Interviewing Packing List

By Sharon DeBartolo Carmack Premium

Before making a trip to visit and interview family members, stock a tote bag with these oral history essentials:

• Cassette tape recorder (microphone if not built in)

• Power cord

• Extension cord

• Cassette tapes and labels

• Extra batteries

• Note pad and pens

• List of questions or a book on oral history interviewing that has sample questions

• An address book to note names and addresses of relatives the person you are interviewing may give you

“Your research notebook with pedigree charts and family group sheets (you can download these from <>)

• A watch to make sure you’re not overstaying your welcome

• Photocopies of any documents you’ve gathered to show the relative or photographs you need to identify

• Magnifying glass in case the relative needs it to view the photocopies

• Camera to photograph any documents or photographs your relative won’t let you take out of the house to copy (you may also consider bringing a laptop computer and handheld scanner)

Label each tape and its storage case with identifying information:

• The person being interviewed

• The date

• The place

After the interview, immediately punch out the tab, making it impossible for someone to accidentally erase the tape or record over it.

Ask a question, then wait and really listen to the response. Resist the urge to interrupt, to clarify a point or ask another question. Make a note and come back to it. Don’t correct your subject. Even though you may have a contrary document, let your relative tell you the way he or she remembers the event and make a note of the discrepancy. Show interest in what your subject is saying by nodding, using appropriate facial expressions or occasionally saying “uh-huh.”
From the April 2000 issue of Family Tree Magazine