People often ask me how to interview family members to record their stories and memories. It’s a topic near and dear to my heart, so I am happy to share some tips and lessons I’ve learned over the years.

Before we get to the advice, I just learned a valuable lesson. It really surprised me. It’s incredibly fun and rewarding to interview your grandparents, but interviewing your parents can be really difficult.

middle aged woman sitting in desk chair asks questions to a 100 year old man in his recliner, as he recounts stories of his life.

How to Interview Family Members

I spent the night at my parent’s farm to interview a 100-year-old man in my hometown. Over two days, I spent about five hours talking with the man. (I’ll write about that experience soon. The picture to the right is me interviewing Laverne. He was awesome.) In all that time, there wasn’t an awkward silence or uncomfortable moment. The conversation flowed and was full of laughter and positive energy. I had a wonderful time, and I believe he did, too.

Since I had all my equipment with me–a microphone, tripod light stand, and phone–I decided to practice what I preach. I asked to interview my parents when I returned to their house.

Mom hadn’t showered and said she’d do it some other time. Dad was a good sport and agreed to an interview. I suggested he sit in his favorite recliner and get comfortable. I attached the microphone to his shirt, turned the ring light on, and pulled out my trusty list of 200+ interview questions. I asked my daughter Violet to choose five questions she could ask him.

I started the interview like I usually do — Could you tell me your name, date of birth and any stories you heard about the day you were born? Getting your family members to say their names and birthdates on the record is excellent for videos you might create.

In addition, it’s an easy way to get everyone talking. Even shy personalities can quickly answer this question. Plus, some people have fascinating stories about their birthdays! Next, I ask for the story behind their name. Invariably, this warms them up, and they share stories about their parents or childhoods.

There Will be Awkward Moments

Dad and I talked about his mom, Betty, and started down memory lane. Violet tapped on my leg, reminding me that SHE was supposed to be the interviewer. So, I let her ask the next question. She picked a question I would never have asked my dad, mainly because I know his life history and would not want to make him uncomfortable. As a granddaughter, Violet didn’t have that history. She just picked questions she wanted the answers to.

I quickly learned that interviewing my parents was much more complicated than any other interview. As their child, I know too much about them. I’ve heard their favorite stories all my life. I know many of the answers. Even more importantly, I know what topics and memories might be uncomfortable or awkward.

As a grandchild, Violet didn’t have any of those preconceived ideas. She could innocently ask him any questions, just as I had done with the 100-year-old man earlier in the day. Ignorance is bliss for an interviewer.

Looking back, I noticed something else that happened during the interview. My dad would sometimes hesitate when sharing his stories. He was conscious of me being in the room listening. He edited and shortened his answers, almost apologetically, because he knew I already knew the answers to what Violet was asking.

It was a huge learning moment for me. Sometimes the solution is not learning how to interview family members but rather how to find someone to do it for you.

So, to sum it up, if you want a lengthy, honest interview with your parents, ask someone else to interview them. You’ll get completely different answers, and they will likely enjoy telling their stories to a fresh, interested audience.

Questions to Ask Your Family Members

I’m not suggesting you don’t interview your parents. Indeed, try it! I’ll keep interviewing mine. I’m aware that an outsider might get different stories and new details.

If you need some starter questions to interview your family members, try some of my favorites:

Family History

  • When you think about your mother/father, what stories come to mind?
  • Do you see your mother’s/father’s personality traits in any of your children? Which ones?
  • What was your mom/dad best at?
  • What did your parents do for fun?
  • Who do you look like in your family?
  • Tell me a few stories about your grandparents and any time you spent with them.
  • What do you know about each of your grandparent’s families?
  • Who was one of your favorite relatives when you were growing up?
  • Were there any family members you didn’t like?

Childhood/Teenager Years

  • What did you do for fun as a kid? As a teenager?
  • Tell me about a favorite toy you had.
  • What did you think you would be when you grew up?
  • Tell me the names of your siblings and a couple of stories about growing up with each of them.
  • What’s something you experienced as a child that you wish your grandkids could experience?
  • What parts of school did you enjoy the most? What classes were your favorites? Did you have extracurricular activities?
  • What was challenging about school? Did you have a bully?
  • Who were some of your best friends growing up? Are you still in touch with any of them?


  • When did you meet your spouse? What do you remember about them?
  • Do you remember your first date? What did you do about it?
  • Tell me what you remember most about your wedding day.
  • Tell me about the day each of your children was born.
  • What are some of your happiest memories of each of your children?
  • What is the story behind each of your children’s names?
  • Share a few stories about each of your grandchildren and what you enjoy most about them.
  • Tell me about a time each of your children got into trouble.


  • What’s one of your favorite stories to tell people about your life? Do you have another you like to tell?
  • Have you ever met a public figure or celebrity?
  • What is one of the most challenging experiences you’ve been through?

Time to Record Their Stories!

I hope these questions help you learn how to interview family members and inspire you to grab your phone and start recording. It’s always best to interview people in the comfort of their homes. Familiar surroundings and nearby memorabilia help jog their memory and put them at ease. Sit close to them. Be fully engaged in the conversation. Smile often, nod, encourage them to share more details, and convey emotions throughout.

Finally, one last tip. If your family member has a lot of stories to share, let them! You may only ask a few questions. That’s OK, especially in the first interview session. Just let them talk and share what’s on their mind. Once they’ve had a chance to share their favorite stories, you can ask them specific questions.

I’d be a lousy marketer if I didn’t remind you that Circa Legacy is the pro for interviewing people about their lives. We do this because we LOVE discovering people’s stories and encouraging them to share them! You can hire us to interview them for a few hours, to write their life story, or to turn it into an awesome hardcover book. Our personal, one-on-one interviews get excellent results. Please message us, and let’s discuss how we can help you record and preserve your family stories.

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