“Here’s the story, of a lovely lady . . . .” If you are a late Baby Boomer like me, you remember the words to the theme from the Brady Bunch television show. What you may not realize is that it is a form of “family storytelling” that serves to introduce the audience to how that group of two parents and six children came to be.
Technology and Story Keeping
Whether it is a song, a photo, a scrapbook, a tape recording or video, storytelling has always taken many different forms. Our early ancestors relied upon oral history and passing the responsibility of keeping family stories to the next generation. Memory was the sole mechanism for preserving family history.
As technology changed, so did the ways to preserve and share these precious stories. How many of us are sitting on a treasure trove of old home movies, vacation slides, perhaps tape recorded interviews? These were the cutting edge technologies used to preserve and share memories over 50 years ago.
And now the options available are not only amazing but also overwhelming. Do you video tape an older relative during an interview or is a smartphone app like Saving Memories Forever less intimidating and easier to use? Once you scan family photos, what are the best ways to not only share them with other family members, but also preserve them so they aren’t lost forever?
Family Storytelling: A Journey of Discovery
Over the past few months I’ve been working on a new book, Preserving Your Family’s Oral History and Stories, to help the modern-day story keeper navigate all the options available in today’s tech-centric world. You can find the book on Amazon starting this Friday, November 1, 2013.
I’ve been preserving my own family’s history and stories for more than 20 years, and preparing this helpful guide led me on a path of evaluating my own family’s stories and ensuring that they endure for the future generations. Here’s what I’ve found to be true when it comes to taking on the responsibility of keeping the stories that matter:
Don’t delay. While it can seem overwhelming to record interviews with family members and also preserve them, don’t put it off for “another day.” And don’t expect someone else in the family to take on the task. For each day you delay, you risk losing that family member and their memories. In addition, stories preserved on media like slides, film and more break down and deteriorate over time.
Make a plan. Even big projects that seem too difficult to take on are made easier when viewed as small tasks. Lists are your friend: make a list of “to do” and action items as well as a list of existing items needing preservation.
Get help. Yes the duty of story keeping usually falls to one person in a family, but if you look closely, you’ll notice how they enlist others to help out. Seek out those with special skills such as writing, converting files, scanning photos, and more. Set up “work days” when family members meet to accomplish important tasks. Also, tap into the vibrant community of professionals and vendors who sell their services and knowledge of family history preservation.
Think long term. When setting your sights on preserving stories and mementos, think decades in the future, not just years. Make sure digitized items are stored using the latest technology and employ multiple backups. Keep up with changes to technology and upgrade before it’s too late.
Pass it on. Preserving your family’s history is more than just work, it can be a journey of discovery for you as well. Take time to document what you are doing, your thoughts and feelings – perhaps in a journal or online. Then look to the next generation of story keepers and make sure they understand the importance of family history preservation.
The Time Is Now
This is your time to step up and meet the challenge of preserving your family’s legacy. There has never been a better time for you to do this, given the technology and expert knowledge available. If you don’t accept the duty of being the family story keeper, who will? And how will your family be remembered?
© 2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee
Thomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. For more information visit http://hidefgen.com.