life story interview questions

If you’re reading this, congratulations—you’re on your way to a most enjoyable and important journey! Who are you interviewing? A parent? Grandparent? Beloved aunt or uncle? Whomever it is, clearly their stories matter to you, and I am thrilled to be able to help you capture them through an oral history interview.

Print out this guide or use it as inspiration to develop your own list of topics and questions for your loved ones. I’ve got three key tips at the bottom of this post to help ensure that you capture these important family stories successfully, and I am always here as a resource to help guide you on your journey. Whether I can one day help you turn your stories into an heirloom book or help you get the ball rolling on a DIY project, my message to you is this:

Start now. Don’t wait. I can recount too many tales of people telling me “I wish I had asked my father…” that it saddens me deeply. It is my mission to convey a sense of urgency to everyone. Perhaps you have a little extra time on your hands right now… Please, ask your parents and grandparents the questions that matter now, before it’s too late.

Life Story Interview Questions
  • What is your full name?
  • When were you born?
  • Where were you born?
  • What is/was your father’s/mother’s name?
  • Where was he/she from?
  • Describe your father/mother.
  • What did your father/mother do for work?
  • What were your father’s/mother’s parents’ names?

How to Interview People for Their Life Stories

Traditions

  • What holiday did you most look forward to while you were growing up?
  • What were some of the traditions your family observed related to that holiday?
  • Do you have any family traditions that have been passed down for generations in your family?
  • Does religion hold a strong place in your family? (If “yes,” there are a variety of follow-up questions to ask to pursue this thread!)
  • What is the most memorable gift you have ever received? Given?
  • Are there any specific family heirlooms you inherited? Why do they hold meaning for you?
  • How are/were birthdays celebrated throughout your life?
  • In what ways have you/your family kept your culture alive (through language. foods, cultural traditions, for example)?
  • Thank the veteran for sharing his or her recollections and for their service. Let the veteran know that, by signing a release form, his or her story can be archived with others in the Library of Congress and made available for future generations. Release forms that must be signed by the veteran and the interviewer are available from the Veterans History Project website at

    This part of life is one that everyone has opinions on. Whether you own your own business, worked with or for someone else, or just had to pay the bills, you have stories to tell. The ones who will follow your trail need to know how you dealt with these issues, for better or worse. Answering these questions can help your descendants make wise decisions.

    Fun & Games

  • What songs have held special meaning to you over the years?
  • Who was the trickster in your family?
  • Do you have any funny stories from your past?
  • What’s your favorite family story to recount around the dinner table?
  • Did you play sports growing up, and if so, what were those experiences like?
  • What was the main form of entertainment in your family when you were a kid (board games, listening to the radio, playing music/singing, reading books, putting on shows, etc.)?
  • Describe what family vacations were like, and if there were any destinations that you traveled to often?
  • Tell me about a time you were incredibly embarrassed.
  • FAQ

    How do you interview someone for a life story?

    You can use this list of 10 story-based questions and sample STAR answers to help you prepare for your next interview:
    1. Tell me a little about yourself. …
    2. Tell me about a challenge you faced and how you dealt with it. …
    3. Tell me about a time you made a mistake. …
    4. Describe a time you succeeded as a part of a team.

    What are 10 good interview questions and answers?

    Top 10 Interview Questions and Best Answers
    1. Tell Me About Yourself. …
    2. Why Are You the Best Person for the Job? …
    3. Why Do You Want This Job? …
    4. How Has Your Experience Prepared You for This Role? …
    5. Why Are You Leaving (or Have Left) Your Job? …
    6. What Is Your Greatest Strength? …
    7. What Is Your Greatest Weakness?

    How do you answer tell me your life story?

    Top 10 Interview Questions and Best Answers
    1. Tell Me About Yourself. …
    2. Why Are You the Best Person for the Job? …
    3. Why Do You Want This Job? …
    4. How Has Your Experience Prepared You for This Role? …
    5. Why Are You Leaving (or Have Left) Your Job? …
    6. What Is Your Greatest Strength? …
    7. What Is Your Greatest Weakness?

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