Table of Contents
The Oral Interview
Oral Interview Questions used for this Project
If you want to prepare an interview for Roots-Key on this special project, these are some of the themes we are focusing on. We are interested in where people came from before Los Angeles. And when they were in their original home countries, what their occupations and interests were. That is, just what did they bring with them to L.A. Once here, how did they adjust. What was the first generation doing and what were their goals for themselves and their children.
As, we are trying to re-create a place, we are
also interested in neighbors, neighborhoods, activities, affiliations and their
extended families and support groups. What did they contribute to their
neighbors and neighborhoods. We also want to know where they went to
school, played, married and were buried. All the details that make up a life
shared by others.
What did your parents do?
Well, as I am not from LA, this is the best I can do. I am sure you can write better questions. But I want to learn about growing up in LA (as opposed to my own experience of growing up in NY where we had subways and winters and Radio City Music Hall to listen to the Big Bands).
Good Luck and looking forward to your
Collecting Evidence for a Genealogical History of Family Through Interviews
Time and Place
Allow for at least 1½ 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 following:
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 open-ended)
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, economic
Historic events during your lifetime – major epidemics, catastrophes, family events.
Social life – youth groups, etc.
Religious activities – attendance at synagogue, religious school.
Military service – why did you enter the military? What branch? Basic
training? Combat duty? Feelings about this experience, conflicts with standards?
Marriage and family – your child rearing philosophy, rules, roles of mother and father?
Family traditions? (folklore, superstitions, legends, traditions)
Elizabeth Ginsburg, born in Nashville, Tenn., raised in Boyle Heights, East L.A., graduate, U.C. Berkeley ( BA English-Journalism major), Columbia U. (M.A. History and Teaching of Social Science). Work Experience: Publishing, Teaching, Los Angeles School District; Supervisor Student Teachers, Cal State Northridge.
From the New York JGS - By Lori Wenig
Interviewing relatives can provide a wealth of information to assist you in your genealogical pursuits. The following questions are suggested as a guide. Feel free to add your own questions.
© 2001, Jewish Genealogical Society, Inc., Beyond the Basics VII…A Genealogical Seminar