The art of research into family history through records and artifacts. Includes Carnival of Genealogy, too.

This Friday! #GenChat on Twitter. Topic: Oral Histories and Interviewing.

Genchat announcement [Updated] There’s a Friendly (every other) Friday Free-for-all on Twitter called #GenChat. Squee! I’m delighted to be a special guest for this event.

(Gen as in Genealogy. Chat as in, well, free-for-all, Q & A). This Friday’s topic is Oral Histories and Interviewing.

April showers bring May flowers. May flowers bring on travel season. If you’ll be visiting family, put Interviewing on your To Do list.

(Mother’s Day, Graduation Day, Father’s Day, 4th of July, Vacation time. Reunions. You know, family visits.)

This Friday’s GenChat will be devoted to what to do.

Want to do some story catching during a family visit? Join us. Ask questions. Tell about your experiences. Share tips.

(One of my college professors wrote exam questions that began, “Succinctly describe…” That was prep for Twitter. 140 characters at a time.)

I’m practicing my succinctness. Each paragraph here has no more than 140 characters. Plus, all the words are spelled out. ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 24, 2013 in • GenealogyInterviewing
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My Rootstech Session made it into Deseret News! Plus: a few links n tidbits

Screen capture of the Deseret News story regarding my Rootstech session on using iOS and Android devices to interview family members Thrilled. Pleased. Proud: My Rootstech session was written up in a story by Alexis Jones in the Deseret News. Welcome, Deseret News readers! Here are a few additional pointers, links, and tidbits.

Think Like an Interviewer

My Rootstech 2013 landing page for Rootstech attendees, with links to all my articles on interviewing.

Rootstech Session Syllabus
The session syllabus, on the Rootstech site. LOTS of detail there. Lots. Just go download the PDF right now. And hey, it links to the Rootstech 2013 page, mentioned above.

Audio-In on the iOS

The mother of all posts with all the audio-in compabitility for each and every iOS device since Apple introduced the iPhone and iPod Touch in 2007.

Now here Still to come: A summary of my slides of the process of setting up Easy Voice Recorder on Android.

Apps! We gotcher Apps right here

Recommended Apps for iOS devices (these links will ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 01, 2013 in • AndroidAudioAudio: HardwareAudio: SoftwareGenealogyInterviewingiOS
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Interviewing Family: Joan Miller of Luxegen

Joan MillerGenealogy Conference Junkie gets buttonholed for “have you interviewed your family” discussion. Result: Breakthrough. Joan Miller, from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, blogs at Luxegen. She says she’s a “genealogy conference junkie” – which is how she came to be in Southern California for the June 2011 Genealogy Jamboree. I asked Joan about her experience conducting family interviews, this is the result. Well, no, the results are better than this, because our discussion helped get Joan through a brick wall human will wall.

(Two notes—One about editing, one about timing.
Editing: These transcribed interviews are lightly edited for clarity and to remove a few spoken-word ums and things like that. There are also places in the interviews where I withhold information at the request of the person interviewed.

Timing: As I was working on this post, I came down with a baaaad case of wintery flu+bronchitis cough-a-palooza and took an unscheduled and unannounced break from posting here at Family Oral History. By the time I emerged from my haze of it all, I saw that Joan Miller’s taking a blogging break to heal from an illness. Get well, Joan.)

A Tale of Two Relatives

Joan Miller: I have two stories. My ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 09, 2012 in • GenealogyInterviewing
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Interviewing Family: Kim von Aspern-Parker of Le Maison Duchamps, Part 2

Kim von Aspern-Parker In this second half of my interview with Kim von Aspern-Parker (Kim von Aspern-Parker, Part 1) about interviewing family, Kim talks about her approaches to get permission from people for her interviews, describes her hardest interview (and why it’s hard), and she gives her final morsels of advice (plus, I put all her advice in one handy list).

Kim is one of the four people I interviewed about interviewing family at the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree this past June. (Series introduction)

Kim von Aspern-Parker blogs at Le Maison Duchamp. Highlights of Part 1: For Dad to start talking, he had to be in an altered state. Using a genealogy chart to interview? Surprise! Advice for interviewing: remember to listen for the stories, don’t interrupt people, and work from photo albums.

Disclosure and Permissions

In the first half, while Kim talked about her visit with her 90-year old aunt and the misunderstanding over the genealogy chart, she described putting her recorder out on the table with a bunch of other items (keys, phone, etc.), and interviewing her aunt, and letting her know after the fact. We revisit a bit of that conversation for this later section on disclosure ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 16, 2011 in • GenealogyInterviewing
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Interviewing Family: Kim von Aspern-Parker of Le Maison Duchamps, Part 1

Kim von Aspern-Parker The first interview in this “Jamboree Genealogy Bloggers talk about Interviewing Family” series is with Kim von Aspern-Parker, who blogs at Le Maison Duchamp. I started by asking her to tell me of her experience interviewing family members. She began by describing her experience interviewing her dad.

This interview transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and to remove, you know, a few, like, forms of spoken word that don’t, um, work as well as the written word. There are also places in the interviews where I withhold information at the request of the person interviewed.

Kim von Aspern-Parker: When I started interviewing my dad, I started asking him questions about his family, cause I was doing my genealogy. The first indication that I got from my dad that he was going to be a hard interview:

“What was your grandfather’s name?”

He says, “Mr. Gilchrist.”

“No, like first name, Dad.”


(Probably not.)

So, every time I interviewed my dad it was like ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 09, 2011 in • GenealogyInterviewing
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How does genealogical research differ from interviewing family?

Somewhat predictable VS Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV) Back in June, at Jamboree in Burbank, I spoke to four people about their experience recording interviews with family members. Next week I will start publishing a series of posts where you get to hear (or, read) from them directly.

Jamboree, by the way, is the Southern California Genealogy Society Jamboree – the annual June conference in the greater Los Angeles area. It’s well-attended by genealogy bloggers.

The four people:

(Listed in the order I interviewed them)

But first, imagine the following scenario.

For a given type of document, there's a general procedure to follow in order to get your hands on the document. You decide to contact the government agency that can give you some vital records for Great Great Great Grandma, which are stored at the Grove County Records. You want her birth certificate and marriage certificate.

The usual procedure for that is to write a request for the information. Maybe they have a PDF form online that you can fill out and print. Or maybe you just write Great Great Great Grandma’s name and whatever other ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 04, 2011 in • GenealogyInterviewing
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Roundup of my posts regarding interviewing family (the “not at Rootstech because I’m sick” edition)

Not at rootstech. So I wrote you this post instead. I’m not at Rootstech because I’m sick (I was registered, tho). Dang. As tweets and posts emerge from it, I figured I’d do a roundup of my “how to interview family (how to + tech + tools)” posts from the last year that will interest people who are attending Rootstech. I’ve written quite a few posts about interviewing family, both procedural, and technical over the last year. Here’s a guide to them:

Interviewing family series

Interviewing Family Series from Genealogy Jamboree I wrote this series ahead of the Southern California Genealogy Society’s Genealogy Jamboree in Burbank, CA (where I spoke on interviewing family, and digital tools) It’s about different ways to come up with good questions to ask your family member when you sit down to interview him or her.

Three Weeks to Jamboree: Interviewing Family
Curiosity. Non-Judgement. The underlying attitude to everything.

Interviewing Family: Why not Why?
Why is asking “WHY?” not a good idea when interviewing family members?

Interviewing Family: What Should I Ask? Major Life Events
When you think about the major events in a person’s life, the questions start asking ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 11, 2011 in • GenealogyInterviewing
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The Scrapbook Belonging to Great Aunt Doris

Great Aunt Doris stands atop her beloved horse, Pete. What an album, what a treasure. This is my Great Aunt Doris’ photo album/scrapbook. In honor of the 100th episode of the Carnival of Genealogy, I offer you an album that is nearly 100 years old. Doris attended the Fenway School of Illustration in Boston during the ’teens. There are photos from home in Montana, the Blackfoot Indian tribe, and photos from New York, where she lived with her sister and brother in law (my grandparents).

I pulled out this photo album again recently (it’s the topic of Intervewing with Photo Albums, part 2, and I’m using it to make a little movie for you). I got stalled on some of the movie making because, well, there’s so much interesting stuff in it. So much. It’s huge. I can’t share it all. (I haven’t even scanned the whole thing.) But I can give you a sample.

Doris moved from Billings, Montana, to Boston Massachusetts to attend the Fenway School of Illustration. The early pages of her album show her in school, with her friends from school.

Note: click any image to enlarge.

One of the first pages of Doris Fogler's album. FSI stands for Fenway School of Illustration, located in Boston. This album dates from the teens. 1915?

The FSI medallion in the image above was, I guess, the Fenway School logo. When my mother and I talked over these photos, Mama didn’t know what, exactly F.S.I. stood for. The Fenway School of Art? Something? What’s with the I? Thanks to a recent bout of searching on Google, I learned that Fenway School stands for Fenway School of Illustration.

Here's a spread of the artists and their models. Check out that model top center. That's Doris. In her full riding gear.

According to the Friends of Fenway Studio, the art school met in the Fenway Studio building.

...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on December 01, 2010 in • GenealogyMemorabiliaPersonalPhotographs
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Thanksgiving table talk and the National Day of Listening

Here’s a roundup of practical Thanksgiving Day advice for ways to collect family history around the Thanksgiving table. (Or before or after). I offer these in hopes that it adds some depth to your family holiday. These are blog posts and articles by others around the blogosphere.

Oh, and are you aware of a holiday tip that’s not mentioned here? Please let me know. I’m happy to make this collection grow to reflect the good advice and suggestions that are out there.

Paula’s Genealogical Eclectica has a list of good conversation-starter interview questions. [via Little Bytes of Life]

I wish I had asked my Grandma Gert what it was like to be 21 when women earned the right to vote in 1922. I would have had asked her mother, Nana, for details on growing up without a mother and why did they leave Canada.

A thanksgiving in 2004

Here are a few of her questions (geared toward the women elders in her family):

  • What was it like to make the decision to leave your home country and ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 23, 2010 in • GenealogyInterviewing
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Genealogy Gems Podcast meets Family Oral History (at Jamboree)

Here's a photo from last year - the 2009 Jamboree, geneabloggers dinner. I sat next to Lacey Cooke and Lisa Louise Cooke, and sometime during that evening, nabbed this foto.) I was interviewed for the Genealogy Gems podcast back in June, at the SCGS Jamboree in Burbank. Lisa Louise Cooke, podcast host and Chief Gemologist, released Episode #97, and it features our discussion. (Our interview happens about 24 minutes into the podcast.)

Thank you, Lisa, for interviewing me. Since Lisa and I spoke not long after I’d given two presentations (interviewing family/all about digital audio recording equipment), I happened to have all kinds of recording equipment with me, so I offered to also record the interview using my kit (scroll down for photo of my “recording studio in an Otter Box”—I also wrote a post to I describe how I bought it—it’s a few years old, and Things Have Changed Since Then.)

Oh, and also—click all photos to enlarge.

Show notes and Equipment Updates

Genealogy Gems booth at Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree in Burbank, CA  (foto is Lisa Louise Cooke's) Left: Lacey Cooke, Right: Lisa Louise Cooke When we recorded the interview (in early June), I recommended the Zoom Handy H2 (and compared it with the Marantz PMD620).

Since then, Zoom ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on October 06, 2010 in • GenealogyInterviewing
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Greetings from Jamboree

I’m at the Genealogy Jamboree in Burbank. You can follow twitter chatter about the conference at the hashtag #scgs10. This also serves as a demonstration to Jennifer, with whom I am talking here in the lounge where the genealogy bloggers hang out… Jennifer is not a geneablogger; in fact she is unfamiliar with what this whole blogging thing is, exactly. So, when words don’t suffice (or they obfuscate), then a show and tell helps. I hope. Her friend Vikki is also watching; in fact, she’s offering better wording suggestions than I first came up with. So this paragraph is a group effort.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on June 11, 2010 in • GenealogyPersonal
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Digital Family History as understood by Digital Natives with 500 IRL Facebook friends

Maiden Aunt w iPod It’s not the same thing as what Ye Olde Maiden Aunt used to collect and curate. An intriguing article by fellow สล็อตออนไลน์ ได้เงินจริงAssociation of Personal Historians member Jane Lehman-Shafron, she notes the current trends (look! TV shows! Newspaper articles!), but also points out how family history in digital form is being used by the next generation, the Digital Natives who grow up immersed in computing technology.

The form that family history is taking changes with the times. 

Today’s younger generations are more interested in family history than ever before. The whole country is. But they are demanding that those maiden aunts (and all the rest of us who fulfill the function of “family historian”) get with the times. They want their family history accessible and they want it compelling.

Speaking as the


single Aunt whose spent a lot of time in the technology industry—I’m even called AuntiAlias—it’s a computer graphic pun (know what anti-aliasing is?), I’m one of those Aunts who is pushing everyone forward in digital pursuits when it comes to family history.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 26, 2010 in • DigitalityGenealogyPersonal History
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Interviewing Family: Why not Why?

image What’s wrong with “Why?” In the previous post, I wrote about asking open-ended questions, that is, questions that would elicit a lengthy story or explanation. Something more than a yes or no answer. “Why?” is a question designed to get a lengthy reply. So why don’t I say to use “why?”

The answer is not “Because I said so.” But there’s something about that famous familial exchange (“Why?” “Because I said so!”) that gets at the heart of Why Not Why.

Remember the two parts of attitude I mentioned yesterday?

  1. Be Curious.
  2. Be Non-Judgmental.

Asking a question using the word “Why?” might sound judgemental.

Especially if you’re family.

When a family member asks another family member a question that begins with Why?, it might put the second person on the defensive in the same way as “Why didn’t you take out the trash?”

You want to elicit information and stories, not put the person on the spot.

(I’m indebted to Kim Leatherdale’s comments on the Lifetime Memories ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 24, 2010 in • GenealogyInterviewing
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Three Weeks to Jamboree: Interviewing Family

Interviewing Family (Jamboree countdown) badge Countdown to Jamboree in Burbank, California – Family Interview edition. Rise and shine early Sunday morning, June 13 at Jamboree and learn some good info about interviewing family. I’ll be leading two sessions – one on the skills of an interviewer, the second on the skills of an audio engineer. This week at Family Oral History Using Digital Tools I’ll be discussing different ways to come up with good questions to ask your family member when you sit down to interview him or her.

“I’m going to interview my Uncle Al. What do I ask?”

I get asked this question—a lot. What do you ask someone that you’re going to visit?

I’ll get more into the specifics of strategies of how to come up with questions to ask, but for now, I’ll give you a few tips on attitude.

Your job as an interviewer is to elicit information and stories from the other person. Period. The rest is just details.

All the pointers I’ll be offering are consistent with your job as story eliciter. (not to be confused with Story Elixer, though perhaps you want your questions to act as a kind of story elixer) The job is to elicit stories. I’ll tell you more about different ways to do that.

Your attitude ...สล็อตออนไลน์ ได้เงินจริงRead More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 23, 2010 in • Do it: Learn HowGenealogyInterviewing
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Dollarhide free eBook—I take what he says further

image You can download a free eBookGetting Started in Genealogy Online, by William Dollarhide. (Hat tip to Ancestories and Renee’s Genealogy Blog)

So I clicked, downloaded and read. I’ll take what he says a little bit further. Don’t go for just the facts, get the stories that go along with things, too.

Dollarhide’s Step 1 is titled Family Interviews. Excellent. I agree.

He leads the reader through some strategies to capture facts about your family’s past: Look through address books, holiday cards from relatives. Contact any and all by whatever means possible “in person, by telephone, or e-mail.” (p. 9).

He continues:

Compare your memories with the memories of your brothers, sisters, parents, grandparentss or any other living relatives. You may discover that others in your immediate family have different stories to tell.


Memories memories memories. Of the living, of those who surround you.

He further goes on to talk of interview questions, which taken as a whole, are ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 19, 2010 in • GenealogyInterviewing
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