Interview Outline- Family Memories

 Introductory Information:

  • Interviewer’s name (as interviewer)
  • Date and place of interview
  • Name of the person being interviewed
  • “This interview is part of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library’s Family Memories Oral History project”

1. Background Information:

A. When and where were you born?

1. How did the family end up in that part of the country?

B. Parent’s background?

1. Father?

a. Occupation(s)?

b. How would you describe his personalities/abilities?

2. Mother?

a. Occupation(s)?

b. How would you describe her personalities/abilities?

3. Which parent do you take after?

C. Other siblings & immediate family?

2. Growing up:

A. Family life?

1. Describe your home for me

2. Was the family religious?

3. Holiday traditions in your family?

4. Do you have an especially memorable Christmas?

B. Describe your neighborhood / community?

1. Tell me about your friends growing up?

2. What kind of things did you do with your friends?

C. Memories from your early years?

1. Your earliest memory?

2. What is your most cherished childhood memories?

3. What chores did you have?

i. Did you get an allowance?

D. What memories do you have about grade school

1. Middle schools (Junior high)?

E. High School years:

1. Academic interests?

i. Any especially important teachers in your life?

2. Extra-curricular activities/interests?

i. Sports, band, clubs, class positions, etc.

ii. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, FFA, church groups, etc.

3. Did you have a job?

4. Did you have any hobbies?

F. Person who had the strongest influence on your early life?

G. Your career aspirations while in high school?

3. Life after high school?

A. Choosing a profession? / Finding a job?

1. Why that decision?

B. Choosing a college?

1. What was your major/minor in college?

2. Influential teachers & courses?

3. Did you work during college?

C. Masters or other higher degrees?

4. Early career:

A. Tell me about your first job?

1. Describe what you did?

2. Was there a move? Where?

3. What were your long-term goals at the time?

B. [Outline revised after learning more during the pre-interview.]

C. Family / private life:

1. Marriage?

i. How you met your spouse?

ii. What was it about him/her that attracted you?

iii. Describe your wedding for me?

a. When / where / how many attended?

b. Special wedding memory?

2. Children?

3. What were your activities & interests outside your work?

4. Your first home? Did you rent or buy?

5. Your religious life?

5. The remainder of the interview outline will be based on the individual’s particular career & experiences.

A. [Ask for photos and/or mementos and include a discussion on these.]


6. Concluding questions: (Ask reflective comments that get the subject to look back on his/her entire career. Some examples, below.)

A. What is your most cherished possession? May I see it? 

B. The most fateful decision you made in life; the one that changed the direction of your life after that?

C. The accomplishment(s) for which you are most proud?

D. Your most exhilarating moment?

E. Your most disappointing failure / most painful experience? What you learned from that?

F. How your views have evolved / been strengthened over your career?

G. What do you would want to be remembered for?

H. Closing comments.

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