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Pacific Island Guide  > Step 4. Gather oral histories from your oldest relatives

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Interview old people now

We never know when they may die. This is the main source of information for the past, especially when most information is kept and passed down orally.

Prepare for the interview

  • Prepare for the interview by gathering materials, such as:
-paper and pen.
-A digital or tape recorder with a good microphone, and a blank tape or two is a great help, if available.
-A camera or video recorder, if you have access to one, is desirable, but don’t delay for lack of technology.
  • Do what you can as soon as you can.
-If you use a recorder, practice first so you can turn it on and off and turn the tape over.
-If you are not familiar with the island the person came from, study a map of the island to have a mental picture of where the person is talking about.
-Try to arrange for another person to go with you for the interview, if possible.
One person can run the recorder and take notes while the other asks questions.
You can also help each other to see if you understood the information correctly.
-If you don’t have a tape recorder, take really good notes.
Even if you use a recorder, your notes help in transcribing the tape later.
Record your name, the name of the person interviewed, and the date and place of the interview at the top of your notes. Say this information into the tape recorder before the interview starts.
-Pray for and follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost in what we should ask and how to ask it.
-Use correct interviewing techniques.

Keep in mind

Some islanders have a specific order in which they recite a formal genealogy. If you ask them to recite it, you shouldn’t interrupt them with questions.

Sometimes, customary questions are to be asked by the interviewer and answered in a known sequence, as is done in Tonga. In such a case, ask an experienced interviewer to help you.

A personal life history is less structured, and you can ask questions during the interview.

Take a gift of some fruit or whatever the custom is on your island. Do it when you first do the interview and when you ask them to review the copy.

Ask for permission to share what you have written with others.

Ideas for informal questions to ask

  • What are your names, what do they mean, and how did you get them? (The answer to this question is usually very interesting and can yield a lot of other useful information.)
  • What are the names of your parents and your parents’ brothers and sisters? Who did they marry?
  • Do you know where your parents’ family was living when they were born?
  • How did they come to be at that place?
  • What year were they born?
  • What island do they come from? What district? What village?
  • What is the ancestral village or island district of your father and mother?
  • Where did your father and mother live, and when did they live there?
  • What is your lineage, ha’a, canoe, tribe, or other ancestral group?
  • Who was the first ancestor in that lineage?
  • What is the story about them?
  • What do you remember of the history of their village or island district?
  • Do you remember any of your ancestors who are no longer living?
  • What do you remember about them?
  • How many children do you have? What are their names? Who did they marry?
  • Where do your descendants live now?
  • What is your husband or wife’s name?
-What do you recollect about the time of your marriage?
-Where and when were you married?
-What was or is special about your husband or wife?
  • What religion do you belong to?
-What religion did your parents belong to?
-How did they learn the gospel or become a Christian, and when were they baptized?
-If they are LDS, have they attended the temple, and when?
  • What events in your life (birth, adolescence, new name, moving to another place, church ordinances such as baptism, christening, confirmation, marriage, employment, schooling, hospitalization, land ownership, military service, being made chief, etc.) were likely to have been recorded?

Follow up

  • Later, you need to transcribe the interview. Play the tape and write down what was said.
  • Ask the person you interviewed to read your notes and correct them.
  • Give the person you interviewed a copy of the transcription.
  • Donate, if possible, a copy of the transcript to:
Family History Library
35 North West Temple St.
Salt Lake City, Utah 84150-3400
USA

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  • This page was last modified on 15 August 2009, at 14:16.
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