Blogging: Another Way to Tell Your Family Stories

Ree Drummond

Two well known mommy bloggers (Ree Drummond and Stephanie Nielson) were Keynote Speakers at the recent RootsTech 2014 Conference. Their speeches adeptly  reinforced the general theme of the conference: connecting families–past, present, and future. Also, by being there, they serve as examples of how many people today are just stumbling into genealogy, each looking for an approach that resonates with their personality. For them, blogging fit the bill. Blogging on consistent basis has brought them both joy, satisfaction and a deep sense of fulfillment.

Ree Drummond

Ree Drummond (pictured above) is a down-to-earth woman who lives on a working cattle ranch in rural Oklahoma with her husband and four children. When she was first married, her mother-in-law gave her the Drummond family history book which she poured over for hours. Perhaps that family history book triggered a small spark.  Years later, on a whim, Ree began to blog about her family’s everyday country life, including the mountain-size loads of grass-stained laundry, the beauty of orange sunsets, the adventures of the animals on the ranch and –always– her kids.

Over the years, she got good at it, both the writing and the photography that went along with it. Today, she is an award-winning blogger and #1 New York Times bestselling author.  Her website, The Pioneer Woman, showcases her cooking and photography. The food looks good enough to make you drool.

“I love the fact that I’ve documented my family’s life,” she comments. “I’m so glad I’ve got the stories down. I didn’t start out to do this; it just happened. Writing just sorta ignited something in me. I like to look at the day in the life of our family and record it.”

Writing, she realizes, is not for everyone. Still, she contends, blogging is easy to do and you don’t have to be good at it, especially when you’re first getting started. She backs up that claim with an example of an early food photo where the fried onions in a sandwich looked more like worms than tasty onions.

Her takeaway message? “Start now. Don’t wait until you’re really good at whatever medium you choose. Just start now to document your life and the lives of those you love.”

Stephanie Nielson                                          Stephanie Nielson

Stephanie Nielson is the author of the popular NieNie Dialogues blog. In 2008, Stephanie and her husband were in a serious plane crash. Over 80 percent of her body was burned. Her story of survival and recovery are documented on her blog and have been recounted in interviews with Oprah Winfrey and on the TODAY show. She is a strong woman with a deep and abiding faith.

She actually started to blog when she moved far away from her relatives. While she was living her “dream job” of being a mother, writing her blogs gave her distant relatives and friends a good sense of what was going on in her life. Writing gave her simple pleasure. Back home, her relatives enjoyed reading about the neighbor’s cement duck that got new outfits for each holiday. Writing was simply Stephanie’s way of keeping in touch.

Blogging took on a whole new meaning after her horrific plane accident: it became part of her recovery. Just writing her first entries was difficult. A line was all she could manage. Today, she writes daily and with vigor. Today, she is grateful for the stories that her family has given her; she is grateful too that she has dedicated time each day through the thick and the thin, and the joy and pain to write down her life stories.  “Document your life,” she stresses. “No matter how you do it.”

The folks at Saving Memories Forever applaud the choice of these two women bloggers as keynote speakers. We join both Ree and Stephanie in their enthusiasm for recording everyday stories. Whether you record your life stories through writing or by recording your  stories through voice, we urge you to tell your stories no matter what they are and what form they’re in. Time flies.

This blog was written by Jane Baker at Saving Memories Forever. Saving Memories Forever is the Grand Prize Winner of the Developer’s Challenge Award at this year’s RootsTech Conference hosted by FamilySearch and sponsored by ancestry.com, Find My Past, and My Heritage.   RootsTech Developer Challenge Winner emblem orange box

SMF-Jane2

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Love Stories Over Time

Danny and Annie 1

Years ago, the romantic movie, Love Story, was all the rage. Sniffling teenage girls could quote verbatim the line that Jenny (Ali MacGraw) first delivered to Ollie (Ryan O’Neal). “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” What bologna!

So what is love? Since it’s Valentine’s Day today, it’s a timely question.

There is no easy answer. It involves so many facets of behavior. And despite being married for 37 years, we are hardly experts in the field. But with that longevity, perhaps there’s some insight.

Top of the list would be the role that good communication plays. It comes in many forms: listening, speaking (and knowing when not to speak), the quick hug,and the amused look. It’s all part of the package.

In his article “Why is Listening So Important“, Dr. Don Friedman (Board Certified M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine) addresses the  key role that listening plays in a loving relationship. Listening, he argues, is the singlemost important element of a relationship because of the importance that it puts on paying attention to the other person.  Dr. Friedman continues to outline the barriers to good listening and the real benefits of active listening. If listening is open, supportive, and selfless, it offers a sense of belonging and a place where others can find identity and grow. Perhaps, Friedman wonders, that’s why God gave us two ears and one mouth–to listen rather than talk.

At Saving Memories Forever, we couldn’t agree more. Listening is an act of love.

But communication also calls for delivering a message. Delivery can take many forms as well, including the actual voice, body language, and deed. We recently came across a recording that combines all three in an audio story called “Danny and Annie“.

This story was recorded by StoryCorps, a large and public oral history project which has visited over 1,700 cities and towns across America and collected and archived more than 50,000 interviews. Each conversation is recorded and preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Millions listen to their weekly broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition. This particular story reflects a new turn at Story Corps: it combines voice and animation.

The “Danny and Annie” recording recounts the 27-year romance between  Danny Perasa, an OTB clerk, and his wife, Annie, a nurse. The two reminisce about how they met and how they stayed in love. They have a sweetness about them that makes everyday items–like notes left around the house–seem exciting.  As the Perasas launch into their story, there’s an infectious enthusiasm that draws in listeners. Even though strangers to us, Danny and Annie personify the eloquence that can be found in the voices of everyday people when we take the time to listen.

Saving Memories Forever offers you an opportunity to do just that. Even better: you can capture and listen to the stories of your own relatives. Others apparently agree. Our service just won the Developer’s Challenge at RootsTech 2014.  Or you can click here to read our previous RootsTech blog. Sponsored by FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, Find My Past and My Heritage, RootsTech is the premiere technology conference for family historians and genealogists.

Back to the movie. Sixty year olds in your family are likely to remember the tearjerker movie, Love Story. They are also wise enough to know that the trick to romance lies more in the listening and everyday small actions of kindness than Hollywood fanfare. Ask them how they might define love. Record some of their love stories. Treat yourself to reading both Dr. Friedman’s article and listening to the video. It’s our Valentine’s Day present to you.

Jane_Harvey26d442Jane and Harvey are Co-Owners of Saving Memories Forever

Storytelling Theme Prevails at RootsTech

RootsTech-Logo blue The RootsTech 2014 conference was held in Salt Lake City February 5-8, 2014.  The theme of this year’s conference was, “Connecting Our Families:  Past, Present and Future.”  The Friday keynote address was by Judy G. Russell, a certified genealogist and lecturer who also has a law degree.  Author of the popular blog, The Legal Genealogist, Judy enjoys helping others understand a wide variety of genealogical issues, including DNA and the interplay between genealogy and the law.

Backstage in the dimly lit “greenroom,” Judy explained to Harvey and Jane Baker from Saving Memories Forever that since DNA expert Dr. Spencer Wells from National Geographic’s Genographic Project was speaking right after her, she decided to focus on how easily family history can be lost.

Judy based part of her keynote presentation on a December 18, 2013 article on Examiner.com, written by Judy Everett Ramos and titled “Oral History Can Be Lost in 3 Generations.”  The full article can be read here.   The basic message of her speech was the importance of preserving family information accurately and intentionally.

To reinforce this point, Judy started her presentation by asking the audience to stand for a little quiz where they had to sit down if they didn’t know the answer to the questions. The quiz covered six questions related to only 3 generations (parents, grandparents and great-grandparents).

  1. What was the first illness your mother had as a child?
  2. What was the first funeral your father ever attended?
  3. What was your maternal grandmother’s favorite book as a child?
  4. What was your maternal grandfather’s favorite class in elementary school?
  5. What was your paternal great-grandmother’s toy as a child?
  6. Did your paternal great-grandfather know how to swim, and if he did, where did he learn and what was his favorite swimming hole?

Not surprisingly, in an auditorium that held thousands, only a handful were left standing at the end of this simple exercise. And they were laughingly told to stop showing off.

Judy then explained that since we are not repeating our family stories, those stories are being lost.  In fact, whole lives can be lost.  Judy told several stories to illustrate the importance of storytelling.

Judy Russell headshot

Judy Russell, CG, CLG, JD

The first story was about Judy’s 4th great-grandfather David Baker whose brother, Richard Baker, was killed in the battle of Trenton in the Revolutionary War.  One would think that if a family lost a son, they would pass that information down—but of the 5 surviving sons (Richard’s brothers), only one of them named a son after Richard, and none named grandsons Richard, so even his name was gone in just 3 generations.  Had Judy not found the pension affidavit where David mentioned his brother Richard, she’d not even have known that Richard even existed.

Judy recounted another family history where she was proudly told she had ancestors in the House of Burgesses, on the Mayflower, and possibly even homeowners who hosted George Washington overnight.  As it turned out, none of this was true!  It’s not enough for family stories to just be purposely passed down, but they must be accurately passed down.  Judy recommended the Genealogical Proof Standard as the measuring stick by which we evaluate the family stories we wish to pass down.

Judy’s final story was about her Scots-Irish Cottrell ancestors in Texas.  As a child growing up, she heard many diverse stories about her great-grandfather, including that he rode with the Texas Rangers, and held jobs such as cowboy, rancher, farmer, lawman, traveling salesman, and circuit-riding Baptist preacher! The stories seemed to be in conflict, but after Judy researched the facts and constructed a timeline, they all turned out to be true!

The moral of the story is that when relatives before us lovingly pass stories to us, we must verify and document these stories, and then pass them on to the generations that come after us.  We also should not neglect to tell our own stories as we capture the stories of the past.  We each have our own voice and can connect our own family’s history: past, present and future.

When Judy came off the stage after her speech, Harvey and Jane applauded her presentation—for its content as well as the delivery.  In many ways, Judy’s message was music to their ears because it ties in so well with the Saving Memories Forever mission. In fact, just minutes later Saving Memories Forever was announced as the Grand Prize winner of the Developer’s Challenge in part for the way in which their system facilitates family storytelling.

Capturing our stories can be as simple as using the award-winning Saving Memories Forever system to record stories whenever and wherever they begin to roll.  By uploading these recorded stories to the private website, they will be backed up and can be easily shared with other family members who will cherish the stories.  When connecting photos and documents to these stories, we make them richer and add depth and evidence that enhances the accuracy of the stories.  For those of us who take the time to record our stories and share them, we can break the dreaded cycle of losing of our family history 3 generations from now.

Every family has a story.  What’s yours?  (And…where did you learn to swim?)

Deena Coutant headshot

Deena Coutant is a professional genealogist specializing in the use of technology to facilitate successful search, storage and sharing strategies for family historians in the digital age. For more information visit DigiDeena Consulting at www.digideena.com.

RootsTech: Just Around the Corner

Carhenge photoOur bags are packed; we’re ready to go. Well, we’re almost ready. We’re waiting for some last minute orders to arrive, and, yes, we’re still organizing packets that we hope will be of interest to genealogy societies.  But we have looked up long enough to put some thought into interesting spots to visit as we drive through Nebraska and Wyoming.  “Carhenge” in Alliance, Nebraska sounds like a winner.

We’re super excited about this adventure to RootsTech 2014! We’re a Finalist for the RootsTech 2014 Developer Challenge Award!  What an incredible honor and opportunity.  It’s an honor to be chosen. It’s an honor to be validated by the folks at FamilySearch and all the other big name sponsors. And it’s an incredible opportunity to present Saving Memories Forever in more detail to people there and potentially the ENTIRE RootsTech audience. Thank you!

We’re Pumped

“OK, we’re amazed that we’re in the running,” admits Co-Owner, Jane Baker. “It sounds corny, but being given this opportunity is the dream of a lifetime. Ever since we put our family tree together 20 years ago, we’ve had this in the back of our minds.”

Co-Founder Harvey Baker continues, “We came here last year with a solid product, and over this past year, we’ve added some features that we think make our product even more appealing. While our zipfile feature makes it possible for members to download their stories on their own computers once in awhile, I think the Virtual Relative Approach is the one that really interests people. It gives families a second chance to capture the life stories of deceased relatives so that they can be shared with generations who will never even get a chance to meet him or her.”

“I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard ‘I wish I had your product when my grandfather was alive.’ ” adds Jane.

Changes in Just One Year

To be honest about it, we were actually pumped up about going to RootsTech 2014 just as an exhibitor. We had already arranged to meet up with some genealogy  friends who we know through e-mail, but haven’t ever actually met. Plus, Jane missed last year’s show so she was eager to take it all in.

“It’s just amazing how quickly things can change,” notes Harvey. “Last year when I attended our first RootsTech conference, Saving Memories Forever was one of only a handful of exhibitors there with a focus on storytelling. We got a warm response and people were very nice. But I’d also say that a number of people were still hesitant. The most eager audience came from members of computer-oriented groups and those leaders in the industry who have already taken the leap.”

“Things have changed over the course of the year,” continues Jane. “The computer-oriented groups are on board and we have, in fact, heard from some members of more traditional  genealogical societies. They’re curious.”

On a larger scale, storytelling has become much more mainstream, evolving from being a new buzz word into actual practice. Industry speakers are actively promoting the value of storytelling in their presentations, webinars, and even e-books. In addition, large genealogy organizations such as FamilySearch have welcomed fledgling story-oriented businesses even to the point of offering compatible API platforms.  In time, with these platforms in place, who knows what sort of connections can be made? Surely all this benefits the field of family history and genealogy.

Even the Small Fries Benefit 

Maybe it’s just luck, but this year’s RootsTech theme, “Connect with Families” also matches what Saving Memories Forever is all about. We’re excited to meet people and other exhibitors who share this interest.

We also look forward to meeting people in the field with whom we’ve had a long-distance relationship but have never met face-to-face: bloggers and consultants, speakers and leaders.  It will be exciting to learn how we all might work together. It will also be fun to explore the exhibitor hall and to talk with other exhibitors, getting their insight and seeing their products firsthand. Perhaps we’ll find some more potential business partners like we did last year.

Will it be exhausting? Without a doubt. Much as we’d like to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing, we may just have to head back to our Bed and Breakfast home to rest our aching feet. But we’ll be ready to go the next morning to greet strangers, attend some lectures, and to search out new opportunities.  We’ll see you at the show!

Jane and HarveyThis article was written by Harvey and Jane Baker, Co-Founders of Saving Memories Forever.

 

 

WOW! We’re a RootsTech 2014 Award Finalist

Chris Dancy

Sound the trumpet! We just found out over the weekend that Saving Memories Forever is a Finalist in the RootsTech 2014 Developer Challenge.

This annual challenge rewards developers who introduce the most innovative, new concepts to family history. The three finalists will be presented at the Innovator Summit on Wednesday, February 5, 2014. Each finalist will be given extended time to showcase their product/application during RootsTech 2014. Equally important, the finalists will have an opportunity to meet with some industry leaders and the 100+ bloggers who attend the conference. The conference is hosted by FamilySearch.

The award will be presented to the winner on Friday, February 7th during the Keynote Address.

“It’s such an honor to be chosen as a finalist,” says Harvey Baker, Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. “It gives us an incredible boost and great exposure.”

“We’re pretty amazed,” adds his wife, Jane. “This nod of approval means alot to us!”

“That’s absolutely true,”Harvey confirms. “RootsTech is the premiere show when it comes to high tech in the genealogy market. This stamp of approval is a huge deal to us!”

The Midwest  couple had already planned on attending the conference, but this year they’ll be there with a bounce in their walk and an extra wide smile across their faces.

Jane_Harvey26d442Jane and Harvey Baker are the Co-Owners of Saving Memories Forever.

Lights on Broadway

time square at night in manhattanSix years ago, I stood in line on a cold January afternoon in Manhattan. I was waiting for the doors of the theater to open and I was full of anticipation. It was my first visit to Broadway! And I wasn’t disappointed: the show (Hairspray) was vibrant, energetic, and so much more than what I had anticipated. It was truly something you can only experience in New York.

Needless to say, I’m not the first to see a Broadway production. Nor is Hairspray the first show to make it to the Big Time. In fact, one of the longest-running shows of all time, Hello, Dolly! opened its doors 50 years ago this week.

Written by David Merrick, the original Hello, Dolly! opened on Broadway on January 16, 1964 with Carol Channing starring as Dolly Levi. Over the years, the play has been honored with ten Tony Awards, including “Best Musical,” a record that the play held for 35 years. Hit songs from the musical include “Hello, Dolly”, “Put on Your Sunday Clothes, and “Before the Parade Passes By” and I’d be willing to bet that a number of you reading this blog can hum those tunes.

Truly a valuable and beloved part of American culture, the original production ran more than 2,800 performances over six years. Hello, Dolly! played internationally as well with runs in England, Germany, Spain, Mexico, Cuba and tours in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

Every Song Brings a Memory

The main appeal of Broadway musicals is that they offer a strong story line that is embellished with a wide variety of songs. Attending one of these musical productions provides both the fun of the occasion, but also the lifetime memory of a particular song. Recalling that favorite song brings back the emotional connection to the whole experience.

The tradition of portraying a story line through song exists in every culture. Some of history’s greatest works of literature, including The Iliad and The Odyssey, began as oral chants. And ballads and epics told by song are nothing more than lyrical oral history.

Last year at RootsTech, there was a lot of attention paid to the importance of preserving oral tradition through storytelling. I agree and I’ve begun recording my parents’ stories. But I didn’t consider my daughter. Recently, when I was recording some of my parents’ stories on Saving Memories Forever, my daughter surprised me by grabbing my smartphone and then recording the story of her day. You can be sure that her story (along with my parents’ stories) has been uploaded and shared on the Saving Memories Forever system. While their stories may not be ballads or hit songs from a famous Broadway musical, they are all music to my ears.

Music for Everyone

Of course, not every musical has the endurance or success of Hello! Dolly. It does seem however, that musical shows depict every facet of our culture, from the wild decadence of the 20s seen in Chicago and Cabaret to the slang and mood of the 50s and 60s portrayed in Hairspray and Grease. Some productions such as Phantom of the Opera and The Lion King create new worlds of eerie beautiful night music and the beat of African drums. No matter your preference, you can almost certainly find a musical show that will deliver a particular message, sing a memorable tune, and delight you for a lifetime.

That memorable day for me was back in 2008 when my husband and I had the pleasure of seeing Hairspray on Broadway. I have to admit it; my husband was not quite as excited as I was. I had grown up seeing small town productions and music of this nature had always been a part of my life (I can still sing along to almost the entire length of Oklahoma!) My husband agreed to attend.

Hours later, when we walked out of the theater, a grin covered his face. To this day, we still love to talk about the show. We have promised each other to make that return trip, only this time, we will have the pleasure of sharing the tradition with our daughter. I cannot wait to see the sparkle in her eyes as it reflects the lights of Broadway.

Jen BaldwinGenealogist Jen Baldwin is the owner of Ancestral Journeys, specializing in the Rocky Mountain Corridor. She writes for a variety of publications, speaks regionally on genealogy related topics, is the creator and co-host of #genchat on Twitter, and owns Conference Keeper.

Your Family Stories are Powerful

Stories count. Stories are powerful. Stories add so much to the family chart.

This was the message repeated over and over again at the RootsTech 2013 Conference where Saving Memories Forever had an Exhibitor booth.

Obviously, we agree.

We are certainly thrilled to be on the same page as large organizations such as FamilySearch, genealogical societies such as FGS, and notable papers such as The New York Times. Speakers from these organizations cited the importance of emerging technologies and the role that technology will play in developing and enriching the field of family history.
Grab the Saving Memories Forever App
David Pogue, Technology Columnist for The New York Times, gleefully showed off a cool new app to reinforce his belief that apps will lead the way.  Apps are mobile, affordable, and fun and will generate a lot of excitement.  Well  designed apps, he added, are easy to use and will appeal to huge numbers of people.

Check One for Saving Memories Forever.

Dennis Brimhall, CEO of FamilySearch, remarked that while technology today allows anyone to enter the field and create a record for their families, only 60% of all people currently living will leave a record when they die. That is a shame, he commented, especially when there is so much to share and it’s so easy to do.

Josh Taylor from findmypast.com and President of FGS stated that genealogy today is so much more than a family pedigree chart. He emphasized the need to engage youth and to attract them to the field of family history. To do this, he stressed making the process fun, easy, and accessible.

Check Two for Saving Memories Forever.

Nationally acclaimed storytellers Syd Lieberman and Kim Weitkamp are strong proponents for the importance of storytelling.  While they are both professionals, they are quick to point out that anyone can tell a story and that stories about everyday lives are just what their relatives will want to hear about.

“Family stories start at birth,” noted Syd. “Stories are powerful,” he continued. Leiberman also noted that stories link you, ground you, and capture life. And because they tell universal truths, they are always interesting to others. His personal stories revealed brave and loving ancestors.

Family stories are important to remember!
Kim Weitkamp, whose influential elementary school teacher told her she had “the gift of gab”  adds that stories reveal personalities.  For years she’s been the family historian, often asked to tell a story again and again.  Over the years she’s developed a process that helps her select and develop story ideas. That process involves making a “memory map”, selecting a story idea from that map, and then “boxing in” the story.  She emphasizes the need for having an intention, a lesson, behind the story and holds workshops around the country to explain the process. Having said that, she enthusiastically believes that everyone is a storyteller and has many stories to tell. She reminded us that our stories don’t have to be about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.  The best stories start as a simple thought.  Kim said, “My wish for everyone is that they leave behind them a fullness of stories with great intention.”

Check Three for Saving Memories Forever.

Help us spread the word about the importance of telling stories in general. To be specific, we’d like more people to know about Saving Memories Forever and how our service makes recording, saving, and sharing stories so easy. There’s even some financial reward. Read about our new Affiliate Program.

Come join us!