How to record your family’s history and preserve memories

Dec 11, 2022, 7:15 AM
(Pexels Photo)...
(Pexels Photo)
(Pexels Photo)

If the thought of everything on your plate during the holidays is stressing you could, let me help.

Tech can ease the burden and make the next few weeks much easier. Tap or click for some of my favorite holiday tech tricks, including saving money and getting to your family party on time.

Have a big drive ahead of you? I’ve got your back. Tap or click for the smart tech tips to save money on gas and send an alert if you’re running late.

Once you’re with your relatives, set aside time to preserve precious family memories. Recording your loved ones takes a little preparation, but it’s so worth it when you have audio and video to look back on years later.

Why preserving family history is so important

Think back on all the stories you remember older relatives telling over the years. You can likely remember bits and pieces. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to relive them whenever you wanted?

Before thinking about the logistics, reach out to the family members you would like to interview. Instead of springing the idea on them last minute, let them know what you have in mind. Explain why it would mean so much to have their stories.

Then, schedule a quiet time to talk. They might need a few days to prepare good topics or to psyche themselves up if they’re camera-shy.

Want to look better on camera? Here are my best tips for selfies and group photos.

Prepare ahead of time

You can record interviews through audio, video or both. Although videos have more depth, audio is an excellent option for stories that feel very personal or are hard to tell.

For most people, sharing stories in their homes will be most comfortable. When you arrive, scout out a suitable location. Choose a quiet area with natural light. A blank white wall might look too stark. Have something in the background, like a bookshelf, couch or lamp. You want a cozy environment, especially when you’re recording video.

Be mindful of your seating arrangements, too. Sit to the side of the camera and have your relative look at you. Looking right into the camera is jarring for the person speaking and future viewers.

Next, think about what you want to ask. Pick some general topics, like historical events they witnessed or how they picked their children’s names. Come prepared with open-ended questions, too, like, “Are there any stories you’d like to share that you’ve never actually talked about with me?”

Remember to be an active listener. Don’t let the prompts and questions you prepared distract you from the conversation. Stay engaged in what your relative is saying. Follow-up questions often trigger the best stories.

As a national radio host and Radio Hall of Fame Inductee, let me pass along one great final tip. When you are speaking, smile. The person across from you will smile back. Your voice will be happy, and we all love being happy.

Speaking of family, here’s a simple way to save some cash: Set up family plans for the services you spend money on every month.

The best way to record your family history

If you have a newer smartphone, use its built-in voice recorder app and camera.

For video, position your phone horizontally, so you don’t end up with black bars on either side of the video. Keep the phone between you and your relative so the camera will pick up both of your voices.

Instead of holding the phone or trying to balance your phone on something, pick up an inexpensive tripod. Otherwise, you might accidentally block the speaker or end up with shaky footage.

This affordable Amazon Basics tripod is light enough to carry around but extends up to 50 inches. If you want a tabletop option, I like this flexible phone tripod from TalkWorks.

Tech if you want to go even further

Your phone will do a decent job filming and recording sound, but a cheap lapel mic can make a world of difference. If your phone isn’t up to the job, a high-quality camera will save you from blurry images or distracting smartphone sounds in the background.

A lavalier lapel mic can plug into any device with a headphone jack. This one is well under $20.

Action cameras are cheap and record 4K video. Consider buying one if your phone’s camera isn’t very good. This Vision 3 model is under $100.

Keep your video and audio clips organized

Now that you’re done recording, it’s time to preserve your findings. There are many helpful apps to edit, organize and compile audio and video.

StoryCatcherPro makes it easy to jazz up your memories. You can import photos, add captions, use themes and add title cards. Plus, it offers starter questions to spark a creative discussion. You can share your final creations through email, Dropbox, YouTube or Vimeo.

The downsides? It’s only available for iPhones and it costs $4.99.

If you want a free option, check out StoryCorps. It’s available for iPhone and Android. The app can help you prep questions, record interviews on your phone or tablet and then upload the audio.

This option is helpful for long-distance interviews since you can invite someone to a chat over the app or website. To get started, you both must log in remotely. You can then record, save and upload your conversation.

You can back up your clips on your desktop, a physical drive or the cloud for easy sharing. Now you have a piece of history you can all appreciate in the future.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

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How to record your family’s history and preserve memories