Interviewing your relatives is both a simple task and a complex one. It’s simple in that the activity at the heart of the interview—talking to family members—is something you’ve done all your life. It’s complex in that this conversation is a directed one, which you conduct for the purpose of gaining information.

To make things even more complicated, you must also handle a host of difficult personal matters during this interview. Some of your relatives may be reluctant to speak. Some may speak in a curious, roundabout way, evading the very topics you are most eager to explore. Others may seize on forgotten quarrels, and it will be your job to prevent these conflicts from reigniting and overwhelming your work.

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