Family History Questions

The first thing to do when starting family history is to talk to the living - relatives, friends, workmates and neighbours may all know very interesting stuff about your family. Memories fade fast, however, so start as soon as you can before valuable details are lost forever. Trawling dusty archives for details of dead ancestors comes later.

Here are some questions you might ask.

  1. What is your full name and why were you named it?
  2. Were you named after somebody else?
  3. Did you have a nickname as you were growing up?
  4. If you did, what was it and why did they call you that?
  5. Have you had other nicknames as an adult?
  6. What do family members call you now?
  7. Where were you born and when?
  8. Have you a birth certificate with full details?
  9. Do you remember hearing your grandparents describe their lives?
  10. What did they say?
  11. Do you remember your great-grandparents? What do you know about them?
  12. Who was the oldest person you can remember in your family as a child? What do you remember about them?
  13. Do you remember your family discussing world events and politics?
  14. Was there a chore you really hated doing as a child?
  15. What would you consider to be the most important inventions that have been made during your lifetime?
  16. How is the world now different from what it was like when you were a child?
  17. What kinds of books did you like to read?
  18. Do you remember having a favourite nursery rhyme or bedtime story? What was it?
  19. Was food different when you were young? What did you eat?
  20. Do you ever remember not having enough food to eat because times were hard for your family?
  21. What were your favourite toys and what were they like?
  22. What were your favourite childhood games?
  23. What were your schools like?
  24. How did you get to school?
  25. What was your favourite subject in school and why?
  26. What subject in school was always the easiest for you?
  27. What was your least favourite subject in school and why?
  28. Who was your favourite teacher and why were they special?
  29. Are you still in touch with any classmates?
  30. How do your fellow classmates from school remember you best?
  31. What school activities and sports did you participate in?
  32. Do you have any school photos, memorabilia or certificates?
  33. Did you and your friends have a special hang-out where you liked to spend time?
  34. Where was it and what did you do there?
  35. Were you ever given any special awards for your studies or school activities?
  36. How many years of education have you completed?
  37. Do you have a college degree? If so, what was your field of study?
  38. Did you get good grades?
  39. Did you like school?
  40. What did you like the most and the least about it?
  41. What did you usually wear to school? Describe it.
  42. Were there any fads during your youth that you remember vividly?
  43. How old were you when you started dating?
  44. Do you remember your first date? Describe the circumstances.
  45. Is there anything you'd like to reveal about your first love, first kiss, first crush?
  46. Name a good friend that you have known for the longest period of time? How many years have you been friends?
  47. Has there ever been anyone in your life that you would consider to me your kindred spirit or soul mate?
  48. If so, who were they and why did you feel a special bond to them?
  49. Do you have an associate or acquaintance you've known for a long time?
  50. Are you married (or co-habiting)?
  51. How did you meet the person that you would later marry? Describe them?
  52. Do you remember where you went on the first date with your spouse?
  53. How long did you know them before you got married?
  54. Describe your wedding proposal.
  55. When and where did you get married?
  56. Have you got a marriage certificate with full details?
  57. Describe your wedding ceremony. Who was there?
  58. Have you any wedding photos?
  59. Did you have a honeymoon? If so, where did you go?
  60. How would you describe your spouse? What do (did) you admire most about them?
  61. How long have you been married (or were you married)?
  62. What wise advice would you give to a grandchild on their wedding day?
  63. Have you any children?
  64. How did you find out that you were going to be a parent for the first time?
  65. How many children did you have all together?
  66. What were their names, birthdates and birthplaces?
  67. Do you remember anything that your children did when they were small that really amazed you?
  68. What is one of the most unusual things that one of your children did regularly when they were small?
  69. What was the funniest thing you can remember that one of your children said or did?
  70. If you had it to do all over again, would you change the way you raised your family? How?
  71. What did you find most difficult about raising children?
  72. What did you find most rewarding about being a parent?
  73. Did you spoil any of your children? How?
  74. Were you a strict or lenient parent?
  75. Did you find that you had to treat each of your children differently? If so, why?
  76. How did you first hear that you were a grandparent and how did you feel about it?
  77. What advice do you have for your children and grandchildren?
  78. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  79. What was your first job?
  80. What kinds of jobs have you had?
  81. How did you decide on your career?
  82. Did you make enough money to live comfortably?
  83. How long did you have to work each day at your jobs?
  84. How old were you when you retired?
  85. Can you remember what sort of wages you earned?
  86. What were the hardest choices that you ever had to make? Do you feel like you made the right choices?
  87. Who was the person that had the most positive influence on your life? Who were they and what did they do?
  88. Is there a person that really changed the course of your life by something that they did?
  89. Who were they and what did they do?
  90. Do you remember someone saying something to you that had a big impact on how you lived your life?
  91. What was it?
  92. How would you describe yourself politically?
  93. Are you Conservative or Liberal or Labour and if so why?
  94. What wars have been fought during your lifetime? How did you feel about them?
  95. If you served in the military, when and where did you serve and what were your duties?
  96. If you served in the military, were you ever injured in the line of duty? What were the circumstances and what were your injuries?
  97. What political leader have you admired the most and why?
  98. As you see it, what are the biggest problems that face our nation or world and how do you think they could be solved?
  99. How tall are you?
  100. What color was your hair as a young child and then as an adult?
  101. What color are your eyes?
  102. Where have you lived as an adult? List the places and the years that you lived there.
  103. Why are you living where you are today?
  104. Do you wish you lived somewhere else (If so, where would it be)?
  105. Describe your general health.
  106. What major illnesses or health problems do you remember having?
  107. Do you have any health problems that are considered hereditary in nature? If so, what are they?
  108. What do you do regularly for exercise?
  109. Do you have any bad habits now or in the past? What were they?
  110. Have you ever been the victim of a crime? What happened?
  111. Have you ever been in a serious accident?
  112. Has anyone ever saved your life? Describe.
  113. Have you ever saved anyone else's life? Describe.
  114. Have you ever been hospitalized? If so, what for?
  115. Have you ever had surgery? If so, what for?
  116. If you could change something about yourself, what would it be?
  117. Have you ever had an experience that you would consider to be super-natural or psychic? Did you ever know something was going to happen before it actually did? What was it?
  118. What do you usually dream about?
  119. Describe your religious beliefs.
  120. What church, if any, do you attend regularly?
  121. Do you believe in an after life?
  122. What was the most stressful experience that you ever lived through? What helped you get through it?
  123. What is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you personally?
  124. What kinds of musical instrument(s) have you learned to play?
  125. Would you consider yourself creative?
  126. What things have you created that others have enjoyed?
  127. How would you describe your sense of humour?
  128. What is the funniest practical joke you ever played on anyone or was played on you?
  129. What activities have you especially enjoyed as an adult?
  130. What are your hobbies?
  131. What did you like to do when you were not working?
  132. What is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to you?
  133. What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?
  134. Have you ever met any famous people? Describe what happened.
  135. What organizations and groups have you belonged to?
  136. Have you ever won any special awards or prizes as an adult? What were they for?
  137. Describe any times and places when you remember feeling truly at peace and happy to be alive.
  138. Where were you and what were you doing?
  139. Describe some of the most beautiful places you have ever visited.
  140. What is the longest trip that you have ever gone on? Where did you go?
  141. Have you a regular holiday destination? Where did you go and why was it special?
  142. What was the favourite place you ever visited and what was it like?
  143. What pets have you had?
  144. Do you have a favourite story about a pet? What is it?
  145. Is there anything you have always wanted to do, but haven't?
  146. How would you describe the neighbourhood where you grew up?
  147. Where there any landmarks or buildings you remember well?
  148. Can you remember what your house was like? Describe.
  149. What was your living room like? Furniture? Wallpaper?
  150. What was your kitchen like?
  151. What was your bedroom like?
  152. What was your bathroom like?
  153. Was your house any different to your neighbours'?
  154. Favourites (You can put more than one for each)
  155. What is your favourite style of music?
  156. What is your favourite musical instrument?
  157. Who is your favourite musical group?
  158. What is your favourite song?
  159. Who is your favourite singer?
  160. Who is your favourite film star?
  161. What is your favourite movie?
  162. Who is your favourite artist?
  163. What is your favourite painting?
  164. Who is your favourite poet?
  165. What is your favourite poem?
  166. What is your favourite TV programme?
  167. Who is your favourite author?
  168. What is your favourite book?
  169. What is your favourite season?
  170. What is your favourite tree?
  171. What is your favourite flower?
  172. What is your favourite holiday?
  173. What is your favourite colour?
  174. What is your favourite sport?
  175. Who is your favourite athlete?
  176. What is your favourite animal?
  177. What is your favourite meal?
  178. What is your favourite fruit?
  179. What is your favourite vegetable?
  180. What is your favourite sweet?
  181. What is your favourite biscuit?
  182. What is your favourite drink?
  183. What is your favourite restaurant?
  184. What is your favourite flavour of ice cream?
  185. What is your favourite board game?
  186. What is your favourite card game?
  187. What were your favourite cartoons?
  188. If you had to pick a label for your family members (your spouse, children, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts & uncles, cousins), who best fits the following descriptions?
  189. The hardest worker
  190. the best cook
  191. the quietest
  192. the best memory
  193. the best gardener
  194. the funniest
  195. the best-looking
  196. the animal lover
  197. the most politically-active
  198. the most mischievous
  199. the calmest
  200. the most athletic
  201. the most intelligent
  202. the most educated
  203. the best career
  204. the most creative
  205. the wildest lifestyle
  206. the most sociable
  207. the biggest tease
  208. the best housekeeper
  209. the most reclusive
  210. the most colourful
  211. the most relaxed
  212. the most frugal
  213. the most generous
  214. the tallest
  215. the shortest
  216. the most talkative
  217. the best story-teller
  218. the most annoying
  219. Describe the scariest moment you ever shared with your brothers/sisters
  220. Were you a close-knit family?
  221. Did you prefer friends or neighbours to your family?
  222. What's the very first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Uncle Bill, Cousin Annie, etc?
  223. When you've reached 60, what things would you have liked to have accomplished?
  224. Most embarrassing moment?
  225. Favourite aunt/uncle or grandparent & why (also school, teacher, hobby, pet, etc)?
  226. What's something about yourself that you'd most like to change?
  227. Which of your parents/friends do you remember as always there when you were growing up?