Recording Your Family History: A Guide to Preserving Oral History

c0132Your living family members won’t be around forever. Preserving their stories and history while they are still alive is part of being a good family historian. Like learning to fill in a family group sheet, or learning to trace ancestors through print and online resources; so too, should every genealogist learn to capture their living relatives memories while they are with us.

Recording Your Family History: A Guide to Preserving Oral History helps genealogist record these living histories while they are still available. The introduction acquaints the reader with the “Life History Interview.” Effectively, audio or video interviews with family members, usually the older members speaking as though to a younger family member. The interview help capture, and thus maintain, family traditions, values, stories, beliefs, and experiences; passing these on to future generations. This book is a guide to capturing these family elements through the oral interview process.

The introduction also examines equipment the reader can use to record interviews, as well as interviewing techniques. These techniques will help the interviewer start and conduct interview with their family members. The bulk of the book provides suggested questions to use during interviews. The questions are broken into three major categories:

  • Typical life cycle and “life crisis” events
  • Historical events and your narrator’s experience of them
  • Personal values, experiences, and life philosophy

Each chapter represents a major topic area and is broken down into sections and sub categories. The Youth chapter, for example, offers sections for school memories, first jobs, entertainment and interests, teenage conflicts, college, and more. Under each are subcategories like high school, friends, teenage dating, etc. The there are the actual questions; hundreds of them.


Table Of Contents

Family History
Middle Age
Old Age
Narrator as Parent
Historical Events
General Questions, Unusual Life Experiences, and Personal Philosophy and Values
Special Questions for Jewish Narrators
Special Questions for Black Narrators
Special Questions for Hispanic-American Narrators
Further Reading


Recording Your Family History: A Guide to Preserving Oral History is available from Family Roots Publishing; Item #: C0132, Price: $6.97. Offers Two New Videos to Help Your Research

A recent blog on introduces two new tutorial videos to help researchers improved their research skills. Here is an extract from that blog: Introduces Two New Genealogy Videos

One of the most often used and impressive features of FamilySearch.orgis the massive collection of genealogy records. FamilySearch has the largest collection of genealogical collections in the world with billions of records available to the public free of charge.

FamilySearch has recently released two new videos that discuss this massive collection of genealogical records. The first video explains how FamilySearch gives you access to many of the world’s records of birth, marriage, death, censuses, and so forth.. The second video explains some excellent research tips on how to get the most when searching for an ancestor in the Historical Records Collection.

Video #1: FamilySearch: Access to Records
Have you ever wondered what FamilySearch’s Historical Record Collection is and what you can find in this collection? Or maybe you’ve wondered how FamilySearch is able to provide free access to the general public to more than a 3 billion records?

Click here to read the full blog.

Digital Storytelling gets a Boost from

I have long felt too many family historians overlook a precious piece of their family’s history, the living. When asked about why they got involved in family history, I have found most people respond, “because of the stories.” The problem is, we tend to get set in our ways and make excuses for never getting around to sharing and capturing the stories of our living relatives. When was the last time you asked a parent or grandparent to share a story? When did you last go through your family pictures and take notes on the who, when, where and why? How do we find the time to capture the stories of the living before they become a part of the forgotten past?

The guys over at Storytree have a solution. They take a simple approach to capturing stories. Using their website and optional iPod/iPhone app, they make both capturing and sharing stories with family and friends fun and easy. Using video, audio, photos and text, family members of all ages can easily tell their own stories as well as request stories and input from others. To get a quick idea of how easy and fun their service can be, watch this short video:


Storytree is hardly the first company to try and facilitate the sharing and gathering of family stories. Some have tried through social networking, some through memoir writing and others through story sharing, like Storytree. Most of these sites have failed or moved into other aspects of research. The guys at Storytree believe their concept will work because technology has finally gotten easy enough for family members of all generations to use without having to be media or computer experts.

At the very least, getting started with Storytree is as simple a process as one could ask for. Just head on over to their site at and click the “get started” button.  On the next screen you enter a name for your “storytree” and click “go”. If you are unsure of what to do next, they have simple FAQ and Tips pages to help you out.

Storytree gives you control of the security for each storytree you create. You decide who has access and who can share information. You can also download the contents of your tree. In addition, their new free iPod/iPhone app makes collecting and posting story items easy, even while on the go.

The Storytree site is new and will likely grow as new features are developed and added to the system. However, simple design and structure coupled with ease of use show a lot of foresight has already gone into development. Since getting started is free, no mention is given of future intent to charge for the service, what does it hurt to give this new service a try?

Roots Television is 3 Years Old!

I note that Roots Television is now 3 years old – and they are celebrating by sharing the 10 most popular and 3-years-oldintriguing videos showcased to date. To see the full list, click on over to the Og Blog.

The Top 10 Videos themselves are as follows:
DNA: Tale of 2 Fathers
In Search of Annie Moore
Down Under Florida: Ashley
Unclaimed Persons
Cyndi’s List
Psychic Roots
Heir Jordan
Haley-Baff Genetic Reunion
DNA: Were They Sisters?
DNA: Did She Marry Her Cousin?

Why the State Boundaries Are Where They Are.

Have you ever wondered about the shapes of the states? I watched a 1-hour Library of Congress video this evening with Mark Stein about “how the states got their shapes” on YouTube. Honestly, I’d never even considered the subject before. But it’s a fascinating topic. According to Stein, there were four major reasons for the states being generally shaped as they are today. Those being:

  • The Revolution – and the subsequent attempt at leveling the playing field for the former colonies.
  • Mark Stein

  • The Erie Canal – The building of the canal impacted those states on the great lakes, and directly affected the shapes of Ohio, Indian, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.
  • Railroad Expansion – With the building of the railroads, rivers were no longer as critical to boundaries – and state boundary lines were a lot straighter in the western states.
  • Slavery – Many states were directly affected by compromises being made to either accept or exclude slavery.

You may or may not have wondered about the following geographical features:

  • Why does West Virginia have a finger creeping up the side of Pennsylvania?
  • Why are California and Texas so large when so many of the states in the Midwest are roughly the same size and shape?
  • Why are Alabama and Mississippi almost exact mirror images of each other?

Mark Stein provided answers to these questions, and many more, when he discussed and signed his new book, “How the States Got Their Shapes,” in a program sponsored by the Center for the Book. The author used the Library of Congress’ Geography and Map Division and other Library resources in his research.

The map of the United States is so familiar that its state borders seem as much a part of nature as mountains and rivers, Stein says. How the States Got Their Shapes is the first book to explain why state lines are where they are. Anecdotal in nature, the guide reveals the moments in American history that put the giant jigsaw puzzle of the nation together.

I really enjoyed the video, and learned a lot. Now I’ve got to get a copy of Stein’s book, How the States Got Their Shapes.