Open Ended Questions to Ask Older Generations of Your Family

Open Ended Questions to Ask Older Generations of Your Family

Almost everyone will have older members in their family that might not be around for that much longer, so it’s great to ask them about their lives and the lives of their Siblings, Cousins, Aunties, Uncles, Parents and Grandparents. The majority of the time they will jump at the chance to give you what you’re after as long as you don’t go down the ‘survey’ avenue. I’ve seen a lot of posts on forums and online communities asking about this and a lot of people write out pages of questions relating to the height, weight what colour eyes etc each ancestor had and it rarely gets any real response.

Questions should asked in a way that opens the person up and gets them talking, often going off on tangents completely unrelated to the original question, and this is where the really interesting stuff comes out.

– Favourite Memories Growing Up?

– Who were you closest to from your extended family (Cousins etc)?

– What was the house you grew up in like?

– We’re you evacuated during WW2 (If applicable)?

– What was the best time of your life?

– What was your alcoholic drink of choice when you were young?

– How did you meet your partner?

– Did you ever go on holiday when you were young? If so where?

– Who were your best friends in school?

– Do you have any family recipes and where did they come from?

– How many jobs have you had? And what was your favourite?

– Are you named after anyone?

A lot of the above questions might seem a bit pointless, but they are intended to open up conversation and not make the person feel like they are being interviewed. The most interesting stuff always comes from natural conversation. Ideally you want their personal impressions of subjects or accounts, rather than facts. Facts are easy to find but individuals opinions are not!

2 thoughts on “Open Ended Questions to Ask Older Generations of Your Family

  1. I bought postcards and sent them to my mother, each with a few memory- jogging questions. This method was a huge success. She rewarded me with wonderful letters. Here are my questions:

    Postcard #1
    Describe the homes you lived in growing up: Where were they and what do you remember about them?

    Postcard #2
    1. What did you do for fun growing up, both as a young child and teenager?
    2. Describe any memories of toys, games, or any other forms of entertainment.
    3.Talk about the radio shows in those days.

    Postcard #3
    1. How, where, and when did you and Dad meet?
    2. Where did you go on your first date?
    3. What did you do on other dates? ​​​​​​ ​​ 4. How long did you date until you got engaged?​ ​ 5. Did Dad formally propose, and if so, tell me the details? Did he ask your father?

    Postcard #4
    1. How old were you when you had your first job ?
    2. Did you contribute any money to your family?
    3. What kind of jobs did your father have?
    4. Describe typical meals your mother made.

    Postcard #5
    1. What kind of books did you like to read?
    2. Which sibling did you get along best with and least with?

    Postcard #6

    1. What was your wedding like?
    2. What kind of party did you have after the wedding and who came?

    Postcard #7
    1. Who or what has been the biggest influence in your life?
    2. Did your family ever have a pet?
    3. Did you ever break any bones?
    4. Describe your best and worst vacations.
    5. How did you celebrate your birthday as a kid?

    Postcard #8
    1. Do you know how your parents or grandparents met?
    2. Did they go to school, and if so, for how long?
    3. What is your earliest memory as a child?
    4. What did you want to be when you grew up?
    5. Describe Christmas in your house growing up.

    1. Hi Karen,

      Thank you for the comment, it’s great to ask a varied list of questions and it’s good that you broke them up in to multiple post cards. One giant list of questions can be daunting!

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