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Term Project

The term project is both academic and a bit personal. It is academic in the skills you will
need to fulfill the assignment and somewhat personal as the topic creates an opportunity
to discover the histories of yourself through your family. The academic task is to
illustrate to you the complexity of history and the difficulty of translating oftenfragmentary evidence into a historical narrative. You will discover the difficulty of trying
to determine what actually happened, and the painful problem(s) of having to simplify the
reality you have discoveredwithout creating a false or misleading impression of it.
The second component of the project is based upon my philosophy that who we were,
are, and will become is some combination of our nature and our nurture. Understanding
the lives of the people who raised you (their loves, their joy, their pain) I suggest could
assist you in making decisions in your own life. A liberal arts education is more than just
fulfilling the requirements of Pasadena City College at its best it provides you the
analytical skills to navigate a complex world. This project, which is the complex task of
interpreting all the data gathered, will challenge head and heart.
1. Choose an individual to focus the project. The preference is for a grandparent,
however it can be a great aunt or uncle or an elder whom you are emotionally
connected. Several personal interviews with the person are the best possible
source of information. You should either tape record what they tell you or at least
take notes as you interview them. If the person lives in California you might call
them or have the opportunity to visit them on weekends or during vacation. If
they live in distant places write them and write soon since not all will be inclined
to answer promptly. You will find attached to this assignment suggested questions
these are just suggestions and you do not have to use these questions. Your
interviewee is not likely to give you all the information you are seeking if you
simply ask them to write up their lives. All history is interpretive, meaning that for
a variety of reasons (poor recollection, selective memory, and family secrets) the
interviewee will be providing you their understanding of events, ultimately as the
writer it is your task to decide your own interpretation as you write your project
Be prepared with a list of questions. I would recommend a preliminary interview
to gather basic facts (date and location of birth, date and location of birth of
parents, places they lived, schools attended, occupations, etc.) Then prepare a list
of open-ended questions (What do you remember about your neighborhood
growing up?) Look for patterns and themes, which you can use to organize your
narrative (your story)
2. Do some preliminary research into the times in which the grandparents/elders
lived. If possible, also look at local and community histories, which might impart
a fuller understanding of the places where your family lived. This does NOT have
to be a story that is about the United States. If the person you are focusing on was

not born in the US you can focus on their experiences in their native country. The
research will need to reflect the local history of that environment.
3. Collect as much documentary evidence concerning family members as possible.
This might include legal documents, letters, diaries, business records, family
Bibles, pictures and the like. Be certain to secure the permission of those people
concerned before you probe into this material.
4. Choose a focused part of their life to focus for the project. I am recommending a
three to five year period of time with a specific thematic/thesis. This might be a
migration or an immigration story it could be their transition from adolescence
into adulthood the point is that the project is NOT a biographical sketch of the
persons life.
5. Prepare a four (4) page draft of the overall project. The draft should include a
general overview of the project and at least three pages of text from the final
6. The term project can take a range of different formsas you can see from the
examples it can include pictures, original art work, documents and pictures
(usually in an appendix) often enhance a project. The final project with a length of
the body of the paper (excluding appendices, photos, title page, etc.) 10 12
pages is due the last day of instruction.

Questions to consider asking the subject

1. What is your name and maiden name?
2. What is your date of birth?
3. What is your place of birth?
4. What is your ethnicity?
5. Where were your parents, brothers, and sisters born? Include their names.
6. Where were your children born? Include their names.
7. Where have you lived?
8. What language(s) do you speak?
9. What is your citizenship(s)? Have you served in the military? (Get the details
connected with this question.)
10. What is your religious affiliation? What are your spiritual beliefs?
(You may expand on any of the above topics.)
Birth to Adolescence
1. Where did you live as a child?
2. When you were growing up, what was the role of boys and girls in the family?
Were there any "coming of age" ceremonies or significant events?
3. Describe your neighborhood when you were in junior high school (grades 6-9).
4. What music, clothing, and food were popular during your teenage years? (How
much did candy, movies, clothing, etc., cost?)
5. Describe your school. (The building, classroom, teacher, subjects offered,
schedule, homework, etc.)
6. What was the ethnic breakdown in your school? (Was there any diversity and/or
multicultural education at your school?)
7. What was socially accepted in your community? (Consider religious beliefs,
sexual preferences, racial differences, women's rights, etc., as well as things such
as smoking and dancing.)
8. How did one do for amusement? (Consider forms of entertainment, hobbies,
sports, collections, etc.)
9. What illnesses were threatening the health of the community? (What vaccinations
did you have to have?)

10. What were the rules of your house? Did you rebel in anyway?

1. What jobs did you have throughout your life?
2. What did your job(s) entail? Did you enjoy your work?
3. Did you attend college? If so, what did you study?
General Questions (Specify the time periods and the approximate age of your
1. Did you have any dangerous and/or life threatening experiences? If so, what
2. What presidents (or national leaders) do you recall?
3. What were some of the important news (current) events that you remember? How
did you receive the news?
4. What wars did you experience directly or indirectly? What was your experience?
5. How did the Depression or another significant economic downturn affect you?
6. Describe your kitchen and schoolrooms. What technological items were in these
places? What were some of the new inventions?
7. Describe the cars that you owned. What were some other modes of transportation
you have taken?
8. Are you a citizen of the United States? Naturalized citizen? If you were not born
in the United States, where are you from? Are you the first generation in the
United States? When and why did you come to the United States?
9. Tell a family story or a family event.
10. Describe and briefly talk about someone you admire(d).