Life Story Interview Guide

The first stage for this interview method is to ask the interviewee to tell summarize their life story in any way they see fit. The interviewee should be oriented about this strategy ahead of time and "warmed up" to allow them to feel more comfortable and relaxed in presenting an overarching narrative. Variants of the entry question are:
Tell me about your life from birth until today.
Tell me the most important events in your life.
Tell me the key milestones in your life.

The second stage of the interview will consist of more specific questions dealing with a vairety of themes. Except for the nine questions about the respondent themselves, the listing below are intended as suggestions, but the wording and emphasis of the interviews will vary significantly each time. Many of the examples below are most relevant to people of Ukrainian heritage than other groups, and a set of questions should be adapted for each other group as well to explore specific aspects of traditional activities. The themes are presented here in an order that echoes the sequence of topics in the standard questionnaire, though this sequence is not proposed as fixed for the life story interviews. Some themes may be explored in great depth, while others might be omitted entirely. The interviewer should strive for a free-flowing conversation style. The interviewer should be attentive to themes that the respondent is particularly interested and knowledgeable about, so that each interview focuses in greatest depth on one to three specific topics. The research team identified the following themes of special interest at the Project Workshop in Winnipeg: Immigration and settlement stories; work and livelihood; food, medicine and material culture; school and learning; language use and verbal lore; ritual, particularly rites of passage; community life; pastimes and social relations.

RESPONDENT (if this info is not available from a previous interview)
1. What is your name?
2. When and where were you born?
3. Where did you grow up?
4. When did your family come to Canada?
5. When did your family move to [locality]?
6. What other places have you lived? When?
7. What kind of schooling did you have?
8. What has been your main occupation?
9. Who else lived with you when you were growing up?
10. What is your ancestry?

Where were your parents born?
Who was the first generation that came to Canada in your family?
How did they find out about Canada?
Why did your family come to Canada?
Did your family live in other parts of Canada before living here?
How did they acquire land?
How did they choose their quarter?
What did your family tell you about the old country?
Did they ever regret that they had left the old country?
Did they ever speak about being happy in Canada? Why? Why not?

Farming, cattle-breeding, other:
How did your family make living?
Was your family involved in mining?
If farming: What did you grow?
Where did you get seeds?
What crops grew best?
How did your family do the harvesting?
What was your role in your family’s farming?
What else did your family do to sustain yourselves (e.g., fishing, trapping, hunting, mushroom or berry-picking)?
What kind of livestock did you have?
Did you raise animals for yourself (home consumption) or for sale too?
Did your family grow a garden?
What did you plant?
Who tended the garden?
When and how did you plant it?
What did you do to the produce (store, sell)?
How and where did you store the produce?
How did you preserve fruit, vegetables?
Household Duties/ Chores:
What chores were you responsible for as a child?
Your parents?
Your siblings?
Were there any differences between girls and boys?
Did your family ever hire anybody to help you out?

What services and businesses were available in your community?
Community halls
Police station
Railway station
Blacksmith, shoemaker
Tavern and bar
Tell me about any experiences related to them.

House and Outbuildings:
What was your home like?
Building materials
Layout, number of rooms
Interior decoration
How was the house heated?
What other buildings were there on your farm?
What was their use?
Tell me about your well and water supply.
What did you eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner?
What time of the day did they come? Who prepared them? Who helped? (e.g., older sister, brother)
How did you preserve meat? Dairy products? Eggs?
What did you do with the milk you had?
Did your make your own bread? How often?
What food did your family purchase at the store?
What food did you produce yourself?
Did you mother (and others who cooked) use recipes?
Were Sunday meals special? Describe them.
Describe a Christmas supper in your family.
What did you have for Easter?
What other occasions did you have special meals for?
Did your family fast? When? For how long?
Did you fast on Fridays? Wednesdays?
What did you eat while fasting?
How often did your family travel (within the community or outside)?
What means of transportation were used?
What kind of clothing did you wear? In summer? In winter?
What kind of clothing did others in your family wear?
What did you/ your family wear for special/ festive occasions? What occasions would you dress up for?
Were the clothes made at home or purchased?
Did you ever order clothes from catalogues? (e.g., Eaton’s) When? What did you order?
What kind of haircut did you have? Your parents? Your siblings?
Did you or anyone in your family wear makeup? Jewelry?
Arts and Crafts:
Did you/ anybody in your family / in the community do arts or crafts? What were they?
How did they/ you learn to do it?
Did you ever buy art/ craft objects?
What were they?

If born in Canada, where you born in a hospital or at home?
If someone in your family got a flu, bad cut, stomach-ache, how were they cured?
What other kinds of home treatments do you remember?
Did you/anyone in your family have to go to hospital? Why?
Do you remember anyone else in your community being taken to hospital?
Did your parents keep any medicine around the house?

When did you start attending school?
Where did you go to school?
How much time did you spend in school every day?
Describe a typical day at school.
What was the layout of the school? Furniture? Heating, water?
How big was your class?
What subjects were taught?
What were supplies and books? Where did they come from? What did they cost and who paid for them?
Was there a punishment for speaking a language other than English at school?
If English was not one of your first languages, was it hard for you to learn English? How did it feel to not be able to speak English in the beginning?
Who was the teacher? For how long? Where did he/she live?
Who were your friends at school?
What did you do together?
Describe winter activities/ games.
Describe summer activities/ games.
Who were your classmates (i.e., ethnic origins)?
Were you friends with students of other ethnic groups?
Describe social activities that were organized by your school (e.g., Christmas concerts, school picnics, etc.).
What did you want to be when you grew up?
What did your family expect you to do when you grew up?
What (special) memories do you have of school?

What was your first language or languages?
What languages did you speak at home?
What language or languages did the teacher use in school? and the students?
Did you ever take lessons in any other language? When?
What languages did you speak in church?
If English is not one of your first languages, when and how did you learn it?
Do you remember any stories about communication problems in your community?

How did people greet one another when they met?
Were there special greetings at Christmas or Easter or other special times? Were they exchanged among family members? at school? in the community?
Religious Life:
Was your family religious? Did you belong to a church? How often did you attend?
Who was the priest?
Did you stand in the church during the service?
Were men and women separated in the church?
How did you celebrate Christmas?
When? Did you always celebrate it on the same date(s)? If not, what caused the change?
How did you prepare for Christmas? What was your role? Role of other members of the family? Was hay/straw brought into the house? Why?
Did you receive/ exchange presents? What kinds of gifts were you receiving/ exchanging?
Did you set up a Christmas tree in your home?
Was there a Christmas tree in your community?
(Ukrainian examples) Describe Christmas Eve supper in your family. What kinds of dishes? How many dishes? Why this number? Which dish was eaten first? Was kutia thrown up to the ceiling? By whom? Why? After supper, was the table cleared of everything? If not, why?
Did you go caroling? Who did you go with? Did anybody come caroling to your house? Who were they? What kind of carols were sung? How were carolers hosted? Did carolers carry anything with them as they travelled? What means of transportation did carolers use? How many days was caroling going on for?
New Year’s:
(Ukrainian examples) Did you celebrate New Year’s? When? Did you always celebrate it on the same date? If not what caused the change? How?
Did you celebrate Malanka? When? How? Did you go from house to house with Malanka? What was the meaning?
Did you go sowing the wheat on New Year's morning? Did anybody come to your house to sow the wheat? What time of the day? Describe what the sowers did and said.
Did you celebrate the feast of Jordan (Iordan)? How? What activities did you do?
Did your family take some blessed water home? What did you do with it?
How did you prepare for Easter? Decorating the house? Making Easter eggs? Who did it? Preparing special food? What kind?
How did you celebrate Easter? Did you attend Easter service? Did you take anything to the church to be blessed? What did you do the rest of the day on Easter Sunday? What did people do in your community?
Did you celebrate Easter Monday or Tuesday? How?
Parish Feast Day:
Did you celebrate parish saint’s days (khram, prazdnyk, vidpust)? When? How? Did you go to the cemetery?
Other Calendar Holidays:
Did you celebrate birthdays? How?
Did you celebrate anniversaries? How?
Did you celebrate Name Day? How?
Did you celebrate Mother’s Day? How?
Did you celebrate Thanksgiving? How?
Did you celebrate Halloween? How?
What did you do on Canada (Dominion) day?
What did you do on Victoria day?
Did you observe Shevchenko’s day? How?
Did you observe Remembrance Day? How?

What other holidays did you celebrate/ observe? in fall? In winter? In spring/summer?
Did your family/ community work on Sundays? If no, why not?
Childbirth/ Christenings:
What activities took place in your family/ new community when a new baby was born?
Were the babies baptized? When? What were the preparations for the baptism? Do you remember a baptism? Describe. What kinds of gifts did the baby receive?
Who were (your) godparents? What were their relationships to you and your family? Did they have specific roles or obligations?
Describe weddings in your family/community.
What were preparations for the wedding? Was there a gathering to make wreaths? Who? When? Where? Did you have a wedding tree?
How were people invited to the wedding?
How were the bride and the groom dressed?
Describe the wedding ceremony at the church.
What happened after the church ceremony?
Was there a photographer?
Describe the reception.
Where was it held?
What was a typical wedding meal?
Were there musicians?
What type of instruments were played?
Where did dances take place?
What were the dances?
Was there singing?
Can you remember what songs were sung?
What kinds of food and drinks were offered?
Was there a wedding bread? Wedding cake?
What kinds of gifts were there?
What was the most popular time of year for weddings? Why?
How long would wedding celebrations last?
Do you remember marriages between people of different nationalities?
What are your most special memories of weddings?
Do you remember funerals in your family/in your community?
How would a death be announced?
Who went into mourning? For how long?
How was the body prepared?
What was the form of burial (e.g., cremation, burial in a coffin)
Was there a wake?
How soon after the death would the burial occur?
What was happening before the burial?
Do you remember any specific funerals? Describe.
Do you recall any funeral without a priest?
Why there was no priest?
Do you recall women lamenting/ wailing?
How was the deceased remembered?
Was there a commemorative feast in memory of the deceased?
How soon after the death?

Did anyone in your family sing songs? When? Where?
Did you sing? How did you learn your songs?
Who else was singing songs in your community?
What kinds of songs do you remember? In what languages were they sung? On what occasions?
What kind of stories did you hear? On what occasions were these stories told? Where? Who were the storytellers?
Did you like to tell stories?
Did you like to tell jokes?
Did you like to tell riddles?
Do you remember stories about Depression? Immigration to Canada? Neighboring communities?
What stories came down to you about your parents/ grandparents/ ancestors?
Did you hear people saying proverbs? (Give examples, if you remember) When would they be said?

Dance and Music:
Did people in your family go to dances? Where were dances held? How often?
Did most people dance? Did you like to dance? Was there a specially good dancer in your community?
Name the dances. If you knew them, how did you learn them?
Name the musical instruments played.
What kinds of music did your hear?
What kinds of music did you make?
What were the dances and the instruments played?
What else went on beside dancing?
Stage Performance:
Did anyone in the community put on plays? Who? What kind of plays? Did you ever participate?
Did you go to see any other kinds of stage performances? What were they? Where were they held?
How often?
Did you ever perform? What were your roles?

Did you ever attend a picnic? When were they held? Where? What was happening at picnics?
Did you or anyone in your family belong to any clubs or organizations?
Did your family read: Newspapers (what kinds) Magazines (what kinds) Anything else?
Did you gave a radio? Record player?
Did you/ anyone in your family play any sports? What sports were played in your communities? How often? Where?

Who were your (best) friends? What activities did you do together? What games did you play?
Who were your parents’ friends?
Did your family write and receive letters?
Did you have any relations with family members or friends far away? What kind of relations? How did you keep in touch?
Did you have relatives in other parts of Canada? How often did you see them? How did you keep in touch? Were you helping each other? How? What kinds of things did you do together?
What were evenings at home like?
What did you do on Sundays? What did your parents do?
What did you do in your spare time?
What family activities do you remember?
What kind of parties/ gatherings/ celebrations did you have?How often?
Did you have/ go to work-bees? How often? What was happening?
Who were your neighbors? Describe ways you were neighboring (i.e. aiding and interacting with each other)
What cultural groups were there in your community?
What were your relationships with people of other cultural groups in the community?
What were your relationships with own cultural group? How did you/ your family identify yourselves? Was this important in your life often?
Do you remember new-comers in your community? What were the relationships between them and earlier settlers?

Who took decisions in your family?
Who took care of disciplining children?
Did your parents ever punish you? For what? How?
Were you ever rewarded for good behavior? How?

Would you like to add any story to this document of your memory of events in your life?
What are your most special memories of those times?
What was the happiest moment that you remember from those times?
What was the saddest moment that you remember from those times?
Do you have any heirlooms, objects of sentimental or emotional value that were passed down to you? Are there any stories connected with them?

Do you think about these stories about your past often? Have you ever recorded these stories before? Have you or has anyone ever written them down?