It’s hard to overstate the value of stories. History is made up of stories—and so are our personal lives. Family lore and tradition are captured in stories. Stories communicate life lessons, emotions, and experiences. And there are many ways you can capture those facts, moments, and revelations, both for families and for history.
One of the best and easiest ways to capture stories is to simply ask about them. Encourage older family members about their favorite childhood memories, for example, or how they remember certain historical events. Ask questions about previous generations of family members to capture your family’s history. Use an audio recorder or the video camera on your phone to capture the discussion so you’re not distracted by taking notes. It’s also a good idea to keep your recorder or video camera handy during family events when such stories may come up naturally during conversations. Be sure to back up the recordings so you have more than one copy. Here are more tips to help you create an oral family history.
You may also want to use an artificial intelligence transcription service like Otter.ai to turn the recordings into text you can share with others. (Just be sure to compare the transcript to the recording for accuracy.)
A series of digital tools has cropped up to help you capture family stories. For example, Saga is a mobile app for iOS devices that offers a series of question prompts, including one from Create the Good. This can help you easily start discussions. The app also has an audio recording feature that lets you capture and share stories. LifeTales is designed to let you create a private social media environment for your family and friends to share multimedia stories and visuals. You could also do the same thing with a private Facebook group used a as repository for photos, videos, text stories, and other components.
While our smart phones and other devices are able to capture audio and video quickly and easily, too often the treasures we capture stay locked in the device or cloud storage. There’s something special about looking through old photo albums and scrapbooks. Those books can also be passed down to future generations to share family stories. When you get creative with scrapbooks, they can be an effective way to share information as well as photographs, bits of memorabilia, and other parts of your family’s story. Get some ideas at Scrap Your Family History.
You can use the same techniques to capture others’ stories to share with their own families. Contact a local nursing home or nonprofit hospice agency to inquire about opportunities to interview residents and record their stories for their families or for themselves to have.
Beyond family history, people’s stories can be important parts of history. Help capture them by volunteering with efforts like The Veterans History Project, which helps veterans share their recollections and experiences. Or, reach out to your local historical society to inquire about opportunities to interview area historians or notable residents to capture their stories for the society.
By using your interviewing, writing, and digital capabilities, you can preserve important family and historical stories so they may live on for future generations.