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30 Questions to Ask Your Parent About Your Family Tree

Posted by Daystar Retirement Village on Nov 1, 2021 8:00:00 AM

Our older loved ones are a treasure trove of family lore and important information!  Whether you are chatting from a distance or are able to meet in person, engaging them in conversation about the family tree is one great way to change up the topics of discussion and access fond memories!  It also provides vital information that may impact your health decisions or richen your sense of self with connections to people and places you hadn’t considered. Reminiscing with someone else can be a favorite pastime for many seniors. Because memories of routine or long-ago tasks are coded in the brain differently than events that have recently happened, many seniors are able to provide greater detail or engagement when asked about yesteryear!  When you walk with your loved ones through memory lane, you never know what you might discover! 

30 Questions to Ask Your Parent About Your Family Tree

Here at Daystar Retirement Village in West Seattle, WA, we have some extra insight on topics such as these.   Family interview questions can be a great starting point for engaging conversation with your senior loved ones. Whether you’re a caregiver or simply a loved one engaging with your senior, we want you to know ways to lend support to your senior and help you, yourself, feel supported during this season of life.

Preparing for your Conversation

Be prepared to have an engaging conversation with your loved one, but be mindful of the fact that there are some topics they may not want to share.  Establish early that it’s okay to tell you that they don’t want to talk about a topic or answer more questions.

  • Consider using a notebook, audio, or video recorder.  This is such valuable information, many people who have a record to reference later are glad they do!   Sometimes, the information comes out fast!
  • If you have any completed family tree information, bring that too!  It can help remind you about the questions you might have and the information you already do.  It also helps to ask about specific people or specific places if you know about them.  “Tell me about Aunt Sally.” or “What was it like to be in New York in the ‘60s?” will get you further than the ones we wrote to work for everyone!
  • If other items, such as heirlooms, photographs, or mementos might help your loved one connect to their memories, or if they are items that your senior might have interesting information about, consider bringing them as well!

Questions About Connections to People and Places

Expanding on what you know of your loved one’s life history as it relates to the places your family member has lived, worked, or gone to school often leads to verifiable records which may help if you are interested in ancestry or genealogy projects, now or in the future.  And that’s only the beginning!  Learning about new landmarks and people who are significant to your family history can bring a whole new level of connection with your loved one!  

To get started, we suggest some questions about “just the facts.”

  • Where did you go to high school?
  • Did you go to college?
  • Where were you born?
  • Did you attend church or religious services?
  • Where/when did you get married?
  • Where did you work?
  • Did you serve in the military?  If so, where?
  • Where were your favorite places to vacation?
  • Who lived in your house when you grew up?
  • Who was important in your life when you were a kid?

Questions for your Family Member About Family Traditions and Preferences

You may already have a pretty good background in the basic family tree, or you might have just been invited down a rabbit hole of curiosity when you started asking questions! If so, you may be looking for more in-depth interview questions for your grandma. Inviting your loved one to revisit past passions and pursuits may be just the ticket. You may hear about a wild night out or an untold adventure!

Try these to find some stories you may not have heard  before:

  • What did your family do to celebrate holidays?
  • What were some of your favorite songs when you were in high school?
  • What is the best movie you have ever seen?
  • What were your favorite toys growing up?
  • What is the best date you ever went on?
  • Which birthday was your favorite?
  • What is the best party you have ever been to?
  • What kind of pets did you have?  
  • What is the most unusual thing that has ever happened to you?
  • What hobbies have you had?
  • What are you most proud about?
  • What advice would you give your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren?

Follow-Up Questions

Follow-up questions help to expand the conversation beyond a question and interview format. If your loved one is enjoying the topic, keep it going!  You can always ask simple expanding questions such as, “Tell me more about it!” Ask about sensory experiences and details! This is why we advised that you bring a pen!

For People:

  • What did they look like?
  • What did you learn from them?
  • Where/When did they die and how?
  • Where are they buried?
  • Do you associate any items or heirlooms with them?

For Places or Experiences:

  • What was a day like there?
  • What was hard about it?
  • Who were your friends there?
  • What was the best part about it?
  • What did you wear or bring with you?

Fostering Caring Connections

Here at Daystar Retirement, we care about rich environments and caring connections for our residents! Contact us to learn more about our senior apartments, independent living, assisted living, and respite care options and availability, or set up a tour to check it out for yourself!

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Tags: Senior Living 101, Senior Health

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