Here is a really great set of questions to ask your parents and grandparents. The information will be invaluable to you once they are gone. As Maya Angelou reminded, "We need to haunt the house of history and listen anew to the ancestors' wisdom." I plan on sending this off to my parents and all of my grandparents. I encourage you all to do the same.
CHAPTER 1: In the Beginning
1. What were your parents and grandparents full names, dates of birth, places of birth.
2. What were the occupations of your parents?
3. How many children were in your family? Where were you in the lineup?
4. Generally speaking, what was your childhood like?
5. What one or two stories do you remember most clearly about your childhood?
6. Are there any particularly happy, funny, sad or instructive lessons you learned while growing up?
CHAPTER 2: In Your Neighborhood
1. What was it like where you grew up?
2. Describe your most important friendships
3. Where and how did "news of your neighborhood" usually flow?
CHAPTER 3 School Days
1. Be sure to capture names and dates attended of grammar, high, colleges, trade or technical schools
2. What are your earliest school day memories?
3. Are there any teachers or subjects you particularly liked or disliked?
4. What did you learn in those first years of school that you would like to pass along to the next generation?
5. Were you involved in sports, music, drama, or other extra-curricular activities?
CHAPTER 4: Off to Work
1. What did you want to be when you grew up?
2. What was your first job, and how did you get it?
3. What was your first boss like? What did you learn from him or her?
4. Did you leave? Quit? Get promoted? Get fired?
5. Were you ever out of work for a long time? If so, how did you handle it?
CHAPTER 5 Romance & Marriage
1. What do you recall about your first date?
2. How did you know you were really in love?
3. Tell me how you "popped the question," or how it was popped to you.
4. Tell me about your wedding ceremony. What year? Where? How many attended? Honeymoon?
5. Tell me about starting your family.
6. Were you married more than once? How often?
CHAPTER 6: Leisure and Travel
1. What were the most memorable family vacations or trips you can recall?
2. What leisure time activities are you involved with?
3. What are your greatest accomplishments in this field?
CHAPTER 7: Places of Worship
1. Do you follow any religious tradition?
2. If so which one, and what is it like?
3. Have you ever changed faiths?
4. What role do your beliefs play in your life today?
5. What would you tell your children about your faith?
CHAPTER 8 War & Peace
1. Were you a volunteer, drafted or a conscientious objector?
2. If you didn't serve, what do you recall about being on the home front during the war?
3. What key moments do you recall about your service?
4. What would you tell today's young soldiers, sailors and fliers?
CHAPTER 9 Triumph and Tragedy
1. What were the most joyous, fulfilling times of your life?
2. Any sad, tragic or difficult times you'd care to share such as losing a loved one, a job, or something you cared about?
3. What lifelong lessons did you learn from these tough times? Joyous times?
4. Were there any moments you recall as true breakthroughs in any area of your life?
5. If you could do one thing differently in your life, what would that be?
CHAPTER 10 Words of Wisdom
1. What have you learned over your lifetime that you'd like to share with the younger generation?
2. People will sometimes repeat aphorisms such as "honesty is the best policy." If they do, be sure to ask how they learned that life lesson.
CHAPTER 11: Funnybones
1. What were your family's favorite jokes or pranks?
2. Who is, or was, the family comedian? "Straight" man?
3. What's the funniest family story you remember?
CHAPTER 12 Thank You
1. What are you most grateful for you your life?
2. How have you taught your children to be grateful?
3. Are there items or places that mark special gratitude for the ones you love? What are they? What are their stories?
"I saw behind me those who had gone, and before me those who are to come. I looked back and saw my father, and his father, and all our fathers, and in front to see my son, and his son, and the sons upon sons beyond.And their eyes were my eyes. Richard Llewellyn