Photo Party!

photo album on iPadAhhhh…spring has sprung and everyone is itching for a party…a get together…a soiree. Now that the winter blues have passed, a family story party is a perfect way to bring everyone together and celebrate!

Here is how it works. Call up the members of your family and ask them to bring two photos to the party. One picture should be of the extended family and one should be of their immediate family.

photo albumGather everyone in a comfy sunlit room (or better yet, your patio) with some simple snacks and then get your Saving Memories Forever App ready. Use the new Celebrations Category on the App. The Celebrations Category lets you record for a special occasion like a wedding anniversary, birthday or, in this case, a mini family reunion.

If you’re a little uncertain about how to do this, listen to the recorded Advanced Webinar. It’s available on the Saving Memories Forever website. You have to be a member to have access to this (and other webinars).  So sign up for Free. Then log in and click on the text “Get Our Free Resources”. You’ll see that text on the My Memories screen that comes up automatically when you log in.

 

Fun Twists

Back to the photo party! Have each person take a turn telling the story about the people in the picture and record the stories. And, if you want to do more, here are some other fun twists to this activity.

1. Number each picture and have the family member say their name and the picture number to start the recording. Scan all of the pictures and store them on your computer with the number as the file name. Use the Saving Memories Forever website to attach the pictures to the family reunion story. There is no reason why the same picture can’t be attached to different stories providing different perspectives.

2. After you have recorded the stories, have everyone lay out the pictures on the dining table. Play each story and have the kids go pick the picture they think matches the story.

3. If there is a picture that involves several people in the story…pass it around and ask each person to tell their version of the story.

4. After all of the stories are collected, use the download capability of Saving Memories Forever to burn a CD of the stories for each person that attended and give them a copy. If you’re really feeling creative, make a little book of all the pictures to go along with it.

Remember, if you’re not quite sure where the story best fits, you can always use the “Other” question down at the bottom of each list of story prompts.  Just remember to tag that story with lots of key tag words when you’re managing it later on the Saving Memories Forever website,.

Pictures are a fabulous way to get the stories flowing! Enjoy the creativity of Spring!

kim-weitkampKim Weitkamp has been featured on NPR (National Public radio), SiriusXM, and other radio stations throughout the states. Kim is passionate about the power of story and story coupled with genealogy/family history. She regularly keynotes on those topics and can be reached through her website, www.kimweitkamp.com.

 

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

Summer Vacations Create Family Memories

concept

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

Virtual Relatives: 6 steps to creating a family project

Our first blog in this series provided a general description of the Virtual Relative project available through Saving Memories Forever. Put briefly, Saving Memories Forever offers an easy approach that allows families to re-create the life of a deceased relative—through stories. When combined, these stories give a rich sense of the life of a family member. They do this through photos, selected word documents (such as recipes) and the power of voice.

While it seems detailed, It’s really simple once you get started. Here’s how you’ll remember your relative in six easy steps.

Take the lead on your family stories project!

Step One: Take the lead.
Offer to be the project leader on this one, especially if you have an iPhone or Android device. If you have one of these smartphones, the story recording process is easy. Saving the stories involves uploading the story recordings to our website, SavingMemoriesForever.com. And that’s just a matter of pressing a “button” on the app. On the other hand, if you don’t have a smartphone and you know of someone else in the family who does, discuss the project with them and take measure of their level of enthusiasm. If they’re excited about it, ask them to take the lead.

Whether it’s you or some other relative, your second step is to go to our website and try out our system. Sign up for the free subscription, and then play around with both the app and the website. You’ll want to know how to use both. Also, this is your opportunity to make sure that your smartphone is compatible with our system.  (See the FAQs on our website for more information about compatibility.)  If the “worst” happens and there’s no smartphone available, you can still use our website to save and share the stories. You will also have to use an MP3 recorder to record face-to-face interviews or Skype for long distance phone call storytelling. You can upload these recorded stories directly to the site from your PC.

Step Two: Set up the Virtual Relative account.
Setting up a Virtual Relative is easy.  Establish a Paid account for the Virtual Relative by using the Sign Up button in the upper right corner of the SavingMemoriesForever.com Home Page and enter an e-mail and a password that will be used just for this account. Check the Paid button and choose either the monthly or yearly Premium Subscription.  (The Paid account allows you to add pictures and text files to each story and share it with all of your relatives.) Use the name of the Virtual Relative@somesite.com as the e-mail address. For example if the Virtual relative’s name is Jane Smith, use an e-mail address like JaneSmith@gmail.com. The e-mail doesn’t have to be Jane’s actual email. In fact, it can be made up.

Step Three: Invite others to record and listen to stories about the deceased Virtual Relative. 
You start this by sharing your first story. Be sure you are in the Manager Mode and then press the Share button. An e-mail form will pop up. Provide the e-mail addresses for all the relatives involved in the project. Don’t forget to include your own e-mail address.  Write a brief note explaining what you are doing and maybe give them idea of what your first story describes. Ask for their help and give them the e-mail and password for the Virtual Relative’s account. Ask them to suggest other family members who might be interested in either listening to or recording stories about the Virtual Relative.

Step Four: Connect and share.
Your relatives will receive your notification in their e-mail. This notification alerts them that your story exists and that they have your permission to add and access the stories about this Virtual Relative. To respond to your notification email, the relatives should click on the link at the bottom of the your e-mail. Then they should register on the system. Each participant has to register.  Registration is free and will allow them to listen to the Virtual Relative’s stories.  To record stories about the Virtual Relative, relatives should use the Virtual Relative e-mail address and the password that you sent them in your notification email. To share their newly recorded stories, they should repeat the same process with other family members.

Famiily photos add enriching stories to your project.

Step Five: Add and enrich.
Once people get going and have uploaded some stories,  encourage contributors to upload any pictures they might have.  These could be pictures that fit the story they recorded or just pictures of the Virtual Relative. Either way, snapshots will undoubtedly enrich both the stories and the overall collection.

Step Six: Establish a timeframe for the stories to be submitted.
We suggest giving a month for people to submit their stories. After the stories are recorded to the account, change the password of the Virtual Relative account and the audio story and picture collection is done. (This is to avoid any accidental deletions. Accidents happen!) If there are more stories to be added at a later date, just re-share the new password through e-mail and repeat the process.

Think of relatives in your family who you remember. Then tap another relative’s shoulder and ask what they remember.  Chances are, they remember a lot. Consider your role. Be the bridge between family members who knew the deceased well and those who never even met them.

Take advantage of this opportunity.

Mom, Tell Us a Story About You

[Editor’s Note: Saving Memories Forever welcomes guest blogger Cathi Nelson, Founder and CEO of The Association of Personal Photo Organizers. Just like us, Cathi believes in the power – and importance – of family stories.]

Our family has no shortage of photos, albums and home movies documenting   the milestone moments of our lives.  My son’s first step, my daughter’s curls, the first day of school, presents on Christmas morning – everything is well documented but something is missing.  That something is ME.  I am the person behind the camera, cajoling my kids to smile, grouping subjects for the perfect group photo and painstakingly printing and scrap-booking our memories. Recently I realized I was not part of the story and thus a critical point of view was missing.

Favorite Things - Saving Memories Forever

Fortunately, today there are many options to change this. I created a small album with 24 photos and called it, “A Few of My Favorite Things” it includes a photo of my coffee cup, my row of cookbooks, our backyard and a short sentence of why this is one of my favorite things. I know someday my kids will enjoy looking at that album and I wish I had something similar from my mother or grandmother. It can be even as simple as asking your mother to tell you a story, about her!  Come up with a list of 10 questions and interview your mom.  Where did you grow up? Where did you go to high school? What is your favorite past time?  How are you different from your parents? Saving Memories Forever makes it easy for you to capture those memories too! The answer to these questions will become part of your family history and Mom will no longer be the mysterious figure behind the camera.

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Cathi Nelson, Founder and CEO of Appo72 dpi brown jacket

In 2009, Cathi had her “light bulb” moment when she recognized that consumers were becoming increasingly overwhelmed with the exploding number of photos, media and memorabilia they were accumulating. She created Appo to support a new and emerging profession of photo managers by providing training, support and collaboration for people interested in adding photo management services to their existing business or as a new business. She is also a mom of two freshmen (college & high school) and a lifelong lover of stories and photos.