Conducting an Interview with a Family Member


Conducting a Professional Family Video Interview  From

Discovering Your Past – Episode 2

discoveryourpast(if the links do not work, type in to Youtube search Discovering your past – Episode 2)


Pre-production – preparation

What kind of questions to ask – lots f good resources out there, here are two

(a)Family Tree Magazine sites

(b)UCLA Library Center for

ii)  ask open ended questions

(a)what was it like in the town you grew up in


(b)what town did you grow up in

iii) ask the interviewee (before you get there, or as you are setting up) to gather some old heirlooms and photos about the house that you might have always wanted to know about and might have been afraid to ask

(a) who is that in this photograph, how did you get the photograph, why do you keep it

(b)what is this item, where did it come from/how did you get it, why do you keep it, what is going to happen to it when you no longer want it or need it?

(c)item – tell me about the person that owned it before you got it.

iv) this may bring back memories or information they may have forgotten about or make connections they hadn’t thought about before.

v) see 2.v) below – Artist in the family – what to do ahead of time of the interview

Production – the interview itself  – Have the person you are interviewing state their full name first

i)ask permission to film or tape first

ii) with video

(a) you get to see reactions, –some are camera-shy, find a way to hide it, with their permission

(1) make sure batteries are charged up

(2) make sure you have a clear place for electricity and bring an extension cord

iii) with audio

(a) cell phones, recorders, digital or other — see 2. viii)(b) below

(1) make sure batteries are charged up

(2) make sure you have a clear place for electricity and bring an extension cord


(a) maybe they can write down the names and places accurately

(b) perhaps write down subjects or items you want to come back later in the interview

(1) make sure you have multiple working pens or pencils and erasers

v)Telephone interview

(a/b) audio record both sides of the conversation and/or use notebook to write it all down

vi) are they a painter, artist, writer? Do This Ahead Of Time

(a) Painter–have them paint a family tree ahead of time if they want to

(b) Author–have them write some stories down ahead of time

(c)Artist — use their medium to portray a family event or member

vii) how to do the interview

(a) chronological

(b) as you talk about things

(c) ask followup questions

viii) take breaks, this can be a lot for anyone

(a) ice cream

(b) a walk around the room — this may be a good time to keep a digital recorder in your pocket

(c)drinks of water or teas, no liquor,

(d) check notes to see what you have covered, to see what you need to cover, to remind yourself in case a question had come up and you want to go back to it.

(e) be courteous, don’t keep on a subject that the person doesn’t remember at the time or want to talk about it, gentle nudges only, keep them as comfortable as possible and

(f) ask them if there are questions they wanted you to ask about

(1) Is there something that you thought I would ask and am surprised I haven’t asked about?

(2) Is there something that you want to ask me about?

Post Production – Analysis

i)What information did you find in the interview itself

ii)Do this ASAP, even sooner

(a) look at 15-20 minutes at a time

(b) look at one subject at a time

(1) if the subject takes longer than 15-20 minutes, break it up into 15-20 min segments

iii)Facts – separate what you talked about into 4 different groups

(a) facts (my father was born…)

(b)I think facts (I think my grandfathers middle name was Alexander – something to look up later)

(c)Stories for Research (my mother used to work on Steel Pier)

(d)Historical Tidbits (the trolleys in Atlantic city were called “Gitneys”(?), all of the streets are named after states, so I knew all the states because of those street signs)

Clan, Clan


When you hear the word ‘Clan’ images of Braveheart or Ireland may come to mind. However, there are many nationalities that have or have had Clans, which can be loosely defined as a group of close-knit and/or interrelated families.

ClanImage (Thanks to for the use of the photo)

Recently speaking with a friend of mine who is from Native American lineage, she told me about some of her clans, and this new app that someone took a lot of time creating. It is my understanding that this app not only alerts you to your cousins, and also helps you find who is in your clan or not.

( or this one)

In her discoveries, there are also two movies translated in Navajo,

Star Wars-

and Nemo-–in-Navajo/

and this webpage gives even more info on other things you might enjoy in addition to Nemo:

NavajoIf you are looking for more translations in Navajo, type Navajo translations into Google and see what you get, this is what I got:

(photo from )

What language did your ancestors speak? Have you learned a second language, one from your family history? If your family spoke a different language, what was the journey that led to your speaking American or the main language that you do speak? Click on link below to view the world languages – will open in a new window/tab.

The Ethnologue catalogue of world languages, which is one of the best linguistic resources, currently lists 6909 living languages. About 6% of them have more than a million speakers each, and collectively account for 94% of the world population.

What is available for you and your descendants to learn a new language, or to  keep the language that you speak now? You may or may not have noticed how even the American language is changing to a different way of speaking today, 2017, compared to 1950; it seems as though slang has become common place and the dictation is changing, even the ‘proper’ English learned in school since the 1970’s seems to have lost its clarity, at least in my humble opinion.

Take a listen to those who are 16-24 years of age and what do you hear?


Does this mean that it is a bad thing? I don’t think so. It seems to me that change is going on all the time, and each generation brings with them a different way of thinking and doing things and that includes communicating with each other and the world. As new technology comes into play across the world, there will be changes made in how we interact with each other. Again, in my humble opinion, but tell me, what do you think?

(for more information on the Navajo Windtalkers:

the movie preview:

Original Windtalker:


The Marines’ Hymn sung in Navajo by Code Talker Joe Kellwood

The map below is not complete, click on it to go to a webpage that lists all the states and who is there:


It’s just a piece of paper


You open a drawer, a desk, a case, a box, even an envelope and you find this paper.


This one paper can do one of two things:

1) it can be nothing but raise the question of why was it kept all these years


2) open a world of “I didn’t know that” and take you on a journey you didn’t know existed.

What kind of journey or where that journey leads depends, of course, on what is written on the paper. And, what the paper lives in can be as equally important. If an envelope, whose names are on it?, what is the return address?, what is the mailing address?.


Perhaps it is an envelope that never was intended to be mailed but to hold that paper, what is written on the envelope?, who is it too?, or what, if anything, is written on it? Was it in a file folder, a large envelope, loose, or wrapped in a ribbon?

DanceCardWas it a dance card?, a page torn out of a magazine or book?Cookbook

How recent is the paper? Is it old, OldPaper  or is it not so long ago?NewPaper

What kind of paper is it?, a letter, a drawing, a doodle,  a document, a photo, a statement, a memento, an official government document, a message to someone? What kind is the paper itself, lined paper, specialty, official document, post-it-note, scented, torn?

What is the significance of the paper? Why was it kept all these many years or not so long ago?


Don’t discard those papers so fast without considering the importance they might have. Some doodle that became the device of the decade or the century is significant.

Someone kept it for a reason, take time to read it, read what came with it, think about where it was found, think about the date of it, even the place it was written from or to.

CellPhoneMessage As the world become more electronic, love letters, messages, holiday cards, birth announcements, wedding announcements, mailed letters, even documents signed electronically are eliminating the written word.EmailTextMessage


Does anyone clip articles or events from newspapers anymore?






Dead Doesn’t Mean There’s Nothing There


We have driven by them, maybe walked by them. Perhaps on a sad day, been a visitor there to say goodbye to someone we loved.

Cemeteries. Graveyards. Resting Places.


“What a downer!”

“Ah, c’mon, why you talking about this?!!”



Wonderful stories and lives – some tragic, yes, are in a Cemetery. There is a wealth of information which can guide us on our family history journey.




“The one thing that I do know is…

That as long as we keep telling stories about the people that we lost

They will never go away”

Jeph Loeb

Executive VP Head of Marvel Television


Where do we start and what do we look for:

In school I was taught the ‘W’s and an H’, who, what, where, when, why and how

When searching for an ancestor in their resting place :

  1. The name of the place.
  2. Where is it located
  3. Who are we looking for
  4. What are the birth and death dates
  5. Were they in the military
  6. Were they married
  7. What are the differences in writing on the headstones
  8. What are the different headstones
  9. Why is that significant

The website is a great place to start your search, 

I really suggest to get an account with them, as you can ask others for help in getting a photo of a headstone or to find out if that really is the place your ancestor is.

Once you find your ancestor, take a look at the headstone. Answer the questions above, and then comes an interesting part:

I just finished a genealogy class and learned something – When military headstones began, who got them, what they were made of and how this all helps.

For instance if you have a family member and there is a military headstone, you can know that the flat stone wasn’t placed there before 1936, and if it is granite it wouldn’t have been before 1939. If there are dates on it, it would have been after 1944.

Many have another headstone placed by the family at the time of burial – before the military headstone was placed there, so don’t just settle for one stone, there might be more.


What does this military stone tell you? Are there dates on it? What is it made of? What is around it?

Do you know the difference between a headstone, a tombstone, a marker and more?

I found this great website to explain it all:


“Now, what about the dates on those stones? OR even the names? what about obituaries or that nice folded  paper we get at the funeral itself?

Can they be relied upon to be 100% accurate, even today?”

Excellent questions!

and the answer is No.

You would think that may be true for years and years ago when many people did not know how to read or write, but even recently (remember people are under a cloud a loss during this time) and sometimes the order of the name, the dates, even the spelling can get mixed up and someone may not know it until a year or years later.

Always double check what you have for primary documentation and always keep your mind open that the dates, or spellings or arrangement of a name may be off some. We are all human and mistakes can be made.


Our mother died last year, 2016, and though we specifically told the person in charge that the names were not arranged correctly, (She went by her middle name) it was still in the program and the newspaper as her middle name first and first name in the middle. That week there were several deaths and for a smaller town, we think they were just a little overwhelmed. It was also the hottest days of the year that week.




The Undesirable 2nd edition




Now I want to go a little further and start ‘taking care of business’, to save my kids or spouse from having to do all the things my sister and I just did for our mom, when my time to leave this place arrives.

Like asking our children -who are adults now- what material items are important to them and perhaps, why . On that same note, perhaps there is something that I specifically want them to have, write a little not as to why I want them to have it, and adhere itPawPrints_LabradorFlowers

to the back of it, whether it is an art piece, toy, etc. If the piece is being displayed, my next thought is to get a spiral notebook, or 3 ring binder, or similar item and put a cover on it that will make it recognizable as something to look at when I depart. Show it to them, so they will know to look at it when my time does arrive. If it is all written down, and why, then that should save some emotion and difficulties during a very emotional time.

I have also considered using old trunks. One for each of our children, and putting in each trunktrunk what they want, or what I want them to have – what will fit of course. Then it is all ready for them to just load up and take to their home. This will also be convenient if a stroke, or dementia, or sudden illness happens. One can always put the notebook or binder in the trunk too. I can also add things as I find them, making it easy for me to put items from my ancestors that I may not want to be out in the open on display.

The only drawback are items that need to be in a safe or safe deposit box, but the instructions could be put in the trunk.

Now is also the time to write on the backs of photos, the names of the people in the photo, where the photo was taken and the date it was taken. This is so important, especially of family, as memory forgets , or what we know, does not mean that our children or grandchildren will know. Write It Down On The Backs Of The Photos Now. Don’t delay on this. It would be such a shame to have photos of your grandparents or aunts and uncles or cousins and then your children throw those photos away because they don’t know who those people are in them. (Do this also for friends who are important to your family, so they are not confused as relatives).

Do you recognize anyone in this photo? We only recognize two people. Our kids won’t recognize any of them. There is no one alive anymore who can identify them-at least none that we know of. (I did send a copy to one relative who was able to help identify a few more). But at the time, it was all cousins and uncles and aunts, and all were known. Time stops for no one, so write them down on the back of the photos.


Oliver E. Clarke, Charley Clarke, and Clarke family reunion, in Illinois