How to Get Relatives to Talk

How to Get Relatives to Talk

You've got questions about discovering, preserving and celebrating your family history; our experts have the answers.

Q. How do I get my relatives to talk to me about our family history?

A: If they’re reluctant to talk, find out why. Perhaps they feel they have nothing interesting to say. Stress the fact that everyone has an interesting story to tell, and let them know how important their recollections are to you and to future generations.

If they’re reluctant to discuss a particular topic or person, ask about other aspects of the family history. If you establish a good rapport, they may be willing to talk about sensitive subjects in the future.

If they agree to be interviewed, but not tape-recorded, write down as much as possible. If the interview goes well, perhaps they’ll agree to be tape-recorded next time. Stress the importance of capturing their stories in their own words.

Arrange a family get-together for casual reminiscing. Prepare a list of topics and questions, and ask everyone to bring photographs, letters and other memorabilia. Tape-record the session. Listen to the recording and decide what information and stories to pursue.

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