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.




Honk, Honk, Rattle, Rattle, Crash, Beep, Beep

Henry Ford Looking at V-8 engineDid you realize that cars were only invented about 100 years ago? Isn’t it strange how history can surprise you? Can you even imagine your daily life without a family car?

Yet, just over 100 years ago cars were largely viewed as being rich men’s toys. That all changed with Henry Ford.

In December 1913 Henry Ford introduced the first car assembly line. Two months later he further improved upon his process by adding the first mechanized belt. This conveyor belt moved cars down an assembly line at a pace of 6 feet per minute. (Snail pace by modern times.) Yet that improvement had a huge impact: it made it possible to assemble a Model T in far less time (only 93 minutes) and for far less cost. All this resulted in a car that was affordable to many people—not just the elite.  By 1924 you could buy a Model T for $260.00 (equivalent of about $3500 today).

Ford’s innovations also had a significant social impact. Because of the lower manufacturing costs, Ford could afford to pay his workers higher wages. In addition, the increased efficiency of the manufacturing process meant that employees could work shorter days.  From a consumer science point of view, the Model T may be the first example of brand loyalty: for the first time there was a group of people who would only buy Fords.

Ford continually looked for more efficient ways to produce his vehicles.  He realized the value of mass production and knew that the fewer variations in the product, the easier it was to produce a quality item. So he standardized the Model T even down to the color: they were all black. In addition, he was open to putting his ideas into practice even if it meant moving his operation from St. Louis, Missouri to Highland Park, Michigan. This new building was specifically designed to accommodate the changes he had initiated in production methods and assembly line manufacturing.

Everyone Contributes

Watching the early cars move down the assembly line must have been amazing. At each stage a person added parts, and those parts became a car. Everyone and every job was critical. If a part was not there or a person installed a component incorrectly, the assembly had to stop. Specialization of labor made the concept possible. Ford’s implementation was both elegant and innovative.

The workers trained on Ford’s system were indeed on the forefront of an industrial revolution.. Imagine the stories told around the dinner table when those workers got home each night and described their day. It must have been fascinating to relatives to hear how a complete car could be built in less than 2 hours.

Most of these stories are lost to time now, but that does not excuse us from documenting our own  work days and daily life.  We live in a time when innovations happen every day, and we have witnessed the development of various industries, including railroads, airplanes, space and telecommunications, communications and computers. Take advantage of this window in history in which we live and record some of your technology memories on Saving Memories Forever today. Ask older relatives for their “work” stories as well. Find out what their daily tasks included.  Discover how they coped with changes in the workplace. Their perseverance (and ours) is a good lesson for both current and future generations.

What’s Ahead?

Manufacturing in America will continue to be innovative.  It will continue to improve the efficiency and quality on mass production assembly lines; it also promises innovation in the area of building custom products. Just think about it: 3-D printers can now make small plastic items from a photograph!

Pay attention to the innovations that you notice in your life: the car that parks itself, the GPS and wearable technology that allow you to feel safe while exploring, the new advances in medicine, the latest pictures from remote spacecraft. Take in their wonder. Even better: create an “In the Day Of” recording. Sit down with family members and have each member talk about their day. Then share these stories. Make it possible for future generations to have this insight.  They’ll want to know. Your ordinary day will be fascinating to them.

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.

Christmas Memories

milk-cookiesWhen I think of Christmas memories in my family, so many stories flood back to me. Each year, my grandparents sent a case of grapefruit from their California vacation home. Each year and only on Christmas Eve, we got to sip hot cocoa from Mom’s special Santa Claus mugs. Then there were the matching pajamas for my sisters and me, the hand-embroidered stockings, and the long involved process of making and sending fruit cake to distant relatives.

On Christmas morning, it was essential to sneak downstairs to peek before waking our parents. Then, it was a lesson in patience as we waited – mostly for Dad – to get himself together so that we could all gather under the tree. Even the tree was unique. Still alive, carefully tended with the roots intact, we would plant it in the front yard on the 26th.

Today, I recall all of this and more with a small tug at my heart. I am enjoying new traditions, built with my own family, while carrying on some of what my husband and I knew as children. One of my favorites, though, is the Christmas letter.

The Dreaded Holiday Letter? I LOVE Them!

As a genealogist, and certainly as our family’s keeper of memories, the Christmas letter has become an essential part of my holiday tradition. I start crafting our version in October, filtering through my files for just the right photograph, just the right way to tell a story. A summary of an entire year in two typed pages (or less!) is not necessarily an easy thing for a family historian; and so, my effort takes time.

We send them off to loved ones two ways now: electronically and printed, and we receive them in the same fashion. Sent by branches of the family from all over the globe, the farthest letter comes from a cousin in Taiwan. Each one is carefully tended, preserved in a collection that started to accumulate over 15 years ago.

One of the most exciting elements to me is that this family tradition continues to grow. There are the “regulars,” the folks you can count on year after year to write a letter. Then there are the new additions! Cousins get older and start their own families. They, too, begin to write. Most do not even realize they are documenting their personal history. They only see their actions as a brief moment in time. I know better, though.

Something Old, Something New

The letters vary each year in content and tone. Some are written as simply stated fact, while others are humorous. There are years when “reporting in” is more difficult. Then there are the years when we report joyfully and happily re-live the shared experiences. The folks at Saving Memories Forever point out that it’s important to share it all: the funny and the sad.  It’s part of being a family.

Reading a select few, I am reminded of my first genealogy related travel experience, to Alberta, Canada for a second cousin’s 90th birthday party with my aunt. When combined, another group of letters is a remarkable examination of the family’s memories of Grandma’s last year with us, and how we all chose to remember her. For a decent stretch, every year brought new family members to my generation and the next; new spouses, new babies! All of these are letters to be shared and cherished.

Ho Ho Ho

In our family, there’s a second set of letters. These are the letters addressed and mailed to Santa at the North Pole. That tradition starts this year. Written in a child’s shaky handwriting, Santa will receive my daughter’s first letter. You can bet this Mom will be scanning the letter before it’s stuffed and stamped!

The holidays often bring families together, and this year is no exception. As I look forward to a week surrounded by those I love, I think I may just bring my collection with me. The journey down memory road is usually more fun with those with whom I traveled it in the first place.

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.

Music and Family History: In The Key of “Gee!”

JukeboxHave you ever considered the role that music played in your family’s history? Even if you haven’t found an ancestor or relative who played an instrument or had a “golden voice,” the mere presence of music as heard by your ancestors could have a bigger impact than you realize.

What Music Meant to Our Ancestors

For many, especially those of us with ancestors who were poor or at least not “well off,” listening to music was not the experience it is today. With many different devices available to hear a favorite tune in modern time, we’re spoiled when it comes to music access, at least compared to our ancestors.

Consider the fact that not everyone had a “Victrola” or a radio when these inventions came on the market. Just like televisions and some of today’s tech gadgets, these items were expensive and often out of the reach of some of our ancestors. The most prevalent exposure to music was in a house of worship, including synagogues or churches, or if a family member or neighbor played an instrument like a fiddle or accordion.

Learning To Play A Musical Instrument

Did you learn to play a musical instrument as a child? Perhaps being a musician eventually became your profession or a pastime. Either way, for many of us, our first exposure to music was in grade school when we learned to play the flute, the violin or even the tuba!

Schools offered a variety of music participation programs and you, your parents and even grandparents most likely took part. Being a part of a marching band, chamber orchestra and even a choir presented more than just an opportunity to learn how to read music: you learned how to work and collaborate with others and you may have made lifelong friends or even met your future spouse thanks to music.

Attending Concerts and Performances

Many of us have memories of going to various musical performances and concerts. From classical offerings such as the symphony or opera to the latest rock concert, these events were sure to generate memories! In fact, many of my relatives collected items such as concert tickets, programs and t-shirts to help them remember the concert. All of these things represent an opportunity for you the family historian to interview your relatives about the events and have them share what they remember.

Music Can Bring Back Memories

The next time you are interviewing family members or working on your family history, remember to incorporate music into your research! Here are some tips and tricks:

  • Interviews: Ask your interview subject about their favorite type of music. Another good question: What one song represented your teenage years? Did you and your spouse have a song you called “our song?” Also ask if they remember when important music figures died such as Buddy Holly, John Lennon or Elvis Presely. You might not realize it, but in addition to the questions that Saving Memories Forever supplies on its app, you  can also ask your own questions by going to the “Other” line under each group of questions.
  • Soundtracks: When creating videos or slide presentations, incorporate music soundtracks from specific time periods. Remember to observe copyright laws if you plan on publishing the content!
  • Memorabilia: Take time to review any “ephemera” related to concerts and performances such as newsclippings, ticket stubs, programs and similar items.
  • Reunions: How about a family reunion dance party? Organize music by era and get family members to dance to the music. Also take time to ask those at the interview about their favorite music.

© 2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

downloadThomas 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.Click here for more information.

On Being The Family Story Keeper

inventory“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

downloadThomas 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