I conducted interviews via email and face-to-face. Both interview types had a completely different feel and the interactions were also completely different. I have say in retrospect, that neither interview type was particularly better or worse than the other. Each held a unique opportunity for learning.
I was very fortunate to receive such a positive response from people in the #genealogy group on twitter. I had three genealogists come forward to answer my questions via email, two were from twitter and one was from a NJ searcher who found my genealogy blog and invited me to email her. I suspect that more genealogists would have come forward if I asked them to. I follow the #genealogy group on twitter and exchange messages with them routinely.
My interviews via email were fairly stable in that I sent them the questions I developed that are posted here on this blog and they answered those questions. Answers were creative, however, in that respondents answered the questions but also expounded on information that they felt would be most helpful. Probably the best question was at the end where I asked if there was anything they would like to add. I got great answers that covered everything from how to organize my paperwork to resources I might want to utilize in my research.
My in-person interview of the head of the local historical society was far more fluid than my interviews via email. Although I went to the interview with the same set of questions, I only got to ask a couple of them. This didn’t turn out to be a bad thing at all. After starting out with the first question about how she got started with her own genealogy, my interviewee’s experience as a high school teacher kicked in and she began to teach me about genealogy and how to find information. She also advised me to put one of my children as the main person at the start of the family tree and to research both my side and my husband’s side. Those who have experience to share from both sides of the family are getting older and if I waited until my side of the tree was completed, then those on my husband’s side might well be gone. She also advised me to write to my living relatives now and ask them about family history as well as ask them to share information if they already have started a family tree. I have received a lot of information now from both sides of the family.
Although I am still a beginner who is a bit overwhelmed, I feel there are fellow searchers out there that I can reach out to for help and inspiration. I have found that genealogists in general are a very generous group who are happy to help a fellow searcher. This started out as a proposed topic for a class, but now it is a research passion for life.