If you are fortunate enough to have a living grandparent, then you have a treasury of information that Google simply cannot provide you. Funny stories about your parents, about their own childhoods, and historical events you’ve only read about on Wikipedia are all locked within them.
Consider this: Your grandparents did not grow up in a time where documenting every detail was common place. At best they may have kept a diary, but the constant information and documenting of today’s internet-centered world is a relatively new concept. The only way you can unlock this information is by enriching your relationship with your grandparents while you have them, and by asking them about their lives.
Getting started can sometimes be a bit daunting, so here are 20 questions to jumpstart the conversation, adapted from JKNelson.com:
- What was home like? – House? Apartment? Farm? How many rooms? Bathrooms? Did it have electricity? Indoor plumbing? Telephones?
- What was your family like? – Describe the personalities of your family members. Did you get along?
- Describe a typical family dinner. Did you all eat together each night? Who did the cooking? What were your favorite foods?
What were holidays like? – Was there a favorite dish? A preferred holiday? What made it special? Any family traditions?
- What was school like? – Grade school? High School? Did you go to college? Serve in the Millitary? What were your best and worst subjects? What school activities and sports did you participate in? Do you have a favorite school memory?
- Do you remember any fads from your youth? – Popular hairstyles? Clothes? Any that you really loved? Do you have photos?
- What sort of trips or family vacations did you go on as a child? – What was your favorite? Did you have a special place that you liked to go as a child? What about when you were older?
- What has been your favorite place to visit or travel to as an adult? What did you do there that I should do?
- What world events had the most impact on you while you were growing up? Did any of them personally affect your family?
- Tell me about Grandmom/Pop – When and how did you meet them? What did you do on dates? What was it like when you proposed (or were proposed to)? Where and when did it happen? How did you feel? Where and when did you get married?
- How would you describe your spouse? What do (did) you admire most about them?
- How did you find out your were going to be a parent for the first time? Why did you choose your children’s names?
- What was your proudest moment as a parent?
- What did you do to support your family? If you could have had any other profession what would it have been?
- What accomplishments were you the most proud of?
- What is the one thing you most want people to remember about you?
- What is your earliest memory of me? What is your favorite thing that we have done together (or that our family has done)?
- Of all the things you learned from your parents, which do you feel was the most valuable?
- Are there any special heirlooms, photos, bibles or other memorabilia that have been passed down in your family?
- What stories have come down to you about your parents? Grandparents? More distant ancestors?
- Are there any stories about famous or infamous relatives in your family?