremely influential on how people grew up and who they turned out to be.
Learning about your family members’ experiences during historical events can be very exciting and informational.
What to ask regarding historical events:
- Were they in a war or lived through one?
- What was wartime like?
- What was the scariest part of living through a war?
- What historical events took place during their lives?
- What do they remember about those major historical events?
- Do they have any records of historical events from their past? (Letters, photos or news clippings)
- What was it like raising a family through these historical events?
- What cool inventions were created during their lifetime?
- What were presidential elections like in their past?
- Who did they vote for?
- What were political conversations like when they were growing up?
- What historical event impacted them the most and why?
- Who was their favorite president?
So many historical events have changed lives in huge ways.
Identifying the major ones your family may have experienced can help you learn more about that time and what really happened.
For obvious reasons, you should question your relatives about their health history and the health history of those related to them.
This can help you identify some genetic information that may be problematic for you in the future or even something that you may end up passing on to your children.
Other health-related questions can be asked just to get an idea of what that specific family member went through and what things were like when they experienced them.
What to ask regarding family health:
- Did they have any health issues?
- Did their parents or grandparents have any health conditions?
- Were they ever in a serious accident?
- Did they suffer from any childhood illnesses?
- Were they ever in the hospital?
- Did they ever have their life saved?
- Did they ever save anyone’s life?
- Did they ever need surgery?
- Do they know about any genetic health issues?
- Did they ever go through a pandemic? If yes, what was it like?
- What were hospitals and doctors like?
- Did they ever break a bone?
Now that we know more about the specific aspects of your family history, let’s move on to some miscellaneous questions you can ask.
Other Interesting Questions to Consider
There are endless amounts of questions you can ask your family regarding their history, your family’s history, and past events that would make for interesting stories and conversations that would kill the silence.
Here are a few more questions you may want to bring up during your “interview.”,
What to ask regarding different areas of their life:
- What was the price of different items when they were growing up? (ie. food, gas, clothing)
- What did people wear while they were growing up?
- What kinds of music, movies, and entertainment was popular?
- Who was famous during these times?
- Where were the “cool” places to hang out?
- Did they date a lot?
- What were their favorite games or toys?
- What were their favorite sports?
- Were they ever a victim of a crime?
- Did they ever commit a crime?
- Did they ever witness a crime?
- What were some of the most difficult decisions they ever had to make?
- If they could change something from the past what would it be?
- What organizations or groups were they a part of?
- Did they play an instrument?
- Who did they look up to when they were little?
- Who do they look up to now?
- Did they ever win an award?
- Do they remember their neighbors growing up?
There is a lot to uncover when finding out about your family history.
Though you have spoken information, you might also want to look for written records to gain a better understanding.
What Is the Best Way to Research My Family History?
To research your family history, you can find written documents your family kept throughout the years and find more information there.
You can also do genetics and DNA testing to find out your ethnic background or link yourself to other unknown family members.
Let’s dive deeper into each of the ways to research your family history below.
State Genealogy Sites
All states offer information and resources relating to genealogy and the history of that state, and past historical world events.
You can find information about your family history on state genealogy sites such as:
- Land and property information
- Birth, death, and adoption certificates
- Locations of burials
- Military records
- Business owner information
- Immigration records
- Criminal history
- Historical hospital records and information
- Historical shipping vessels
- Documents regarding slavery in the U.S
- How much people use to make in specific jobs
A lot of the information provided within these sites is free to access and can also be found in many libraries and historical societies.
There is also a wide range of information located through the U.S National Archives.
Genetics DNA Testing
If you are interested in finding out where your family came from, who you are, and what health traits you may have inherited, using a DNA testing company could give you this information and so much more.
Some of these kits are better than others, and each offers its own set of advantages.
Here are the top three DNA testing kits you may want to consider when searching through your past.
This kit is $99 and has already been used by millions of people.
The types of information they provide include but is not limited to:
- A pie chart representing your ethnicities
- Locations and details of over 500 places
- A timeline of historical changes
- How and why your family moved locations
- Many ways to match and view your DNA results
This company is extremely popular and has made big advancements in the way people can track their heritage and gain detailed knowledge of their ancestors.
This kit costs $99 and offers one of the most comprehensive and detailed breakdowns of ancestor history.
The information provided by this company includes but is not limited to:
- Ancestry composition
- Detailed ancestry report
- DNA relative finder
- Family Trees
- Famous relatives
- Neanderthal DNA
This company is well known for getting detailed information to help you understand where you come from and those you may be related to.
This kit costs $59, making it the most affordable of the 3.
This kit not only offers DNA testing that can help you uncover your family heritage but also provides a library of tools and resources to help you dig up your past.
Information provided by this company includes but is not limited to:
- Ethnicity matches
- DNA matches
- Ethnicity maps
- Family tree
- Immigration records
- Newspaper articles
This site also provides customers with professional researchers to help you trace your history as far back as you can go for an extra fee.
Where better to hear information regarding your family history than from your family themselves?
Take your time during these get-togethers to make your way around the group and ask lots of questions.
Ways you can utilize family reunions:
- Ask for pictures: You can also be the one who initiates the reunion and request family members to bring along pictures or mementos with them in the invitations.
- Create a family tree board: Create a large family tree board and place it on the table at your family reunion, this way those who look at it can add their information if they have any.
- Send Questionnaires: Create questionnaires to add to your invitations or to place on the table at a reunion full of the questions listed above.
- Make a video: Travel around the room asking family members specific information regarding their past and record their answers as you go. This will make an amazing home video.
There are many ways you can use family reunions to your advantage when seeking information regarding your family tree if you know the right questions to ask.
Talk With a Genealogist
There are many professional genealogists available online, by phone, or in-person who can help you track down your lineage and find out information regarding your family and their history.
These professionals have gone through years of schooling in order to learn the best ways to research information and track down relatives in families that may be too hard to find on your own.
A genealogist is usually paid a specific fee depending on the research needed and the information being looked into.
These people will do all of the leg work, searching through historical documents, public records and interviewing people from all over in order to get the details their clients are looking for.
You can easily hire a genealogist by googling your location and budget. You can locate them through family search sites, family history centers, or even social media.
Popular social media sites have been known for reuniting family members and loved ones simply by asking questions in the right places.
Why Should You Ask About Your Family History?
There is so much unknown about the past.
As the years go by, technology improves, the world changes, and lives are so much more different.
Understanding your family’s history can help you better understand what life used to be like for those you love and how these changes may have affected who you are today.
There are many benefits to understanding your family history and taking the time to sit down with your relatives to ask them about their past and what your ancestors were like.
Let’s dive deeper into each of these benefits below.
Understanding Yourself Better
Have you ever wondered where your dark blue eyes came from or how you could be so shy when the rest of your family is extremely outspoken?
These traits could have been passed down to you throughout generations and you don’t even know it.
Maybe you have a love for adventure and exploring the unknowns, but no one really understands you or your passion.
Finding out your great-uncle John had the same love for exploration could help you to feel like you fit in somewhere, or you do have someone in your family that was just like you.
This type of revelation can help a lot of people get a feel for their true identity and gives them a great sense of belonging.
Connect With Family Members
There is nothing more personal than sitting someone down and talking to them about their past.
Not only will it help you feel a connection, but you may help that other person feel loved and important.
Getting to know your family members, who they truly are, and where they or their families came from can be a great way to bond.
This is also an excellent opportunity to understand your family and why they believe in the things they believe in or do the things they do.
Increases Your Chances of Making Better Choices
It is relatively safe to say that if someone learns their great-great-grandfather died of heart disease, their great uncle died from a heart attack, and their grandfather has suffered through multiple heart attacks and has had bypass surgeries that they are going to try and eat better and exercise more.
Knowing your family history, including their health, can prepare you for possible future outcomes and can help you create your final destination.
It Makes You Want to Be a Better Person
This can go two different ways.
Many of us want to believe that everyone in our family tree has been on the up-and-up and has always made great choices in life.
However, that is not always the case.
Knowing things that your ancestors have done wrong in the past can give you a reason to want to do better.
On the other hand, you may find out you come from a long line of do-gooders, and this can also make you feel obligated to be a better person, do good for your community, and leave a positive mark for your community future family members to look back on.
How Should You Bring It Up?
Some families may be extremely open and happy to share their past and their family’s history with someone; however, that may not be the case for all.
It is important that you know how to properly bring up the topic without stirring up any type of trouble or pain.
You always want to be approaching the subject with curiosity, sincere interest, and preparation.
Let’s dive deeper into some ways you can bring up questions to your family about your family’s history below.
Be respectful not only with your questions but also with your reactions to their answers.
You can never fully prepare yourself for the information you may encounter; however, you can have control over your reactions.
Most of the time, when discussing your family’s history, you will be talking about deceased loved ones and it can be difficult to re-hash memories and stories without becoming emotional.
Be respectful of those emotions and be there to support the one telling you the information you are looking for.
You should also always be respectful regarding choices such as past religions, relationships, immigrations, or actions.
No one is going to continue sharing things if they feel attacked or ashamed.
This information is to learn about your past and your family’s heritage, not to judge it.
It is essential to know when you are overstepping.
Do not ask extremely important questions if you are interested in a topic that may be a little risky; ease into it with an opening question and see if the other person opens that door.
If not, leave it be.
For example, “How long were your parents married?”
They answer, “Only a few years.”
You want to know why, but that may not be information they wish to share, so you can follow up with “Who did you live with after?”
If they want to let you know about an affair, betrayal, or any other deeper information, they will let you know. If not, it is not worth an emotional fallout.
If you are going to bring up the questions, then you have to be committed and involved.
Stay engaged and present when asking about your family history. Have conversations about the answers you are given, don’t just jump from one question to another.
Many people love to take a trip down memory lane and share those fond memories with the ones they love.
Let them tell you their story and comment on each situation. You never know where those conversations can take you and what other details might pop up.
Come into the conversation prepared. Know what questions you want to ask ahead of time, or at least have conversation starters prepared.
You can be ready for interviewing about your family’s history in many different ways:
- Bring an Unfinished Family Tree: Bring with you a blank family tree and use that as the focal point for your conversation. Complete the tree as much as you can with the person you are sitting down with.
- Bring along pictures or newspaper clippings: You can try to start a conversation with some old newspaper articles you have tracked down or some family pictures you found stashed away in your parent’s attic.
- Come with your own story: “Grandma, where did I get my brown eyes if everyone else in the family has blue?”
- Use a big event to kickstart the conversation: Use a big event in your own life to press for information. If you are getting married, ask your great-aunt what her wedding was like and who was in it.
- Take a journal: This is definitely information you are going to want to keep forever; take a journal with you to jot down the main details or even start a scrapbook.
Never go into deep-dive conversations without being prepared on how you are going to start, contribute and complete the conversation.
Sometimes it can be hard to find the right way to discuss your family’s past and all of the personal and private details that come with it.
However, this information can be very important to understand who you are, where you came from, and what kind of future you may possess.
You should always be certain you are asking these questions in the right way and at the right time. And always pay attention to the details in the story; you never know what type of information you might uncover.