Ancestors Tree


Students will:

Plan an oral interview with a relative.

Conduct an oral interview.

Write a "Thank You" note and a family story.



Close-ended questions: questions that can be answered with a very short, specific response -usually about some fact (e.g., "What is your maiden name?" "What year did your grandfather die?")

Open-ended questions: questions that can be answered with a free response -like the answer to an essay question (e.g., "What was it like when you were growing up?" "What can you remember about your grandfather?"

Oral History: a verbal account of the events and circumstances of the life of a person or an entire family.

Oral Interview: a conversation with someone (e.g., a parent, grand parent, aunt, uncle, friend) in which open-ended and close-ended questions are asked to learn information about a person or family.





Episode Overview

In this third episode, suggestions for interviewing living relatives will be presented. Part one introduces Fabiana Chiu, a recent immigrant to the United States. She was born of Chinese and Peruvian parents, and had mixed feelings about her heritage. She wanted to travel with her parents to Peru to learn more and interview her relatives. In her journey, she discovered traditions and links to her Chinese heritage of which she was never aware. In part two, expert Bill Zimmerman will explain how to successfully interview living relatives and document family stories.

Before Viewing the Episode

  • Duplicate the student handout on the next page.
  • Write the VOCABULARY words (at left) on the board, and discuss them with your students.

After Viewing the Episode

Activity 1
Plan an oral interview with a relative

  • Encourage your students to:
    -- Plan well what they want to accomplish in their interview. Suggest to them that they not ask for too much information at once. The following is a sample of the type of letter they could write to a grandparent.

Dear Grandma/Grandpa:

I’m beginning to put together a history of our family, and it would be very helpful if I could spend some time talking with you. I’m interested in what you can remember about my great-grandparents (your mother and father).

I would also love to look at any old photographs or documents you may have of great grandma and great grandpas. I have enclosed a list to help you remember items that you might have.

I would like to come to your home and would only need about one hour of your time. Any Saturday or Sunday would be fine. If you will let me know a date and time that are best for you, I will plan to come.

I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Your grandson/ granddaughter

  • Encourage your students to:
    -- Suggest some possible questions to ask a parent, grandparent or other relative, and write them on the board.
    -- Identify the questions that are open-ended versus close-ended.

NOTE: Be sensitive to children who may not be living with their parents or relatives. You might suggest to them that they conduct an interview with their guardian or another member of the community.

  • Distribute the student handout on the next page.
  • Have your students:
    -- Write at least five close-ended and five open-ended questions, on 3" x 5" note cards. Note: Most close-ended questions will focus on filling in the information on the Pedigree Chart and/or Family Group Record.
    -- Number the cards in the sequence they would ask the questions.
    -- Pair up with a classmate, ask the questions and get feedback.
    -- Adjust their questions.

Activity 2
Conduct an oral interview

  • Review with your students the points outlined on the student handout.

Activity 3
Write a "Thank You" note and a family story.

  • Encourage your students to write a "Thank You" note and at least a one page story about the person they interviewed.

On to the Activity Page | Back to Activity 2