Questionnaire to Evoke Memories

Childhood Memories

  1. What were you told about your birth and infancy?
  2. For those who were born elsewhere:
    • How and why was it decided that you would move here?
    • Who came with you?
    • How did your family establish themselves in the new environment?
    • What strengths did you have that enabled you and your family to acclimate?
    • What were your worries as a child? How did they affect your adult personality?
  3. Imagine you are standing outside of the house where you lived as a child. You go up to the front door and push it open. Walk slowly through the rooms and describe what you are seeing. Smelling. Hearing. Who lived there with you?
  4. Did your family eat together? Describe mealtime. Describe the tenor of your home.
  5. Tell about your bedroom. As you lay in bed, what sounds did you hear outside? Describe the room.
  6. Did you have a back yard or place to wander? Describe what you did.
  7. Where did you play, and with whom? Did you have a best friend? What games did you play?
  8. What do you remember about any of the major holidays? Who celebrated with you? Did you receive any special gifts?
  9. What did you find amazing as a child? Was there anything you really wanted to do that was not allowed or unaffordable?
  10. What are your first memories about religion?
  11. Was there anything about your house that scared you? What were your fears?
  12. What evidence of art, music, or books was in your home?
  13. Were there often guests in your home? Parties? Did you invite friends to play in your home?
  14. What lessons did you take away from your childhood about how to behave and what he world is like? What was expected of you?
  15. Where did you go for comfort? What did you believe about yourself as a child? Where did you find encouragement for your talent?
  16. When was it that you felt most loved?
  17. Tell of a time when you felt important.
  18. When did you feel hurt, and did you hide it?
  19. Which family members do you remember in most detail and why?
  20. What was discussed and what subjects were taboo in your home? Politics, race, sex, money?
  21. How did the lack or abundance of money play a role in your childhood?

Questions About Life Themes

  1. What gifts (tangible or in intangible) are still important to you?
  2. What were the crucial decisions in your life?
  3. What has been the most important turning point in your life?
  4. Have there been any mistakes in your life?
  5. How have you overcome or learned from your difficulties?
  6. How do you handle disappointment?
  7. Are you satisfied with the life choices you have made?
  8. What has been the happiest time in your life?
  9. What was the least enjoyable time?
  10. What relationships in your life have been the most significant?
  11. How would you describe those relationships?
  12. Has there been a special person that has changed your life?
  13. What have been your greatest accomplishments?
  14. Are you certain of anything?
  15. What are some things you hope you never forget?
  16. Is there anything in your experience of life that gives it unity, meaning, or purpose?
  17. How do you feel about yourself at the age you are now?
  18. What is your biggest worry now?
  19. In what ways are you changing now?
  20. What has been the greatest challenge of your life so far?
  21. What has been the most awe-inspiring experience you ever had?
  22. What one sentiment or emotion makes you feel most deeply alive?
  23. What matters the most to you now?
  24. What do you wonder about now?
  25. What time of your life would you like to repeat?
  26. What was the most important thing you have had to learn by yourself?
  27. How would you describe yourself to yourself at this point in your life?
  28. Is the way you see yourself now significantly different than it was in the past?
  29. How would you describe your world-view?

Reflections and Hopes for The Future

  1. Was there some over-riding thing that you wanted in your life?
  2. How did this change over time?
  3. How close did you come to getting it?
  4. What stood in your way?
  5. Is it still the thing you most want?
  6. Was there one moment in your life that changed everything for you?
  7. Was there a year in your life that was most significant? A turning point? A time when things changed one way or another?
  8. What family traits (e.g. hotheads, artists, doers, thinkers …) do you ascribe to various relatives and to yourself?
  9. How do you see these traits perpetuating in your family?
  10. What decisions made the greatest impact on your life and how do you view them now?
  11. What has your experience in life taught you that you would like to share?
  12. What surprises or strokes of luck changed your life?
  13. If you could write your epitaph in just a few words, what would it say? How do you want your children and grandchildren to remember you?
  14. Looking back on your life and to the future, what are you most grateful for?
  15. What standards do you apply to your actions?
  16. What else do you want future generations of your family to know about the principles that guide you?
  17. What is your finest accomplishment?

  Possible Components of a Complete Memoir

  1. Do readers get an idea who I am?
  2. Do they understand why I made the choices I have made?
  3. Do they understand what it was like to grow up during that time period?
  4. Have I gone through all my stories and decided what adds to the story and what I do not think should be shared?
  5. Have I come up with a theme that helps me put the stories in an order that makes sense?
  6. Have I mentioned all my children? (Remember the family album, which usually does not have many photos of the youngest child.)
  7. Have I mentioned all my grandchildren who are born of this writing?
  8. Have I discussed:
  • My family history
  • My parents’ lives, as much as I can
  • What it was like growing up in my family
  • My siblings
  • Going to grade school
  • My neighborhood
  • High School
  • College/military service
  • Career/working
  • Raising my family
  • Family traditions growing up
  • Family traditions in my family
  • Empty nesting
  • Retirement
  • Values that I want to share
  1. Have I included things that are important to me?
  • Recipes
  • Letters
  • Documents, e.g. naturalization papers, birth and marriage record.
  1. Have I decided what photographs I want to include?


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