Dealing with Stories that Change Midstream!

dog lickingYou had it all set in your mind.

You asked your76-year old Dad a question about the time when he was a young kid and was teaching his favorite childhood dog, Buckie, some tricks. (While he was a great dog, Buckie didn’t exactly get high marks for brains.)


Your Dad’s story started out recounting the time when he was teaching Buckie how to jump an obstacle course of branches up the in the woods. (It seems that Buckie preferred crawling under the jumps rather than jumping over them.)

That reminded Dad about how his clever current dog, Classy, hid his wallet the other day. He found it under her dog mat in the kitchen. Lovingly covered with drool. And that reminded him about how the dog he had during his college years, Ding, who jumped off the deck in her excitement to see him. (Turns out the deck was 12 feet up in the air.)

We think the way that one story leads to another is sorta wonderful. In fact, your Dad’s stream of consciousness storytelling happens all the time.

Dealing with Stories that Change Direction

We’ve come up with a new feature that makes it easy to accommodate stream-of-consciousness storytelling. It boils down to a new COPY feature.Here’s how it works.
Go back to your Dad’s childhood story about Buckie. This story fits well under your Dad’s Childhood (0-12) Category and under the prompt “Tell me about your pets.” Obviously the story about his current dog, Classy, doesn’t fit in the same Childhood category.

The  story about Classy fits under the Adult (56+) Category and, since there isn’t a prompt specifically about pets, you’ll want to place another copy of the recorded story under the Other Memories from 56 Onward prompt.The same goes for the story about Ding, only this copy of the recording will go under the the Adult (20-25) Category. The point is: all three stories deserve equal attention and you certainly want to capture them because they say a lot about your Dad’s lifelong affection for dogs.

In cases like this, you’ll want to copy the original recording and then place a duplicate copy in the other relevant categories. Click here for specific instructions on how to copy recorded stories.

The Story that Morphs Completely

In the “dog story sequel” example above, the general topic of dogs doesn’t change. That’s not always the case. In fact, sometimes you start out on one topic, but spend most of the time talking about something else entirely. The original topic is barely mentioned!

For example, a story about learning to cook gingerbread cookies with your Grandmother for some unknown reason quickly changes into a story about the vacation road trips you used to take with your young  kids through the Smokey Mountains on the way to the beaches of North Carolina. You were somewhere in your 30s. Let’s say that the cooking gingerbread cookies part of the story took about 30 seconds and that the story didn’t really illicit any feelings nor contain any details. The most interesting part of the recording by far is the road trip.
The best way to deal with this situation is to MOVE the story to a new category. In the example above, the story that you originally set up  for the Childhood (0-12) Category best fits in the Adult (26-40) Category, probably under the Other Memories from 26-40 prompt.

Remember, always add key tag words and phrases that were mentioned in the story so that you can easily find the story. In the road trip story, those key tag words would probably include “Smokey Mountains” and “road trip”, to name a few.

Click here for instructions on how to move recorded stories.


Celebrations Module

Even with these new COPY and MOVE features, there are still some stories thatl seem a bit lost. Often, these other stories fit perfectly in what we call our Celebration Module. We call it that simply because there are many different types of celebrations.

For example,  think about the family birthday parties that you’ve attended over the years. You can either record what relatives remember about some of those parties or you can record while you’re at the party. Go to the Celebrations Module, click on the Birthday heading, and record the remarks of family members who were there, and then save and share those stories long after the event.

You can also go with the “live” approach (after all, it’s pretty neat to listen to your 5 year old’s enthusiasm as he first opens the big box from his grandparents). Of course, birthday parties aren’t always quiet so it might be better to capture the time after the party when grandpa and grandson are talking about some adventures that the new jumbo tRex might take.

Then there are stories from the family reunions. Saving Memories Forever even makes it easy to share these family stories with people who couldn’t attend the reunion.

For retirement parties and anniversaries, you might want to ask co-workers to comment about ways in which the retiree contributed to the organization. Or about an amusing incident at work. After all,  25 years of work created strong bonds that are worth preserving. Click here for specific instructions on how to use the Celebrations Module.

So enjoy the world in all its complexity. Take advantage of the new Saving Memories Forever features that make it even more manageable.


How to Use the Copy and Move Features

SMF logo with linkSometimes stories change topics as they are being told. Big time. Follow the steps below to copy and/or move these stories from one Category and question/prompt to another.
1. Go to the website.
2. Sign in and go to the My Memories screen.
3. Press Manager and then select your storyteller. Stories will arrange by category and question.
4. Click on the red “down arrow” by the story you want to move. The first menu option under the green bar pop up menu is “Change Question”.
5. Click on Change Question and a new screen will pop up. The current category/question for the story is listed at the top.
6. To move the story to a new Category, select a new category. (If you are not changing category, select the current category.)
7. Select a question. If the story does not fit in a category, select “Other”.
8. If you want to duplicate the current story in another category/question, check the “Create Copy” button. If you just want to move the story, leave the “Create Copy” button blank and hit Save. Mission accomplished. If you move a story all pictures and text files associated with the story will move. If you duplicate a story, the pictures and text files stay with the original story.
9. If you make a mistake, don’t worry you can do this as many times as you need to.


How to Use the Celebration Module

SMF logo with linkThe Celebration Module is a great way to record stories from relatives, friends and acquaintances for a special occasion. While most of the recording will probably be done before the event, you can also record stories during the event. This is a special way to use the Saving Memories Forever system.

Using a 50th wedding anniversary as an example, here’s how to set up an account and how to use the Celebration Module. Let’s assume that Becky Johnson, the daughter and anniversary organizer, wants everyone who’s invited to the anniversary celebration to record a story or some comments about her parents, Al and Ruth Johnson..

1. Becky first signs up for a new account on either the smartphone app or the website. Use an easy to remember user name in the form of an e-mail address. i.e., (The username should not be a real e-mail address but needs to be in the form of an e-mail address). Use an easy to remember password like “celebrate”.

2. Becky then sends a note to all the people she would like to record stories. She gives them the sign in information and asks them to download the Saving Memories Forever app from the iTunes App store or the Google Play store.

3. Becky asks everyone who’s invited to sign into the app, pick Celebrations, then Anniversary and then record a story and upload. Since they are using an account that she has paid for, their recordings are free. Stories can be recorded anywhere, including Uncle Frank is in South America and Aunt Mary is in a nursing home in New Jersey. Frank can record on his own; Aunt Mary can record with the help of a cousin who lives nearby.

4. After they have uploaded their story, Becky asks them to announce that they have recorded a story on their Facebook page. The functionality is built into the app. After the story is uploaded the app asks, “Would you like to share this on Facebook/” They select share and sign into Facebook. Their announcement should say something like, “I have just recorded a story for the Johnson’s 50th wedding anniversary. Do you know any stories about them you would like to share?”

5. Becky is the gate keeper. Any new storytellers should be referred to him or her for approval and instructions.

6.  Do the people have pictures or text files that go with the story they tell?Becky asks people recording the stories and comments to attach these picture or text files to their stories.

7. When all the stories are recorded, Becky changes the password and no further stories can be recorded.

8. Now Becky can download all the recorded stories to her computer using the export function, >My Memories> My Account >Export Files.

9. Once the stories are downloaded to the computer, Becky can burn the stories to a CD, using CD burning software that was supplied with her computer. She can give this CD to her parents (and the guests too, if she wants).

10. Are there stories Becky wants to record during the celebration? Maybe from people who do not have a smartphone? Stories can be recorded at the event by anyone who has a smartphone and login. So Sam, a 30-year old nephew of the Johnsons, can record stories from Great Uncle John who is 90 and does not have a smartphone.

11. Last but not least.  Using the My Profile screen, Becky can change the screen name to her parents’ real e-mail address. (My Memories>My Account>Change E-Mail) All she needs to do is tell her parents what the username and password are and ask them to record the stories of their lives for the rest of the family. Becky (and everyone invited) have given them a Saving Memories Forever account. Truly a “Gift of a Lifetime”.





Of Monuments and Men – The National World War II Memorial Turns Ten

world war II memorialOne of the epic events in American and world history – the second World War – has been dedicated in the National World War II Memorial which opened to the public on April 29, 2004. In the ten years since the opening, over 40 million have visited the site commemorating those killed in the war and dedicated to honoring all who served.
To mark the tenth anniversary, the Friends of the World War II Memorial will hold a commemoration over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend in Washington, DC. But what of these “living monuments” that are approachable each and every day and that live among us?

The Fading of The Greatest Generation
Those who fought in World War II are part of what has been called The Greatest Generation and as time progresses, almost 600 veterans of this war die each and every day. With over 16 million serving in the war, there are now approximately 1 million vets from World War II still alive today. The Saving Memories Forever app is the perfect tool to capture the stories of those who served as well as those at home who waited for their return.
The National World War II Museum in New Orleans has a collection of oral history interviews which should serve as an inspiration to conduct your own interviews with family members. The Library of Congress offers a Veterans History Project Field Kit ( to help you get started.
And don’t forget those who remained on the Home Front during the war! Their interviews are just as important to give a full perspective on World War II and its impact. The Minnesota Historical Society has a list of Suggested Questions for Civilians ( that can help structure your interviews.

Search the Family Archives for World War II Artifacts
Besides oral history interviews, look for photos, letters, documents and more that may be tucked away in the family archives. Compared to the first World War, there are many more digital media items available from World War II: cameras were affordable to own and those in service took photos of their regiments, their friends as well as battle locations. In addition, some service men made recordings sent back home in the form of a “record” to be played for family members.
Look for these items as well as medals, patches and more. Scan them, document them through written narrative and even use them as “props” during recorded interviews.

Family History and World War II
Many of us have a family member who served in World War II or lived during the war – all have stories to share. In addition to what you can gain through personal interviews, you may want to extend your research to World War II related resources:
· World War 2 Family History (
WikiTree has a special project set up to share resources and advice as well a list of interview questions (
· World War II (1941-1945) Military Records (’s collection contains more than 15 million names and over 11 million images. Note: Ancestry is a paid subscription site; if you don’t have a subscription, check for “free” days such as Memorial Day Weekend when military records are open to the public.
· FamilySearch Wiki – World War II (,_1941_to_1945)
The FamilySearch wiki offers background information on World War II and can help you access different military record sets available for research.
· Pritzker Museum & Library (

The number of resources available both online and in-person are overwhelming. Of special note is the Holt Oral History Program ( which seeks to preserve “stories of service” from World War II and other conflicts.
© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee
Thomas MacEnteeThomas 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

Easter and Passover Memories: You can have both, right?

seder plateEach year when Spring arrives and pokes its head through the snow here in Chicago (not always successfully), I think back to the Spring holidays I spent as a child in New York. While I grew up celebrating Easter, I lived in a Jewish community in the Borscht Belt of upstate New York. This meant I usually had the first days of Passover off from school. I also learned about Passover in school and from friends and I often was a guest at several Seder meals.
Even then as a teenager, I was a sponge: I wanted to learn everything there was about Passover, how the holiday came about, why certain foods were served, and all the other traditions. For me, and for many, this is what makes a holiday meaningful: knowing the traditions, telling stories of how our ancestors kept the traditions, and passing it on to the next generation.

My Passover Traditions
Currently, I don’t celebrate Passover on my own nor does my family here in Chicago, but if I were to receive an invite to a Seder meal (hint, hint), I’d be there in a New York minute. I’ve always enjoyed the foods and the traditions of Passover.
Also, perhaps because I was not subjected to the prohibition of leavened goods, I can appreciate a good matzo. Whenever Spring arrives, and I see the boxes of matzo stacked up at the grocery store, I’ve been known to pick up a box or two. With a little butter or cream cheese in the morning and a cup of tea, I’m in heaven!

My Easter Traditions – Old and New
As a child, Easter meant three things: a new Spring outfit, going to church, and an Easter basket filled with candy! As I got older, I developed a better appreciation for the concept of Easter – the message of renewal and resurrection – and attended Easter Vigil each year. This meant a three or four hour church service which started outdoors in the dark and ended with the lighting of candles in the church sanctuary at midnight.
Currently, I celebrate Greek Orthodox Easter which for 2014 is the same date as Western Christian Easter: April 20, 2014. Every four years or so, the Easter dates are the same, but they can be separated by as much as five weeks since the Orthodox church (this is partially because the Greek Orthodox Church remained on the Julian Calendar while others moved to the Gregorian Calendar).
Now Easter for me means a large meal of Greek food with my family and the dishes include roast lamb, Greek potatoes as well as those fabulous Greek pastries. But the meal can’t start without the Greek tradition of tsougrisma – a game played with hard boiled eggs that are dyed red.

Sharing and Preserving Multi-Cultural Memories
It isn’t always easy for most of us to preserve memories of different religious and cultural holidays. Why? Well it all has to do with what we celebrated while we were growing up. If you celebrated Passover each year, I’m sure you’re not as familiar with some of the Easter traditions and vice versa. With today’s blended families that often mix different cultures, races and religions, it can be a challenge to make sure that all memories are properly preserved.

Here are some ideas that you can put to use for any holidays during the year:
· Designate a “holiday keeper” in the family. If your family celebrates several different holidays, some which can overlap such as Easter and Passover, appoint someone to be the “keeper” of that holiday. This means they know the traditions and can explain them to others in the family. If possible, have them write down each tradition – perhaps one per page – and add photos too.
· Learn more about a holiday. If you feel there is a “blind spot” when it comes to knowledge about a holiday, then crack open a book or take to the Internet to find out more. Consider adding new traditions to an existing holiday that your family celebrates.
· Interview family members. Often, our sense of holiday traditions are in our memories and not written down. Either before a specific holiday or perhaps before or after the holiday meal, interview family members using Saving Memories Forever. Find out how they celebrated the holiday as a child and how the traditions have changed over time.

© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee
Thomas MacEnteeThomas 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

The US Civil War Begins–April 1861

US Civil War - ChickamaugaOn April 12, 1861, General Pierre G.T. Beauregard fired shots on Fort Sumter, at Charleston, South Carolina, marking the beginning of the US Civil War. Ending four years later, the war left behind over 600,000 dead who fought in the war. For many families, the Civil War would have a lasting impact for generations to come.

Handling Sensitive Topics Related to the Civil War
The events leading up to the War are well document in history, but what about your own ancestors and their involvement? Many researchers shy away from Civil War research since many of the topics such as slavery and its history still have an impact on today’s society.
Genealogists and family historians should not embellish the facts that they find nor distort or change such facts. Accept the facts for what they are and document them as best as possible. Here are areas to explore in your search:
Slavery: What were your ancestors’ beliefs about slavery? Were they abolitionists? Were they slave owners? Also, think about sharing original documentation of enslaved ancestors, especially since it could help other researchers break down brick walls.
• Economic impact: How did your family fare during the War? Did they prosper through their own businesses which supplied the war effort? Or did they lose land and property during the War?
• Military service: Which ancestors served in the War? Can you determine why they served? Due to beliefs about slavery or did they serve simply for economic purposes?
• Border states: Pay special attention to border states since family loyalties to the Union or the Confederacy were not always clear cut. It is likely some family members favored or even fought for one side, while others took the opposite side.

Capturing Civil War Memories
While there are no living veterans of the US Civil War (although there are still two pensions being paid to children of Civil War veterans), there are many ways that you can capture and catalogue your family’s Civil War memories. If you are willing to do the research, you may find that even information involving these sensitive topics help present a more accurate picture of the lives of your ancestors.

• Determine Civil War Ancestors: Research family members alive during the Civil War and note those who served on either side of the war. Find out as much as possible about their lives and the impact of the War.
• Highlight Civil War Veterans: Once you’ve located the make ancestors who served, locate pension files, photos, newspaper article and anything you can. Consider creating a memorial page at fold 3 (free).
• Create a Virtual Relative: A great feature of Saving Memories Forever, is the ability to create a Virtual Relative and preserve their stories. If you are sitting on a collection of Civil War letters or a diary, consider narrating stories and excerpts from these items with the free app at Saving Memories Forever.
• Trace Post-War Activities: The War was a monumental event that impacted families for many years. Did your family migrate to a new location after the War? Did your family lose land or property during the War? Research the aftermath of the Civil War and document your family’s activities.
© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Thomas MacEnteeThomas MacEntee is a frequent guest blogger for Saving Memories Forever. He is also 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

Hank Aaron and the Home Run Record

hank aaron-1Whenever April arrives each year, it isn’t difficult for my mind to turn to baseball. After enduring another winter in Chicago, especially this past one, visions of a field of green tend to come easy. I used to live a mere 1/2 mile from Wrigley Field here in Chicago (which incidentally turns 100 years old this year) and Opening Day was, and continues to be, a big deal.

Childhood Memories of Baseball

I never played baseball as a child; I was more the academic non-sport kind of kid who could be found at the library rather than on or near the playing field. But I have fond memories of trips down to Yankee Stadium each summer for the Old Timers’ Double-Header game.

My Aunt Joan and Uncle Bill organized the trip and it was also at their home in New Jersey where I witnessed Hank Aaron’s historic breaking of Babe Ruth’s home run record. That happened in April 1974. My family had driven down to visit my aunt and uncle and, as we usually did, we stayed over. I remember the broadcast of the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers was on a Monday night, April 8th. So after dinner we settled in to watch and see when Aaron would break the home run record. There seemed to be no doubt that he could and most of the American public were certain that it would be that evening.

And in the fourth inning, the pitch was hit off into left field, flying 400 feet into the bull pen. A record was broken and memories were made for me and my family. While these event doesn’t rank up there with the proverbial “where were you when . . .” events that most of us recall, for me it is cemented in my memory. Years later I would visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York and see the Hank Aaron induction plaque and the special exhibit highlighting that special day. And those same memories came back in an instant, just as they do every Spring when baseball season starts up again.

What Are Your Baseball Memories?
With Major League Baseball launching its new season this month, have you ever thought about baseball and your own memories or the memories of family members? Remember, every family story deserves to be cherished and preserved.

Here are some baseball-related ideas for your next project including recording interviews using Saving Memories Forever:

· Did you play Little League baseball as a child? What about others in your family?
· Have you ever watched a professional baseball game in person? (either as a child or an adult) Were there any special games you remember?
· What about your own children and grandchildren: Have you told them stories about your childhood and baseball?

© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Thomas MacEnteeThomas MacEntee is a frequent guest blogger for Saving Memories Forever. He is also 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