Think of history as a collection of stories. You have already written your own story and put your own history in perspective through a time-line. Now is the time to write down as much of your family's history as possible.
When did your family come to the United States? Have you heard any stories about how family members go here and where they first settled? How does your family celebrate holidays and birthdays? These are all very important pieces of information that you will need to include in your family history


STEP ONE: Interview your parents. Take notes or make a cassette tape of the interview. Write down the date, place, and who participated in the interview. Before the interview, plan the questions you want to ask and arrange them in a logical order. Be sure to schedule your interviews at a convenient time, and, if you have a lot of questions, plan on several short interviews

You can ask questions such as: What is your full name/maiden name? When did you get married? Where did you go to school? What was your first job? What were the full names of both of your parents? When and where were they born? How did they meet? When and where were they married What occupation did your father and mother pursue? What type of education did they have? What are the names of their brothers and sisters? What order were they born in? Where did your grandparents live?

You will also want to ask other questions about family history and background. Who was the first immigrant? When did he or she come to the United States and from what country? Have any family members served in the military? Were they in a war? Which one?

What church does your family attend? What family traditions are especially important to you? What childhood games do you remember? What songs do you remember (lullabies, play song, etc.)? What relatives have nicknames in your familiy? Be specific and write down notes in as great detail as you can if you are not taperecording your interview.

STEP TWO: Interview other relatives or friends. Again be sure to note the date, place and participants

STEP THREE: Write letters to distant relatives. Ask them some of the same questions you asked your parents. Your parents can help you choose the most appropriate questions for the relatives to whom you are writing. The facts and traditions which they have to share will enrich your quest. Keep a copy of your letters.

STEP FOUR: During your interviews, be sure to collect family traditions as well as family history. List any stories told to you during your interviews and note where in your notes or tapes, the details are located. You will enjoy sharing these stories with your family during family get-togethers.

STEP FIVE:When you have gathered as much family history and tradition as you can, you have the basis for a full-fledged family history. You can write the history based on your notes and interview tapes. Or you can index your tapes and safely store them so you have the family history told in family members own voices. Whatever you do, be sure to keep your notes and tapes in a safe place. You have recorded important, prehaps irreplaceable history. As a historian you have a responsibility to your family and to its history.

You can be very proud of this work. Keep it to go along with your other 'Archives Adventures.'

For information on the care of
family papers and photographs
please write to the Education Curator at:
Alabama Department of Archives and History
P.O. Box 300100
Montgomery, Alabama 36130-0100
Visit the Alabama Archives web site at

Return to Web Activities Main page
Return to Archives homepage
Updated: September 18, 2008