Step 4. Gather oral histories from your oldest relatives
We neeld to interview old people now, because we never know when they may die. This is themain source of information for the past, especially when most information is kept and passed down orally.
Prepare for the interview
• We should prepare for the interview by gathering materials, such as paper and pen. A tape recorder with a good microphone, and a blank tape or two is a great help, if available. A camera or video recorder, if we have access to one, is desirable, but we shouldn’t delay for lack of technology. We should do what we can as soon as we can.
-If we use a recorder, we should practice first so we can turn it on and off and turn the tape over.
-If we are not familiar with the island the person came from, we should study a map of the island to have a mental picture of where the person is talking about.
-We should arrange for another person to go with us for the interview, if possible. One person can run the recorder and take notes while the other asks questions. We can also help each other to see if we understood the information correctly.
-If we don’t have a tape recorder, we should take really good notes. (Even if we use a recorder, our notes help in transcribing the tape later).
-We should record our name, the name of the person interviewed, the date and place of the interview at the top of our 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.
-We should use the correct way of interviewing.
Some Islanders have a specific order in which they recite a formal genealogy. If we ask them to recite it, we 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, we should ask an experienced interviewer to help us. A personal life history is less structured, and we can ask questions during the interview.
We should take a gift of some fruit or whatever the custom is on our island, when we first do the interview and when we ask them to review the copy. We should ask for permission to share what we 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?
• Later, we need to transcribe the interview. Play the tape and write down what was said.
• We should ask the person we interviewed to read our notes and correct them.
• We should give the person we interviewed a copy of the transcription.
• We should donate a copy of the transcript to the Family History Library at 35 North West Temple St. in Salt Lake City, Utah 84051, if possible.