GenealogyFirst.ca LogoFort Folly Nation Logo
Conducting the Interview

When interviewing a relative ask if they can supply names and addresses of other relatives.  Interview these individuals and ask the same questions.  Compare the answers.  Additional research may be required to settle any discrepancies. 

Make the interviews fun and friendly with simple questions, direct, and focused on the types of biographical and vital data required.  If possible, limit a visit to about forty-five minutes so as not to tire the interviewee.  Stick to your list of questions as closely as possible but let the person ramble a little.  Anecdotes, reminiscences, and stories can entertain and enlighten.

Try to get precise dates, places, names and accounts of various events that are essential to your research.  The goals are to get the person to remember as far back as possible and supply as much information about each family unit as they are able to provide.  In addition to data about family members in the direct line, gather information about collateral relatives such as their brothers and sisters and their families in each generation.

Show a pedigree chart and ask the person interviewed to fill in missing names and dates.  Use old photographs or question marks in the family history as starting points in an interview.  Taking an elderly person to a cemetery and asking them to explain relationships among people buried there can also yield a very interesting interview. 

It takes planning and discernment to keep the interview progressing and at the same time make an accurate record of what is being said.  It can be difficult to take notes while interviewing at the same time.  To solve this problem some genealogists like to conduct interviews in pairs with one person asking questions and the other person doing the recording.  If you can manage, tape your interviews allowing more accurately recorded responses to questions and thus a better reference tool than hand written notes.  Place the tape recorder in an inconspicuous position so as not to make the person nervous.

Most relatives usually welcome a chance to reminisce about the past and share memories about times gone by, but some might be sensitive when questioned.  Some people are hesitant to talk about family background especially if they are uncomfortable about some aspect of past events.  One barrier to First Nation genealogists is the practise in the past of hiding a person's First Nation ancestry. 

Oral Tradition:  Evidence taken from the spoken words of people who have knowledge of past events and traditions.

Folklore may help provide data about a family in an earlier period, and although folklore is a valuable guide and may be very close to the truth, it cannot be relied upon without the facts being analyzed and checked against other supporting evidence.  Facts must be verified in original sources.  Family folklore can be helpful because it may suggest the direction for further research.