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!