Our RootsTech Story

Perhaps it seems a bit strange, but we are already looking beyond the holidays. Part of that thinking involves preparing for our big show of the year, RootsTech 2014.

Saving Memories Forever is a relative newbie to the genealogy world. Last year, for example, we attended our first RootsTech conference. And only a year before that, we launched our iPhone and Android apps and began the process of introducing ourselves and our system.

As the saying goes, we’ve come a long way. So has the genealogy market.

Consider this. Last year’s RootsTech theme promoted storytelling almost as if it was a new concept. In some respects, that indeed appeared to be the case. For example, Saving Memories Forever was, I believe, one of only two exhibitors there already focused on storytelling. And we were, I think, the only organization there equipped with an interactive and highly mobile smartphone app aimed at making the interviewing process seamless and mobile.

See How We’ve Grown

Things have changed over the course of this year. Storytelling has become much more mainstream, quickly evolving from being a new buzz word to an actual practice. Large, well-established organizations such as FamilySearch have welcomed fledgling story-oriented businesses such as Saving Memories Forever…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 they will benefit the field of genealogy.

In the overall market, storytelling is now often perceived as the gateway to family history. Storytelling is credited with the ability to “rope people in”. As family history grows in popularity, it seems that stories—more than mounds of census data– are now recognized as being a motivating force into the journey that is genealogy.

In addition, there has been more of a concerted effort to reach out to folks interested in the nuts and bolts of collecting stories. Thomas MacEntee’s recently published e-book entitled Preserving Your Family’s Oral History and Stories attests to that change. In addition, Saving Memories Forever now offers free webinars dealing with the same topic. Surely new interactive user-friendly technologies designed to capture stories are bound to come on the scene.

21st Century Tools for Capturing Stories

More and more family members are using modern technology to help them capture and preserve their family stories and legends. The range of tools varies and includes publishing online via blogs and websites or even creating self-published books.

But many realize that limiting stories to the written word can result in “flat” or “two-dimensional” ancestors. With today’s technologies via computers and smartphones, the options are not only limitless, but they can help build a vibrant family story using audio, photos and more. Saving Memories Forever offers a system that combines a free smartphone app with a private and secure website. It provides us with the means to create a “3D” legacy.

How Our Small Business Benefited from RootsTech 2013

While last year’s RootsTech focused on the importance of storytelling, attending the conference had an even greater personal and residual impact on us. As a direct result of attending the conference (Harvey was there; Jane wasn’t), our new business gained affirmation, direction, and those all-important connections.

We gained affirmation from the fact that the dominant message of the conference stressed the importance of telling, sharing, and saving stories. We gained direction in that we decided to focus primarily on the genealogy market. We gained connections in that Harvey was able to meet with contacts around the world. Several of the possibilities initially explored at RootsTech 2013 have come to fruition over the year. In addition, as a result of introductions at RootsTech 2013, Saving Memories Forever has developed key partnerships with other suppliers in the same field. Cathi Nelson from APPO and Saving Memories Forever now partner on several promotional programs.

His wife, Jane, also benefited via long distance. Unable to attend, Jane listened in on the live streaming of the major presentations from home. From that, she built invaluable new business relationships with some of the keynote speakers. Kim Weitkamp now provides monthly storytelling tips on the Saving Memories Forever website. In addition to serving as our business mentor, Thomas MacEntee frequently contributes genealogy tech tips in our weekly blog. Jane also reached out to several key genealogy bloggers who have since reviewed our system. We are grateful for their positive reviews.

To say that it has been an exciting year would be an understatement. We’ve had our share of bumps and turns, triumphs and tribulations. Almost every day we are greeted with new opportunities. Without doubt, we are better focused now and better prepared. We are thrilled by the prospect of learning and growing. We happily anticipate the lessons we will learn and the connections we will make at RootsTech 2014.

Jane_Harvey26d442This article was written by Harvey and Jane Baker, Co-Founders of Saving Memories Forever. Please visit their website at SavingMemoriesForever.com.

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 http://hidefgen.com.

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: www.kimweitkamp.com]

 

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!

family-beach-photocorners

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.

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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 www.kimweitkamp.com.

Are We There Yet: Making Family Vacation Travel Easier

In the minds of most Americans, Memorial Day trumpets the beginning of summer. What better way to kick off the summer than with picnics and parades?

Just behind the parades and picnics come the family vacation! A lot of the vacation planning started awhile ago. Dates have been set; hotel and plane reservations have been made. The GPS system has been updated. But that doesn’t cover everything.  Not by a long shot.

are-we-there-yet

 

Consider, for example, the plaintive “Are we there yet?” from the 10-year old in the back seat of the car.  You’ve prepared for an 8-hour car ride, but it’s disheartening that your son is asking this question only 30 minutes into the ride. Then there’s the wondering. Did you re-confirm picking up the newspaper with the neighbor?  Will your daughter’s lousy cough develop into something worse?

 

There are actually travel apps that can help you with all of this.

An app called Viber allows you to text and call without those roaming fees. Then  there’s Wi-Finder that finds Wi-Fi in 114 countries. Still another app, mPassport, helps you locate certified medical help globally.

 

The Saving Memories Forever app provides help of a different kind.

Remember the 10-year old in the back of the car?  Instead of having him count car licenses from 50 states or playing endless hours of Nintendo, show him how the Saving Memories Forever app works and have him act as the family news reporter for the family trip, recording funny incidents as they occur. Yes, it’s easy enough for a 10-year old to operate.

Perhaps “downtime” is another aspect of vacationing that you haven’t fully considered. Don’t misunderstand. There is a clear benefit to doing nothing other than listen to the sound of ocean waves. In fact, be sure to do that.

But vacations also give you an opportunity to talk, to reinforce the bonds of what it means to be a couple and a family. Dedicate some vacation time to tell your children more about your family. You might want to focus on relatives who often get overlooked—the relatives who are no longer living. These may include people your children will never meet in person. But they don’t have to be unknown.

At Saving Memories Forever, we’ve come up with a process that helps you bring these relatives back to life. We call these re-creations Virtual Relatives. Click here for a blog that further introduces Virtual Relatives or click here for the How-To blog that provides step-by-step instructions.  It only takes minutes at a time to create a meaningful legacy.

 

Three step to consider:

1) Register on our website for the free version of our service by using the “Sign Up” link in the upper right hand corner of our home page. Try it out to make sure that your iPhone or Android is compatible with our system. This also gives you an opportunity to practice your family’s storytelling skills.

2) Practice before you show up at the family reunion or focus on creating your own Virtual Relatives.  We suggest you practice by recording a story or two about yourself. Let the kids listen to you as you record your story. It will be fun to listen to your children’s laughter as part of your recording.

3) Compare the free service to our Premium Subscription. Click here for the link that provides a chart comparing the two.

 

Where are you planning to go on your family vacation?  How will you gather and save those memories?

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.

What About Forbidden Stories?

[Editor’s Note: Saving Memories Forever welcomes guest blogger Terri O’Connell. Terri is a genealogist, author, and presenter with a unique perspective: saving forbidden stories. By recording, saving, and sharing these stories, we are able to see how society has affected our family’s decisions and actions, and how we’ve grown because of it.]

 

Family stories of the past are a concern for many of the older generations in our families. They do not understand why we want to know the details of the stories. Why is it important to research these stories as well as the person? Are the family secrets really that devastating to today’s public? Or, do the family elders really not understand the changes that are happening in our world today.

What About Forbidden Stories?

Consider, unwed mothers. Many years ago when an unmarried woman was with child weddings were rushed or young women were sent away from home so not to embarrass the family. The shame that surrounded these young women for putting their families through these troubling times was tremendous.

Many times these women that were pushed into giving their child up for adoption,  how many of them really wanted to do that and how many did it to keep peace in their families. There are many movies and television shows dedicated to telling these stories. Those that are the most heart-wrenching to watch are the mothers looking for their child to make sure they had a good, happy life or even the child searching for the mother wanting to know why they were not good enough or loved enough to be kept. As a genealogist, each of these stories tears my heart right open.

What has changed in all these years? Everything! Today we celebrate the unwed mother, we give her a television show to chronicle her pregnancy, and if, she does well enough, we just might add her to a show that chronicles the lives of teen moms. The public shares the pains of these poor children that are caught in a web of children attempting to be adults. It seems that no one has taken the time to teach each of them what it means to be a parent and what they need to do to keep their children safe. Yes, today we embrace these mothers and let them continue to be children with children instead of forcing them to be adults.

As a women who was a teen mom, and was also a child of parents that started as teen parents. I encourage you to uncover these stories. I have found many generations of teen moms in my family. After looking through the documents and seeing what happened with each marriage, I share this conclusion with you this: With each generation we learn and grow stronger; we even end the cycle. Learn from these family stories, and continue to teach the younger generations in your family.

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Terri O’Connell is a professional genealogist, author, and travel specialist in the Greater Chicagoland area. Terri specializes in Midwestern genealogy with a focus on the families and history of Illinois. You can learn more about her services at Finding Our Ancestors. Terri is also the Executive Director of The In-Depth Genealogist, a digital community that contributes to the advancement of all genealogists.

Photo Credit: Terri O’Connell / FindingOurAncestors.net