I am hoping to spend some time interviewing my living grandparents. Obviously, I guess, though I would love to be able to talk to my late Grandpa Zalewski again. I have tons and tons of factual data; dates, times, places, etc. What I don’t have a lot of are stories and first-hand accounts.

My grandparents are getting old. They are all in their 80s now and you can tell that they have some issues getting around. I know my Grandma (Corrigan) Zalewski asks me the same questions about my house everytime I see her (I bought her house when she moved to assisted living) but she can rattle off stories and names like there is no tomorrow and she loves to do that. I can only assume it’s the same way with my maternal grandparents.

I picked myself up an Olympus audio recorder just for this purpose. It seems to do exactly what I need and nothing more. In my tests, it recorded great audio. I’d like to sit down with them and just start asking small questions and maybe bring up some names just to spark their memory. I picture talking to my Grandma about this like chipping the glass on a large aquarium and just seeing it crack open further before you’re hit with a deluge of water. This is why I want the recorder. I won’t be able to write, or even type for that matter, as fast as she can tell stories.

I know people have done this type of thing before. Does anyone have any tips or good interview questions to ask? Obviously, I know her, so I don’t need any sort of introductory-type questions.

About Brian Zalewski

I started genealogy research about mid-1999. My grandfather had passed away in April of that year. Since then I’ve done a lot of research not only for myself, but for friends and other relatives. In 2006, I married the love of my life, Darcy, and welcomed the birth of our daughter, Aerissa Jean, in 2010 and our son, Xander Lee, in 2012. I can’t wait to tell them stories about all of their ancestors.

Additional Resources

A Featured Post

Single View: Frank J Zalewski, Sr

This is the first of my “Single View” posts. These will be entries on a specific individual (or possibly family.) I will put out as much detail as I have in hopes to find someone who may have more information. Not only will this help me get the info online, but it will also help […]


  1. I’ve heard about a project going on at the Milwaukee Public Library. I’m not sure if it’s still going on but they were allowing people to record oral histories there. Anyways, this site (although targeted for veterans) has some tips for generating oral histories. I’ve also found it helpful to bring out a photo album.

  2. I was interested in reading your post, as its not something mentioned all that often, but it is of interest to me.

    Long story short – Grandmother (polish) used for forced labour during world war 2 (she was forced from her home and then the Nazi’s burnt it down)- after the war she never spoke about her past. One of her brothers is still alive in Poland, and i’m trying to organize a video recording of him answering all the questions i have as i know very little. He says he has a weath of information – this video recording will be invaluable and far excedes any other type of information gathering from him.

    Brain, how did your recording go?

  3. Truthfully, I didn’t get to it yet. We haven’t been able to get a good time in, since I know we’ll need a bit to get most of it. I’d like to do it all in one sitting. I hope to get to it soon.