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Where Beginners Learn to tell their story
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Among the Mississippi Choctaws
Week of December 13, 2009
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Oral History Questions



















There are many web sites that are available with samples of oral history questions.  I am listing some of them here, because it is essential that you formulate your own unique questions.  Each person’s family situation is different and there are some questions that will be pertain to your family and where they lived, questions pertaining to the family structure, questions unique to the family’s history.  

Those questions that are unique, will be the same across the board—information on birth, parents, siblings, community.  However, structure your questions around the history and other unique attributes. For example if your family lived in Pennsylvania, in the late 1880s, you might want to find out if anyone was affected by the Johnstown flood.   When you speak to an elder in their 80s or 90s there might be some unique questions that you have about life in the depression.  An elder who has lived his/her entire life on the coast of South Carolina might be interesting to talk to about learning how to weave sweet grass baskets from their own elders., and their life in the Gullah  community.

African American elders also present a set of questions to connect your family to the unique history for black families.  If you are interested in talking to an elder who lived during the era of racial segregation, then you might construct some questions pertaining to that time.  If your elder is 80 or older, then they are possibly the last generation of family members who knew someone who was a slave.  Ask them if their grandparents were enslaved and if they elders that they knew when they were a child, ever spoke about that time. Remember you job is to begin to construct your family story—and to get that story you will begin with the elders who will point you in the right directions.  But you have to ask the right questions to get that to happen.

Basic Oral History Questions

African American Questions

Useful Native American Ancestral Questions