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.


Webinars: An Education Like No Other

educationEducation has always been a much sought after commodity in my family and it wasn’t always obtainable due to various obstacles including income. If your mind set still thinks of education as book learning or attending classes in-person, then perhaps you’re missing out on one of the greatest educational revolutions: webinars as an online educational offering.

What Are Webinars?

Put simply, a webinar is a way of participating in an educational lecture using your computer and an Internet connection. It is the equivalent of sitting in an education session with other participants and listening to an expert present slides or materials.

With a webinar, you connect through a platform such as GoToWebinar (the most popular webinar platform) and you watch a slide show onscreen while a presenter speaks about a specific topic. Most webinars are free, although some charge a fee. In addition, you can interact with the webinar moderator (the person who hosts the webinar and introduces the presenter) as well as the presenter using a text panel or sometimes using your own computer’s microphone.

In order to participate in a webinar, you need a computer and an Internet connection. Usually you register beforehand and then a reminder will be sent via email. Login to the webinar a few minutes before start time, turn up the volume on your computer speakers and then sit back and learn!

Genealogy and Family History Webinars

The best way to stay on top of the latest webinars and to sign up on sessions that appeal to your educational needs, is to check out the GeneaWebinars site and especially the related Google calendar. Some webinars, like those offered by the Illinois State Genealogical Society are scheduled a year out so you can sign up now for webinars in November 2014!

Other providers of webinars include vendors of genealogy software like Legacy Family Tree which offers free webinars most Wednesday and Friday afternoons. Family Tree University also offers webinars and covers many different topics related to family history.

Many genealogy societies, like the Southern California Genealogical Society also provide free webinars. One thing common with genealogy societies is that the recording of a webinar is often only available to members of the society and you’ll need to join in order to have access to an entire library of educational webinar recordings.

It’s Not Just Genealogy – Other Webinar Opportunities

The webinar revolution in the genealogy and family history community is about four years old now, but there are webinars in many other communities and industries that could be a match for your interest or hobby.

The National Association of Digital Scrapbookers offers webinars for scrapbookers as does Creative Passion with classes covering many similar topics. Some societies including the Association of Personal Historians and the American Association of Information Professionals offer webinars as a benefit of membership in the organization.

FREE Webinar: Preserving Your Family’s Oral History and Stories

Here at Saving Memories Forever, we are hosting our first ever webinar on Wednesday, November 6, 2013, at 7:30 pm Central (8:30 pm Eastern) entitled Preserving Your Family’s Oral History and Stories. Click here to register today!

The Preserving Your Family’s Oral History and Stories webinar will provide you with all the information on the latest methods and tools used to capture and preserve those family stories. In addition, once you’ve learned how it easy it is to build a family archive of stories, you’ll want to share them with others using the tips and tricks shared during this webinar.

The webinar will be presented by one of the leading presenters of genealogy and family history webinars: Thomas MacEntee. Thomas is the founder of, a community  of over 3,000 family history bloggers around the world, and a nationally-known genealogy professional, author, speaker and educator.

Want To Get Up To Speed With Webinars?

If you are new to webinars, here are some tips and resources to check out:

  • Is my computer ready for a webinar? One of the best sites to review is at the National Seminars Training page for webinars. In general you will need a computer with a monitor, a way to listen to audio, and a strong Internet connection. Also see Legacy Family Tree’s What Do I Need To Participate page.
  • Will a wireless connection work for a webinar? For most participants, you can watch a webinar using a wireless connection. Tip: disable any other resources that might be eating up bandwidth such as Skype and close all other programs to ensure the best transmission.
  • Where can I find webinars and how do I register? For genealogy and family history webinars, visit GeneaWebinars. Click the webinar registration link, provide the basic details such as name and email address. You will be sent a link to connect to the webinar and sometimes a reminder will appear via email just before the webinar starts. For other areas of interest, search for the topic plus the term “free webinar” on Google or some other search engine.

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 here.© 2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

In the Beginning: A Question of Technology

SMF Census Building engraving

In the world of family history, a key event happened about 200 years ago on August 2, 1790.  It was a big day with enormous, if not shaky, consequences: the day the first census was held in the United States.

The result? On that day, the population of the United States was measured at 3,929,214 people. How long did it take? It took only nine months to complete the census process, especially impressive given the available “technology” of paper, ink, saddles, and candles. Was it accurate? Then Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, and President George Washington both expressed concern over the results: had the country been under-counted? Considering the individual refusal to participate, transportation challenges, and general limitations of the tools used to gather the information, it seems likely that the count was inaccurate. Despite its failings, though, family historians today are grateful for the work done then and since.

Other facts, including city populations, popped up from the tally. New York City was the largest city in the nation then. The top ten cities included Boston Town, Philadelphia and the Southwark district of Pennsylvania.

The Census occurred in a time of many “firsts”. George Washington, first President of The United States, had presented the first State of the Union Address just months before in January.  The Supreme Court had gathered for the first time in February.

While the actual census numbers are perhaps debatable, a headcount of almost 4 million people at the time was a big number. But the country was ready for expansion and primed for invention. Indeed the following decades witnessed the development of the U.S. Post Office and the creation of the cotton gin. Can you list a few technological advancements that contributed to westward expansion and the beginning of urban development?

Fast Forward 200 Yearsworld globalization

Two hundred years after the first U.S. Census a software engineer in Switzerland named Tim Berners-Lee made a unique proposal to his superiors at CERN, a particle physics laboratory. When it was finally approved and publicized, his idea became better known as the World Wide Web. By late 1990, the first web page had been “served” and was visible to the world.  From 1790 to 1990, technology had moved from the cotton gin to arguably the most powerful communication medium the world has ever known.

Today, it’s not a surprising fact that most Americans use the internet. Among those using the internet are genealogists.  For many of us, utilizing the internet has become an everyday tool. We use websites for research. These websites contain thousands of documents on personal history.  We also communicate via social media and email. Apps such as Saving Memories Forever help us collect and save oral family stories and expand our numbers because they are so easy to use.  Digital photographs also make documentation of everyday life easy to do. National Geographic predicts that Americans will take 105 billion digital photos in 2015.  The quantity of data is no less than stunning. We are preserving history every day, and faster than ever before.

The Fuss about Technology

Just as technology offers advantages, it also presents disadvantages. There is certainly concern over the loss of research skills. And just as George Washington and his peers were concerned with the limitations of his contemporary technology, should we also be concerned? Is there now too much technology?

As a community, genealogists see new resources added online almost daily. Discussions occur regularly about best practices of digital photography, data storage, and online family trees. New organizations are forming, focusing on using only virtual tools to organize, educate, and build their communities. Genealogy-focused blogging –which includes the words you are currently reading- sees incredible increases in numbers each month.  Dare I ask: where does it end?

The answer to that question may never be found. The United States has always been known as a nation of innovation and creativity, and it does appear that counting heads and accessing information has become irreversibly intertwined with technology. Where do you think we are headed? Where do you see the ideal balance?

You Decide

How much will technology play a role in your family history research? There are so many options; the choices are nearly endless. A few of my favorites provided by the government include the US National Archives YouTube channel, the Bureau of Land Management, and the US National Archives Education Facebook page.

Considering the impact technology has had on the development of our country and our record collection processes, I can only look forward with much anticipation as to what is to come.



Baldwin, Jen headshot small


Genealogist 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. She also is co-creator and Co-Chair of the NextGen Genealogy Network and is the Director of Operations for The In-Depth Genealogist. You can connect with Jen on her website or on social media.

Summer Vacations Create Family Memories


Whether your family goes camping, hits the beaches, visits historical sites or just remains local for a “staycation,” summer vacations are a great time to create and to capture family memories.

A Brief History of Summer Vacations

The concept of “taking a vacation” for most of us means getting away from the office and our usual routine for one or two weeks. No emails, no meetings, no cares, right? Prior to World War II, only the well-to-do had the means to just up and travel when they wanted to and take what most of us know as a vacation. My immigrant ancestors from Germany and Ireland didn’t have the luxury of a vacation – summer or other seasons; basically, if you didn’t work, you didn’t get paid! Since the mid-20th century, most companies provide vacation time as a benefit to employees and most of us look forward to our vacations!

But why summer? The common belief has been that the practice is rooted in America’s early history as a rural, agrarian economy and the public education system. During the summer, children were expected to work in the fields and help with the harvest. But recent thinking holds that it was in fact urban America with its hot steamy cities and public health issues that pushed for a summer break when children could head out to the country.

Do You Remember Summer Vacations From the Past?

For me, summer vacations were not very frequent but I remember two as a child: Niagara Falls, New York and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I grew up in New York which is filled with history and whenever we went on vacation, my mother always made sure there was some element of “learning” about our country’s past. For Niagara it meant the War of 1812 since many of the key battles took place along the Great Lakes. And with the Gettysburg trip, we visited the historic battlefield as well as all the monuments as we learned about the Civil War.

While some of us only have memories, did you realize that you may actually be sitting on a treasure trove of family mementos from past vacations? I recently went through a box of items from my family and guess what I found? Old 8mm home movies from those two vacations from my youth as well as flyers and brochures from the sites we visited. And then, of course, there are the photos taken of me, my brother and my mother as we enjoyed our getaways in the mid-1970s.

Best Ways to Capture Vacation Memories

Here are some ideas on capturing memories of summer vacation, both those from your youth and those you may be planning for this summer or in the future:

  • Record Your Memories: Even if you don’t have any tangible mementos of your past vacations, write down your memories or better yet, record them as stories using Saving Memories Forever.
  • Preserve Paper and Photos: Don’t forget that over time flyers and brochures will fade and break down if not preserved using archival envelopes and folders. Also, make sure your photos are also preserved for posterity using sound archival methods.
  • Scan Items for Safekeeping: Besides preserving items, make sure you scan the important ones and create digital images. If the originals are lost, you’ll always have these files as a backup.
  • Convert Home Movies and Slides: If you are sitting on slides and movies from vacation, make sure you convert them to DVD or digital files. And don’t wait until the film or slides break down! You can find converters that will let you perform the conversion yourself but many use an outside service. Why? They are the experts at converting these items and they are conveniently located at local superstores (Walmart and Costco) or drug stores (Walgreen’s and CVS).
  • Create a Scrapbook: A fun project – even one saved for cold Winter days – is to create a scrapbook of old summer vacation memories. Choose whether to use the traditional book format or digital scrapbooking and include photos, stories and more.
  • Share with Your Family: The best part about discovering items related to past family vacations is sharing them with your loved ones. Amazing stories are sure to pop up as you all look at the photos, movies and other items. Also remember to use Saving Memories Forever to interview those other family members who were on vacation with you and capture their stories!


© 2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Game Time at Family Reunions!

Games.  They’ve certainly changed over the years. Way back when, it used to be that a game of horseshoes or croquet in the backyard was the pinnacle of excitement. Then, maybe a rousing game of “Go Fish” or Parcheesee.  Then, Hungry Hungry Hippos and Uno. Card and tile games such as Bridge, Pinnocole, and Mah Johng still hold sway among the 60+ group. I understand that Poker’s also still a strong contender, but even Poker’s popularity stats fall far behind today’s leaders: video games.

I’ll admit it right up front:  I’m not a video game fan.  Even the Super Mario games that came out a good 20 years ago made me nervous, and they’re nothing compared to today’s games.

My objection to these games isn’t primarily focused on the violence and sex. My focus is on what those games take away. They take away contact. They diminish engagement. For me, even the convenient on-line games fall short of the mark.  In my book, players should be face-to-face. Otherwise, it’s simply not as much fun.

Games for Your Family Reuinion

Fast forward to a family reunion, and the key role that activities, including games, play in making family reunions successful.

“I think it’s fair to say that the activities pretty much are the glue that holds it all together.” comments Janet who has attended her family’s reunion of 200 people for “about a zillion years.” She adds with a laugh, “Well, the food’s mighty important too.”

Let’s Play

The trick to planning activities is coming up with activities that appeal to the wide age span and that provide something for everyone.  Below are three tried and true activity suggestions followed by a new suggestion:

  • What’s Special About You?
    Have each family member write something interesting about themselves on a slip of paper and put it in a bucket. Draw out a slip, read it, and have everyone guess who wrote it. An example is, “I can put both of my feet behind my head.” They can write anything that distinguishes them.
  • It’s All About Teams
    Organize a softball game. Pitting the older players against the younger players is always popular.
  • Calling Julia Childs
    Well, no one in your family may cook a fantastique boeuf bourginon, but I bet there are lots of relatives interested in a fun cooking competition. It gives talented cooks a chance to show off and the hungry masses something to smile about. Pick a popular theme such as baked goods or chili, and invite an all-age panel of family members to judge the competition.  Remember to take snapshots of the submitted dishes as well as snapshots of the recipes. (You can upload these as pictures and text files to your family reunions stories on Saving Memories Forever.)

New Activity Idea: Pass the Phone

Pass-the-Phone is a new activity idea.  It uses smartphone apps and storytelling so it appeals to the folks who like “high-tech” as well as others who value oral history.

It requires only a committed game leader (who does some advance preparation BEFORE the reunion) and family members who are willing to answer a question or two. Ideally, the game leader has a smartphone and is comfortable with using the Saving Memories Forever website.

The activity can be played by “going around the circle” or picking names from a hat. The game involves asking a question, recording the answer, and saving those recorded answers on the Saving Memories Forever website. The Saving Memories Forever apps provide some question prompts, but players can always ask their own questions. The game goes quickly and is flexible.  Interviews last only 5 minutes apiece with each question and response; the leader decides when to end the game.

Family reunions invite this Pass-the-Phone activity to be a group experience. You can be sure that family members will interject their comments and those unedited comments will also be fun to listen to down the road.  For more details about how to play Pass-the Phone, check our website.

Meanwhile, let the games begin!

Passover Memories

[Editor’s Note: The holidays aren’t upon us right now, so why would we ask a guest to blog about a holiday? Because many of you are going to be seeing family over the summer. This is a great time to ask relatives about your holiday traditions and those of your ancestors. Thanks to genealogist and author Jennifer Alford of Jenealogy and The In-Depth Genealogist for sharing about her family’s Passover traditions.] 


How do you mark the holidays that are important in your family?  Growing up I found that we did things a little different than most.  My mom is Jewish and my dad’s side is Catholic.  I grew up with both sets of holidays and connected to them in a way that was more historical than religious.  Sitting at the dinner table celebrating Passover has become one of those enduring memories that I want to pass on to my own future children.

Over the years, the Passover Seder has had an increasing meaning for me.  Part of that is due to the fact that I do not get home to spend time with my family as much as I would like.  Since starting my genealogy research I have an increased appreciation for how the Jewish people have survived and held onto their beliefs.  I have a lot of respect for those with strong beliefs- whatever they may be.  I always marked the time of year by the television showing of “The Ten Commandments” and the story of the Jews escaping Egypt.  There is nothing like Charlton Heston, as Moses, declaring, “Thus sayeth the Lord God of Israel: Let my people go.”  My friends celebrated Easter while many Jews were planning their Passover Seder.



Anyway, for those not familiar with Passover (or Pesach) I thought I’d share some of the things that my family and I do when we celebrate.  I can’t speak for all Jews (and wouldn’t want to!), but I really love the time we have together as a family.  A few years ago I found some hilarious finger puppets to use in the telling of the story of Passover.  Check them out in the pictures below.

Mom always makes a great spread with all the representative foods used during the night.  She has spent a lot of time putting together a special series of readings from several different Haggadahs.  We all take turns reading from the books and say the blessings for the wine with Mom’s guidance.  She grew up attending the synagogue regularly and was active in the youth activities there.  Though I started off going to a Hebrew Day School; I did not stick with it and lost a lot of what I had learned then.


During the dinner we talk about the 2011Passover01symbolism of the various foods on the Seder plate.  Greens (Karpas) represent the initial flourishing of the Jews in Egypt.  The salt water represents the tears shed by the Jews.  Haroset is a mix of fruit, nuts, and wine and represents the mortar used to build the pyramid.  Bitter Herbs (usually horseradish is used) allow us to taste the bitterness of slavery.  The lamb shank bone represents the sacrifice of a lamb made at the Temple for a special Passover offering.  The egg shows the circle of life.

2011Passover04The youngest child in our family, Kait, asks the four questions and notes what is different about the night’s celebration.

  1. On all other nights we eat bread or matzo, while on this night we eat only matzo.
  2. On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables and herbs, but on this night we have to eat bitter herbs.
  3. On all other nights we don’t dip our vegetables in salt water, but on this night we dip them twice.
  4. On all other nights we eat while sitting upright, but on this night we eat reclining.


There is always an extra place setting for Elijah and the door is kept open in case he should appear.  (Yes, that’s right, the Jews are still waiting for their Messiah.)

As we tell the story of the Exodus we talk about the ten plagues that occurred.  The ten plagues brought on Egypt were:jennysad

  1. Water to Blood;
  2. Frogs;
  3. Gnats or Lice;
  4. Livestock Diseased/ Cattle Plague;
  5. Flies;
  6. Boils;
  7. Thunder and Hail;
  8. Locusts;
  9. Darkness;
  10. and Death of the Firstborn.


By the time we’ve made it through all the stories, reflections, and blessings we are usually so full that we hardly make a dent on the delicious meal that Mom has made.  On the bright side, the leftovers are great!  When I think back to the generations before me I wonder what their Passover Seder’s were like?  I guess I know what I’ll have to ask Mom about next time I’m home!


Author Bio:

Jennifer Alford is a freelance writer, artist, and professional genealogist specializing in research in Jewish genealogy and the Midwest states.  As the owner of Jenealogy she creates engaging family history treasures to enhance the bond between generations.  The love of photography, storytelling, and history combine in her blog and unique products.  Jennifer Alford is Publisher of Going In-Depth, The In-Depth Genealogist’s monthly digital magazine.  She is also author of IDG’s Monthly column, Jewish Genealogy.



Start With the Oldest

[Editor’s Note: Join us each month as master storyteller Kim Weitkamp shares her best tips for capturing your family stories. Be sure to visit Kim’s website:]


I love to tell stories. So much so, that I do it for a living.

As a professional storyteller, it is one of my greatest joys to gather new stories from my family. I interview my mom and dad about once every two months. They are at an age where they feel the need to tell someone their stories. I am very honored that I am the one who gets to listen and gather these family nuggets. Plus, there is the added bonus of using this great material for my shows!


One of the toughest things I have found when interviewing family members and friends is that when they saw me writing things down, they would tend to be more cautious and less relaxed. So, I started using my phone to record the conversations, but found the recordings were difficult to upload and open leaving it stuck in my phone.

When I came across Saving Memories Forever, it was the perfect solution to my dilemma! When the good folks at Saving Memories Forever asked me to be their in house Storyteller, I was absolutely thrilled! Each month I will have the privilege of giving you new tips on storytelling and story gathering.

I want to encourage you to begin your story gathering with the oldest folks in your family. The main reason for this is because you never know how long you will have them. Plus, they supply not only valuable information about your family but also a glimpse into history itself. So, open up your Saving Memories Forever app on your phone, add their name as the storyteller, put in their life information, and let’s get busy!

I look forward to helping you grow your family history each month.






kim-weitkampKim Weitkamp is an internationally known, professional storyteller. Her material has been featured on NPR (National Public Radio), SiriusXM, and other radio stations throughout the states. Kim is best known for her personal stories of growing up free range in Amish Country, Pennsylvania. Her stories give the listener a humorous yet poignant view of life and growing up. Her articles on genealogy, storytelling, and family history have been published in various magazines and journals. Kim is passionate about the power of story (in business and in the home) and story coupled with genealogy/family history. She regularly keynotes on these topics. You can learn more about Kim by visiting her website at