Part 1 of a 6-part series on interviewing tips to capture stories from other people.
Sometimes getting started is the toughest part about a new project. The same is definitely true when you begin to write your family stories. So let's talk about the key points to consider when you want to interview a person, whether they are relatives, friends, neighbors or strangers.
1. Why are you asking questions to interview them?
a. Thank them first – Let them know you appreciate having the chance to hear their stories.
b. Introduce yourself – Particularly when talking to elderly people, you may need to remind them who you are. Tell them a little about yourself. Do you need to remind them of your relationship, such as you are their cousin Ralph’s youngest son from Atlanta? Are you visiting from an unfamiliar neighborhood?
c. Why you want their stories - Let them know you are interested in their stories, and why. Do you want some family history? Are you curious about what life was like before the invention of television? Do you want to know what a typical day was like in a one-room schoolhouse?
d. How you’ll use their stories – Tell them how you plan to use their stories. Will they be part of a class project? Are you combining their stories with a group of others? How many people will see the final results?
e. What if they want to omit some stories? If some stories are sensitive, you have a few options to consider: 1) leave out that specific part of the story for anyone else who may read it, 2) change their names to protect their identity or 3) ask why they are concerned. When in doubt, always respect their wishes to avoid embarrassment.