Oral History at Home: Ideas for Families

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family dinner

The old adage, “distance makes the heart grow fonder”, has taken on new meaning during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Grandparents and grandchildren are missing each other, friends are separated, and even neighbors are now isolated. In these challenging times, phone and video calls can help connect us, even though they can’t replace a hug from Grandma. If your family is looking for more ways to connect, give family history a try. Below are some sample questions from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center’s Oral History Team that can help you get started. Recording the interview will provide a lasting keepsake but even having the conversation is a way to create lifelong memories and strengthen intergenerational bonds.

Tip for Parents: Give your potential interviewee a call a day or two early to make sure they are willing to answer your child’s questions.

Here are examples of interview questions. Encourage your children to think of different or additional questions they would like to ask. Some questions may need to be adjusted depending on the child’s age.

  • What is your full name?
  • What is your birthday? Where were you born?
  • What is your earliest memory?
  • What were your parents’ full names? Your siblings’ names?
  • Where was your family originally from?
  • Favorite family story?
  • What are all the places you've lived?
  • Where did you [mostly] grow up?
  • Tell me about your childhood home.
  • Did you share a room?
  • What chores were you responsible for?
  • What was your neighborhood [or town] like then?
  • Where did you go to school?
  • Did you ride a school bus? What was that like?
  • What was your favorite subject in school?
  • Who was your favorite teacher and why?
  • What were your favorite books/toys when you were little?
  • What was your favorite family pet?
  • Did you have something you carried for good luck? What was it?
  • What was your favorite food then? What is your favorite food now?
  • What was your favorite radio/TV show?
  • What was your favorite holiday when you were growing up? How did you celebrate?
  • First thing you remember about going to church/mosque/temple?
  • Did you ever get in trouble for misbehaving in church/mosque/temple?
  • When did you move to [current city/town] (if applicable)?
  • What was your first job?
  • What did you do with your first paycheck?
  • What was your first car like?
  • How did you meet your spouse?
  • Tell me about your wedding.
  • What do you think is the biggest national/international event during your life? How did it impact your life?
  • Tell me about becoming a parent.
  • What was my parent like as a child?

"Family gathered around dinner table" MSS0101-134, Houston Public Library, HMRC

If you need more tips, please reach out to the HMRC Oral History Team by contacting txr.reference@houstontx.gov.

Comments

Being a first generation immigrant to this Country, I have adopted U. S. A. as my 'home' as a naturalized citizen. I may be able to provide some insights to young listeners as to how to interact and socialize with others, for example, neighbors, friends and co-workers.

Hi Nityananda, thank you for sharing!

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