By Daniel Hubbard | December 26, 2010
All the holidays at this time of year have gotten me thinking about interviewing relatives.
Part of the art of interviewing relatives is to recognize when the flow of the interview is going in an good direction even if it isn’t where you planned for it to go. It may not be the information that you wanted to get but it may be information that you should have. Part of the science of interviewing relatives is to be able to adjust the direction in a way that will jog a memory.
During the holiday season is a logical time to try to interview relatives because families get together. It is also a good time to hear holiday stories. Memories are “prejogged.”
While thinking about those things, an interview technique popped into my head that I can’t wait to try. It may not be an original idea—it really shouldn’t be. What I’d like to try is to intentionally walk an interviewee through the calendar year, going from one annual milestone to another as time really flowed. These days I’d start with Christmas and move on to New Year’s Eve then ask about the next yearly milestone that was important in the interviewee’s life. It might be their birthday or a parent’s or sibling’s birthday. It might be another holiday. Perhaps the relative has special memories of Valentine’s Day or some yearly goofiness with a brother in honor of Groundhog’s Day. Maybe some special seasonal work happened every year as spring arrived. I’d gather yearly happenings, repeated traditions and certainly even some one-time-only occurrences that are firmly attached to some date or time of the year. I’d hope to learn of family customs tied to the cycle of the year. I’d try to get each yearly landmark, once its memories had run their own course, to jog memories of the next landmark and flow through the year.
Perhaps if all went well and everyone had the endurance to complete a memory year, we might return to Christmas and the new memories would appear having been primed by having just remembered Thanksgiving. Otherwise, after a hiatus, a little discussion of the notes about the joyous last day of school might help bring forth memories of the 4th of July.Twitter It!