Personal History Interview Questions

I frequently include the questions below when conducting personal history interviews. As you can see, there are many significant events and memorable experiences to share with loved ones.


  • When and where were you born?
  • Where did you grow up?
  • What was it like?
  • Who were your parents?
  • What were your parents like?
  • How was your relationship with your parents?
  • Who were your grandparents?
  • What were your grandparents like?
  • Any favorite Aunts and Uncles?
  • Do you have any siblings?
  • What were they like growing up?
  • How would you describe yourself as a child? Were you happy?
  • What did you look like?
  • What is your best memory of childhood? Worst?
  • Did you get into trouble? What was the worst thing you did?
  • Did you have a nickname? How’d you get it?
  • Who were your best friends? What were they like?
  • What would you do for fun as a kid?
  • How would you describe a perfect day when you were young?
  • What did you think your life would be like when you were older?
  • Do you have any favorite stories from your childhood?



  • Did you enjoy school?
  • What kind of student were you?
  • How would your classmates remember you?
  • Are you still friends with anyone from that time in your life?
  • What are your best memories of grade school/high school/college/graduate school? Worst memories?
  • Was there a teacher or teachers who had a particularly strong influence on your life?
  • Do you have any favorite stories from school?



  • What do/did you do for a living?
  • Tell me about how you got into your line of work.
  • Do/did you like your job?
  • What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
  • What did you want to be when you grew up?
  • What lessons has your work life taught you?
  • If you could do anything now, what would you do? Why?
  • Do you plan on retiring? If so, when? How do you feel about it?
  • Do you have any favorite stories from your work life?



  • Do you have a love of your life?
  • When did you first fall in love?
  • Can you tell me about your first kiss?
  • What was your first serious relationship?
  • Do you believe in love at first sight?
  • Do you ever think about previous lovers?
  • What lessons have you learned from your relationships?



  • How did you meet your husband/wife?
  • How did you know he/she was “the one”?
  • How did you propose?
  • What were the best times? The most difficult times?
  • Did you ever think of getting divorced?
  • Did you ever get divorced? Can you tell me about it?
  • What advice do you have for young couples?
  • Do you have any favorite stories from your marriage or about your husband/wife?



  • What is your ethnic background?
  • Where is your Mother’s family from? Where is your Father’s family from?
  • Have you ever been there? What was that experience like?
  • What traditions have been passed down in your family?
  • Who were your favorite relatives?
  • Do you remember any of the stories they used to tell you?
  • What are the classic family stories? Jokes? Songs?



  • Can you tell me about your religious beliefs/spiritual beliefs? What is your religion?
  • Have you experienced any miracles?
  • What was the most profound spiritual moment of your life?
  • Do you believe in God?
  • Do you believe in the after-life? What do you think it will be like?



  • Can you tell me about your illness?
  • Do you think about dying? Are you scared?
  • How do you imagine your death?
  • Do you believe in an after-life?
  • Do you regret anything?
  • Do you look at your life differently now than before you were diagnosed?
  • Do you have any last wishes?
  • If you were to give advice to your grandchildren or great grandchildren, what would it be?
  • What have you learned from life? The most important things?
  • Has this illness changed you? What have you learned?
  • How do you want to be remembered?

From Good Housekeeping Article

  • What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
  • What was your favorite toy or game growing up?
  • If you could learn any new skill, what would it be and why?
  • If you could go back in time, what is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?
  • What’s something you want to do that you’ve never done before? Why?
  • In what kind of situations do you feel most uncomfortable, and why?
  • Have you ever experienced or witnessed something that you can’t explain?
  • What is your weirdest habit?

Kenneth Greenberg :: Princeton NJ :: (609) 429-0699