Sunday, March 13, 2016

The 21 Day Genealogy Challenge - Day 15: Interviewing Family Members - Skill Development

To Do A Really Good Interview, You Have to Be Truly Interested in the Person.

-- Daisy Fuentes


Welcome to day fifteen of the 21 Day Genealogy Challenge.  Throughout this challenge we have taken some time to review tasks given.  Today will be a follow up to Day 4:Interviewing Family Members.  I believe review days are important.  It gives us time to reexamine the work we have completed, make notes and move forward.

By now you should have conducted a family interview.  How did it go?  Were you surprised at some of the things that you learned?  Did you find the process easier than you previously had imagined?  Let’s take a look at the 5 Point Review and see what we can add to this portion of our family history project.

·       Call a relative, request the interview and plan the date.

While this first step appears to be the easiest, sometimes it can be a bit daunting.  What if the person says no?  What if they don’t quite understand why you are wanting to interview them?  It is best to plan for these responses ahead of time so that you are not caught off guard and stumble in your answer.

If your relative declines the interview, thank them and leave the opportunity available for the future.  “I understand.  Thank you for considering it.  If you ever change your mind, please don’t hesitate to let me know.”

Sometimes people have concerns as to why we are asking questions.  They want to know how we are going to use the information we learn from them.  Assure your relative that any stories they share is merely for family history purposes, and let them know they may share only the information they would like passed down to future generations.

“I understand your concerns about privacy.  Let me show you the program I am using and the stories I (or others) have collected in the past.”

·       Prepare questions and provide your relative with a copy so that he/she may have time to think and recall memories.

Preparing your interview questions ahead of time is beneficial to both you and your family members you are interviewing.  It allows time for them to think about stories, but also allows you an opportunity to create an outline for your interview. 

In the bullet point preceding this one, we addressed the trepidation others may have at being interviewed.  Providing interview questions will put your family member at ease.  Consider, too, bringing old family photographs that will bring back memories and lighten the mood.

·       Test your recording device before the interview.
In Day 4, I wrote about an interview we did with my husband’s grandfather and our failure to check out recording devices beforehand.  It was a wonderful learning opportunity, but we still lament not having that interview available.

It is imperative you test your devices before the interview begins.  If the device is new to you, take the time at home to do a practice interview so that you can learn how to use the device and understand any quirks it may have.

·       When you return home, listen to the entire recording and take notes. 

I suggest that you take notes during the interview.  This will not be a detailed note taking process, but a chance to jot down a name mentioned, or perhaps a date and location.  Should by some chance your recording device failed you, all will not be lost!  You will have some information to research and can make a follow up interview to cover what may have slipped your mind.

Follow up interviews may be necessary.  Everyone has a story to tell and most likely it will take more than a 30-90 minute interview to fit it all in.  In fact, we all have many stories to tell!  So, even if a couple of good stories made it into the interview, there may be more to learn.  Schedule a follow up interview, or at the very least keep the door open for one in the future.

·       Within a few days of the recording take the time to transcribe the interview

We all have busy lives, so it may not be practical for you to rush home and transcribe the interview the same day.  At the very least, put on your calendar a day/time to set aside for the purpose of listening closely to the interview recording, taking notes about information you deem important to add to your tree, and then transcribe the interview.

Remember to indicate in your written document the date and time of the interview, who conducted the interview, as well as the name of who was interviewed.  As you differentiate who is speaking, place your name or the individuals name before the dialogue.  Here is an example:

Melyssa:  Granddad, could you tell me about the time you were working as a lineman and found the 6 foot snake by the work truck?

Frank Watts: Absolutely!  We were down in Florida …  

Notice how I put Granddad’s name and answers in bold type?  This helps differentiate the speakers in the interview.  You don’t have to do it this way, but it is merely a suggestion on format.  

Should you choose to not write out the participants names throughout the document, create a “Key” that will allow the reader know who is who.  For example:

            Melyssa – “M” 
            Frank Watts – “F”

If there are other items within the document you wish to abbreviate, include those abbreviations in the Key as well.

Finally, save a copy of your interview on a flash drive or removable hard drive for safe keeping.  Any information that others would find useful and interesting to learn, place within your family tree.

Congratulations! You have completed day 15 of the 21 Day Genealogy Challenge!  I hope that you find these review days useful.  It is important to review our work and add a little additional knowledge or technique to what we have prepared.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them in the Blog Comment section below.  Invite your friends to join this challenge by sharing this blog with them on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.  The share icons are just below this blog entry.

Thank you for joining this challenge and remember…..

History not shared is History forgotten!