Who, What, When & Where – The Pre-Interview Questionnaire (PIQ) Form (continued)

We’ve gathered the Basic Interviewee Information and Early Life PIQ form facts in our last blog post http://tinyurl.com/3ufeauf . Now it’s time to continue chronologically through the interviewees’s life and gather the facts about Adult Years, Family Background and Specific Life Stories.

For the PIQ purposes, I consider Adult Years to begin after graduation from high school or at about age 18 (if there was no graduation for the interviewee). The first subject I include here is military history since many of my interviewees entered the US military after graduation from high school. To get what I want regarding military history, I developed a chart with columns that include date of service, country, branch (of military), rank attained, place stationed and primary assignments. This is an important category for your research for two reasons: 1) to properly ask questions about their military service, you must follow the chronologic and geographic journey taken; and 2) their stories of military experience are usually the periods of time in their lives they have talked least about with other family members and, therefore, are the most requested unknown life stories you will be asked to capture.

Adult Years continue with a chart of primary occupations,  a list of awards & rewards earned, a chart of health history, a list best friends as an adult and a list of current activities they do for fun. Be especially sensitive when approaching the subject of health history. If the interviewee has experienced some very “personal” health challenges in their history (whether involving physical on mental health), they may not want to address it. My position is that’s okay with me. I want the interviewee to maintain a comfort level with me in order to share what they want during the interview itself. If I push too hard gathering health history they are embarrassed about, I risk losing the trust I need during the interview…and that’s something I cannot afford to lose!

Family Background is the next PIQ section and includes the details you want about grandparents, parents, siblings, spouse(s), children and grandchildren. Keep in mind here when constructing your form that there is no family that is “typical”. Parents can be step-parents, adoptive parents or guardians. Children can be by birth, adopted, or step-children. Each atypical category creates great life questions to ask during the interview.

The last category of information I want to gather from the PIQ form is Specific Life Stories. For this I make a numbered list (1 to 15) with long blanks after each number. I ask the interviewee, “Are there any specific life stories you would like me to ask about during the interview that I will not have gathered from the facts I just filled in. For instance, you might be thinking, ‘Don’t forget to ask me about this particular Thanksgiving, last one before my mother died’ or ‘There’s a story I love telling about how I tormented my sister as a kid’.” You will probably have heard this info during many times earlier during the PIQ meeting, so be prepared during the meeting to “fast-forward” to this page often. This is the part of the PIQ form you may want to ask other family members to chime in on. Some of the “juiciest” stories come from this info.

In my next blog post, we’ll cover gathering photos, documents and mementos.

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