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Group History Project

Your Group’s History─What, When, Why, How, and to Where

Taking our Group Histories is as the Northern Illinois Area 20 Archives say in the current Archives Workbook from GSO “…not only an opportunity to search a Group’s roots but the chance to record what the Group does TODAY. 

Any Group’s history can uncover facts and recollections that will strengthen its foundation, when viewed in the context of experience and local A. A. history.  The facts can be relevant, humorous, eye-opening, and significant to a number of places: 1) to your Group itself 2) to your District Archives  3)to your Area Archives, and 4) to our Archives at GSO.  Assembling a group history is easier than what a regular AA home group might think it would take to complete.  Most of all take your time and enjoy putting it together.”

In the District 11 Archives, we have copies of previously recorded histories for the groups, if they were submitted to us, and I have copied what we have and what has been previously published in the first and second editions of Our Stories Disclose.  Some groups are not included in the published histories if they did not submit a copy of their history when work on the 1st or 2nd editions was in progress.

I believe it is important to update these histories as we go along, because we are always making history.  Groups add or change their meeting formats; change locations, new groups form, and new services are offered. 

I sincerely hope that the groups take some time to gather their history, have a panel discussion night, and make this an opportunity for your new and older members to participate and share the history of their group as they know it.  Take notes and have a volunteer write up your current history.  This can be added to the notebooks your Group may have on hand to educate new members, chairs, or trusted servants about the history of your group.  Submit a finished copy to District Archives.

The District 11 Archives looks forward to adding your Group’s history to the files and in the future, we know it will be of value to those researching the history of A.A. in our area.  These records are for A.A. use only and are considered confidential.  

Yours in service,
Christine K., District 11 Archivist


Group History Project Questionnaire

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District 11 Group History Project Questionnaire

Prepared by: _______________________________________________

Date submitted: ____________________________________________

Group name: _______________________________________________
Location (town, building, street address): _________________________________

A.A.W.S. Group Identification Number (if known): ________________________

1. The estimated date the Group started meeting:


2. The place, day, and time of first (or earliest) meetings, and the number of members:


3. Did the group separate from another Group, and why?


4. The type of meetings: speaker-led; closed discussion; open discussion; Big Book Study or other Literature Study; Step meeting; Traditions Meeting; etc.  Has the format changed over the years?  Please describe:


5. Does the group hold any public Open Meetings?


6. The Place, Day, and Times your group meets today and the number of members?


7. How many times has the Group moved?  To what different sites, and under what circumstances?  Please be specific as to locations, building name or church, the street address, town, and years the group occupied each address. If you can provide photographs of those locations, they would be appreciated. 


7. a.  Has the group changed names, if so why?


8.Early members, “founders,” trusted servants and their recollections, or your Group’s recollections of them:


9. Have any Group members rotated forward to District service?  To Area Service?  Did/does your group assist with any general service committee work?


10. What kinds of growing pains, problems, or any “feuds” happened, and what were the solutions?  Did any particular member lead the Group out of difficulties toward any resolutions?


11. How did/does your Group cooperate with outside agencies:Treatment Centers, Courts, Probation and Parole Boards, for example, and has this changed over the years?


12. Did/do you ever assign sponsors?  Temporary contacts (from a volunteer list or Bridge the Gap list)?  How did/do you welcome first-timers?


13. Could any Group members maintain contact with each other in between meetings?  Did/ do you have a members’ phone numbers list available?  Is/ was there any linkage to your District’s Answering Service?


14.How did/does your Group celebrate anniversaries, for both individuals and also the Group?  Any annual dinners, picnics, or special events over the years?


15. Did /do you count off to break for discussion tables?  How did / do you change the jobs for set-up (making coffee, setting out literature) and clean-up?  How did/ do you change who chairs the meetings?  Did/ do you have “greeters” at the doors?  Treats or snacks at meetings?  Do you take a smoke break?


16. Your Group’s Seventh Tradition practices:  have the ‘passed basket’ contributions changed over the years?  Do you give away any books?  Any fundraiser's or special collections (events like holiday parties, picnics, weekend Conferences, AA Forums)?  Describe the amount of contributions…What amount of rent did/ do you pay?  Did / does your Group support the expenses of your GSR and other trusted servants?


17. On our Seventh Tradition of sharing funds, how did/do you contribute to District or Area 72, and GSO (AAWS)? 60-30-10%?


18.  Did /do you contribute literature to any libraries, hospitals, jails, or treatment centers?  What percentage of literature purchases is in your Group’s spending?  What items and pamphlets are in your Group’s packets for newcomers?


19.  Your business meetings how were/are your trusted servants elected or selected?  Your GSR, Treasurer, Secretary, Greeters, and so on, and how often?  Outside of the regular finance discussion and votes, are current District, Area, and General Service Conference agenda items discussed for a Group consensus at your business meetings?


20.  Generally, what has been your Group’s linkage to A.A. as a whole, (with District, Area, and AAWS)?


21. Does your Group do a Group Inventory, what can you tell us about the process?


22.  What makes your Group unique?


23.  How does your Group keep long-timers involved?


Please include any other thoughts or memories not covered in the above questions.


District 11 Archives thanks you for your effort in providing answers to these questions.  This history record is considered confidential and “For A.A. use only.”

Individual Oral History Project Questionnaire

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Individual Oral Histories - Sample Interview Questions

My name is___________________________________and I am interviewing__________________________________
on this day of__________________________.

Before A.A.

  • Please tell me a little about your life before you found A.A.  When and where were you born?  What kind of childhood did you have? 
  • As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  • How did you start drinking?
  • When and how did your drinking get out of control?
  • When did you know you had hit bottom?


  • When did you first hear of AA, and from what source?
  • How and when did you get started in A.A.?  When and where did you sober up? Where did you go to your first meeting? What did you think of it?
  • Can you tell me about your early sobriety, your steps work, and problems you had in those first days of learning the A.A. way?
  • What was AA's "reputation" in the community? How was it different from what you encountered through your initial introduction?
  • What was your perception of AA's success in the general population when you were first introduced to us? How had that perception changed over time?
  • Did you have a sponsor when you first came in?  What type of sponsorship did you have?
  • How many groups or meetings were in existence?
  • Can you recall the formats used at some of these early meetings?  How were they run?
  • When was A.A. started in your town or area?  How often were meetings held?  Who were some of the people playing important roles in the formation of new groups?  What else do you know about the growth of A.A. during that period of time?
  • Which individuals were especially prominent in your sobriety?
  • How were new members contacted?  What kinds of Twelfth Step work were going on?  Are there any Twelfth Step anecdotes that stick out in your mind you’d care to share?
  • Would you tell me about your experiences sponsoring others? Who are some of your favorite sponsees?

Unity – Group issues and community perception of A.A.

  • Today, Conference-Approved literature is available to help A.A. members deal with a wide variety of challenging questions.  Back in the day, all you had was the book Alcoholics Anonymous, common sense and your compassion.  What did you think of the Big Book, and how often did you use it? How did early A.A.s treat newcomers?  How did your group(s) treat constant slippers?  Thirteenth steppers?  How were people wishing to talk about multiple addictions during your meetings addressed?  How about non-alcoholic drug addicts walking in off the street for their first meeting?
  • We say sometimes that all that’s needed to form an A.A. meeting is two drunks, a resentment and a coffeepot.  Can you talk at all about the differences that led to new groups being formed in your area?
  • In A.A. Comes of Age Bill W. writes about numerous issues over which anger and contention arose and threatened the undoing of our Fellowship.  The groups nationwide, for example, did not immediately accept spiritual principles we know today as the Twelve Traditions.  What controversies over issues addressed in the Traditions can you recall people wrestling with?  (How were meeting spaces acquired?  Was rent or other funding obtained by gambling sessions?  Bingo games?  How did the membership resolve these affairs?)
  • Today, A.A. is well known to, and supported by, police officers, judges and corrections officials.  What kind of relationship did A.A. in your area have with local authorities?  How has that changed since you sobered up?
  • Treatment facilities in this millennium frequently host A.A. and other Twelve Step meetings.  Did treatment centers exist in your area when you sobered up?  Did any of them use a Twelve Step format or incorporate meetings into their structure?
  • Did you seek the cooperation of other local community or professional agencies?
  • Today, radio and television public service announcements for A.A. as well as Internet web sites are becoming commonplace.  When you first got sober, how did A.A.s interact with the media?  Have you had any profound experiences sharing your relationship with alcohol with the public?  What cautions might you have for young A.A.s today regarding media exposure?
  • During the early years of your recovery, how did the community receive Alcoholics Anonymous?
  • Do you think your group(s) has had an influence in your community?  If so, how?


  • How and why did you get into service work?
  • What contributions did you, yourself, make to the growth of the Fellowship? 
  • What do you remember of early conferences, assemblies, and conventions?  Can you recall opening Intergroup or central offices?
  • Who made the initial outreach to you, in what manner, and in what year?
  • What was actually involved in your application process?
  • What were your first impressions of the active AA legacies of Recovery, Service, and Unity?
  • What was your first impression of AA servants, GSO staff, Delegates? Describe your first encounters.
  • What were your impressions of your first General Service Conference? What year?
  • Describe some of the major decisions and Advisory Actions that involved your direct participation and your committee activities over your years of service.
  • In your memory, what particular Conference agenda items developed into Advisory Actions? Were there any that failed to gain Conference approval?
  • Is there anything you regret? Any mistakes you believe you made. Any plans that failed that you wish had been successful.
  • What special occasions do you recall during your time of AA service?
  • How has AA changed (if it has) since you first found it?
  • Do you see any particular changes in the AA fellowship and its service processes, since your start of service?
  • Are there any strong similarities in the AA fellowship and its history of service, from your own service time through today?


 Copyright 2002, District 11 in Area  72