Protection: In some cases, you might want to prepare a
statement which the subject will sign allowing you to use the interview
with impunity for whatever purposes.
A small cassette sound recorder of good quality is better than a video as
transcribing will be much easier when you seek to print the interview. The
recorder should accommodate a jack and extension cord so that you can use
an electrical outlet and not be dependent on a battery. The recorder
should be of good quality and should be clearly heard when the tape runs
out and needs to be turned over or replaced. Tapes should be of good
quality and record for an hour on each side. Take extra tapes and test the
recorder and the tape before starting the interview
A pad to make notes.
Time and Place
Allow for at least 1˝ to 2 hours at time for the
interview. Choose a quiet, comfortable place without outside noise
interference and make the interviewee feel at ease. Position the
interviewee at right angles to the interviewer with the recorder facing
the interviewee preferably on a low table such as a coffee table. If
necessary, raise the recorder to the level of the interviewee.
Setting the tone of the interview
Devote adequate time and use open-ended questions. Allow
about twenty minutes during the initial questioning period for the
interviewee to expand on answers during the early interview and to
overcome any resistance. Keep a record on your note pad to follow up on
particulars. For example, if the interviewee reports a birth in a small
town, follow up later for the exact name and location. Save sensitive
questions for the end of the interview.
If possible, have interviewee fill out a simple
questionnaire before or after the interview which will include the
Date of interview
Subject’s name, address, phone
Mother’s name, place of birth
Father’s name, place of birth
Sibling’s names (in birth order), phone numbers
Synagogue or Jewish organization family was affiliated with
Schools subject attended
Sample questions (they should be
What do you remember about your grandparents?
What do you remember about your parents?
What do you remember about your brothers, sisters?
What hereditary traits are there in your family?
What were your family’s religious practices?
What were your family’s circumstances when you were born?
Where did your family live and why did they move?
What are your pre-school memories?
|Formal education: grade school conditions, teachers,
friends; high school activities, achievement, special friends. What
advanced education did you have?|
|Community: Characteristics of your community – size,
|Historic events during your lifetime – major
epidemics, catastrophes, family events.|
|Humorous experiences. |
|Social life – youth groups, etc.|
|Religious activities – attendance at synagogue,
|Military service – why did you enter the military?
What branch? Basic or specialized |
training? Combat duty? Feelings about this experience, conflicts with
|Marriage and family – your child rearing philosophy,
rules, roles of mother and father? |
|Family traditions? (folklore, superstitions, legends,