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How to Tape Instant Oral Biographies: Capture Your Family’s Living History for Future Generations.

Expanded, larger workbook-sized edition of original family oral history guide to record, videotape, and film your life stories. Features additional chapters to help generations review the past and imaginatively explore the future together. Provides useful interviewing information for families that may be multiracial, multiethnic or multi-religious in composition. Step -by-step guide offers basic interviewing techniques, more than 100 questions to ask, family history sheets. Featured on the PBS "Ancestor" series.

To order a small-sized version of this book, click here. You can also learn how to create a family memory quilt by looking at the activities outlined in my other book, My Paper Memory Quilt: A Family History Pack.

Order now directly from Bill Zimmerman  for $12.99 (plus $4.50 shipping per book in the U.S. only).

To order by mail, write to:
Bill Zimmerman
Guarionex Press, Ltd.
201 West 77th Street,
Suite 6A
New York, NY 10024

Below are a few questions taken from more than 100 in my book, How to Tape Instant Oral Biographies. Use them to interview people about their lives.


What were you like when you were little?

  • What is your full name? And do you know what your name means?
  • When were you born? And where were you born?
  • When did your family first come to this country and where did they come from?
  • Did they ever tell you what life was like for them before they came here? What did they bring with them?


What are your happiest memories?

  • What are your earliest memories of when you were a child?
  • What was your life like when you were my age? What did you do with your time when you were very young? Did you go to school or work? Where did you live? What games did you play?
  • Can you tell me any stories to show me the way you were when you were very young?
  • What do you think is the most important thing that ever happened to you in your life?
  • What was your greatest adventure?


When was it like coming to America?

  • Do you remember any especially funny or sad stories about your life?
  • What special things do you know that you are proud of?
  • Are there favorite family stories or sayings or songs that you can tell me? What are they? Can you tell them in a different language? Can you translate them for me? Are there any family superstitions that I should know about?
  • What things do you enjoy doing the most?
  • What are your hopes for the future?

If you record the oral history of a family member or friend, please consider sharing your experiences with us by sending an email to:WmZ@aol.com. We'll print some of them on the BLOG With Bill Zimmerman feedback page.

Here is a story someone shared with me:

Please include a screen name (up to 8 characters) that we can use if we post your response.

Your Screen Name:

Please also input your e-mail address below so we may inform you about our new treasures!
Your E-Mail Address:

The next activity for the whole family is from my book My Paper Memory Quilt: A Family History Pack.

Print this drawing out to color and write on.

From How to Tape Instant Oral Biographies, by Bill Zimmerman. Illustration by Tom Bloom.

Toby Rosser Design