35 Questions to Ask to Get to Know Your Parent’s Heritage

October is associated with both Halloween and Oktoberfest. A two-week festival held each year in Munich, Germany. Oktoberfest is a German beer festival celebrated during late September and early October. It is attended by six million people each year and has inspired numerous similar heritage events around the world, many of which were founded by German immigrants or their descendants.

Similar immigrant and indigenous festivals, such as Aloha Festival, Festa Italiana, Brazilian Day, Glasgow Highland Days as well as New Year festivals such as Diwali and Chinese New Year provide the perfect occasion to not only celebrate but learn more about our family heritage and ethnicity.

Planning On Asking Your Parent About Your Heritage

The best resource for knowing more about our heritage is typically right within our family: our parents and grandparents. Asking them about their life and their past will not only provide a lot of insight into family culture and traditions, but it’s also the perfect way for them to stay mentally active and stimulate long-term memory.

Plan on setting plenty of time aside to ask your parent about their life and heritage. Make sure to either record the conversation or take notes. If you have family portraits or photo albums, newspaper clippings, or home movies that you can look at together, this will help a lot to jog their memory.

You’ll be surprised how much you learn by talking to them, and they’ll be happy to reminisce and share stories about important moments and experiences in their life. Even if you don’t live with your parent, you and your family could take advantage of the free video calling services available today to be able to talk to them ‘face to face’.

Heritage Questions to Ask

Here are some suggestions for questions to ask your parent(s) to get the conversation started. These questions will no doubt lead to other questions, so be prepared!

Birth and Childhood

  1. When were you born?
  2. Where were you born? Can you show me on a map?
  3. What was your town like?
  4. Did you have a nickname?
  5. What was school like? Did you like it?
  6. What was your favorite subject in school?
  7. Who were your best friends? What did you do for fun?
  8. What were your favorite holidays? How did you celebrate them?
  9. What kind of car did you have?
  10. Did you have a TV or stereo? What were your favorite shows? What songs were popular on the radio?


  1. Do you have siblings? If so, what are their full names?
  2. What are your parent’s and grandparents’ names? Where did they grow up? How did they come to America?
  3. What did your parents do for a living?
  4. How were you brought up? Did your family follow a religion? What language was spoken at home?
  5. Were there any special family gatherings or weddings that are memorable for you?

College and Career

  1. Did you go to college? If so, what did you study?
  2. What was your first job? Did you like it?
  3. What were some challenges you faced in your work?
  4. What was rewarding about your work?
  5. Did you have a mentor or someone you looked up to?


  1. How did you meet your spouse?
  2. What year was it?
  3. What did you like about them?
  4. What did you do on your first date?
  5. How did you know they were “the one”?
  6. Were you the one to propose? If so, how did you propose? If not, how did your spouse propose?
  7. What was your wedding like?
  8. What has been one of your favorite parts of your marriage?
  9. How long have you been married?
  10. What has been one of the biggest struggles you’ve overcome together?

 General Questions

  1. Do you feel you have had a good life? What was the best part about it? What was hardest for you?
  2. If you had anything to change, what would it be?
  3. What is the biggest lesson you feel you learned in your life?
  4. Do you feel the world has changed for the better or gotten worse?
  5. What advice would you give to the younger generations?

We hope this important heritage project will help bring up cherished memories for you and your loved one and bring to light important – often historically significant – mementos of days gone by that can be preserved for grandkids, great-grandkids, and anyone else in the family that is interested in your genealogy and heritage. Happy reminiscing!  

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