Tell Your Story and Upload it to the Library of Congress

StoryCorps-logo-250pw

The following is from the August 10, 2015 edition of the startribune.com:

As students head back to school, here comes a big homework assignment: StoryCorps wants tens of thousands of teenagers across America to interview a grandparent or elder this Thanksgiving and upload their recordings to the Library of Congress.

The nonprofit oral history organization is asking high school history teachers to have their students record the interviews with StoryCorps’ free smartphone application. Recordings sent to the library will become part of a publicly accessible archive at the American Folklife Center.

“The Great Thanksgiving Listen” is an assignment that will last for generations, StoryCorps founder Dave Isay said.

“When young people do these interviews and they hit ‘send’ at end of the interview to the library, they know that their great-great-great-great-great-grandkids are going to get to eavesdrop on this conversation someday and get to understand where they come from, who their ancestors were,” Isay said in a telephone interview.

Read the full article.

Storycorps is a terrific site and app. I’ve got it on my Android cell phone. It works just as well for us grandparents with stories as it does for the teenagers who might be interviewing us.

Huge Migrant Farm Workers Archive Posted on the UC San Diego Library Website

A boycott button that is part of the online archive now owned by UCSD. — Courtesy of UCSD
A boycott button that is part of the online archive now owned by UCSD. — Courtesy of UCSD

I spent some time on the Farmworker Movement Documentation Project website today, and found it absolutely fascinating. You may wonder why I’m posting a blog about the Farmworker Movement on a genealogy-related website. Well, because it was a very people-oriented movement – a movement that touched nearly all Americans, as well as many Mexicans, in one way or another.

Although I was raised on a farm, it was made up mostly of greenhouses, with our employment levels usually being only a half dozen people at a time. We had a high of 40 employees in 1973 as I remember it. Being in rural Pierce County of Washington State, I can’t remember of hiring what we would classify as migrant workers, although we did hire a lot of hippies to do seasonal work during the early 1970s.

My only very slight personal interaction with the Farmworker Movement was in about 1971. We owned a gardenshop and fruitstand in Puyallup, Washington. The fruitstand business was very busy during the summer and fall months, and I really enjoyed it, long hours and all. When the “Boycott Grapes” portion of the movement was taking place, I decided to attempt to be funny, and posted a sign on our readerboard that said something like, “Support Unorganized Labor – Buy Nonunion Grapes.” Hmmm… Something only a 21-year old kid would do… As luck would have it, some nice lady stopped by, took me aside, and explained that there were tens of thousands of very union-supportive folks driving by my readerboard every day, and they just might not be impressed. Not being entirely stupid, I changed the sign to something else.

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at the April 16, 2014 edition of the utsandiego.com website.

The UC San Diego Library on Wednesday unveiled a large digital archive it acquired that documents the history of the United Farm Workers movement, a treasure trove of materials that officials expect will serve as a valuable research tool for scholars and students.

The archive contains thousands of items, including a timeline of the labor union’s milestones, oral histories and manuscripts, photographs and videos. All of the content can be accessed on the library’s website.

Although the acquisition was finalized late last year, UC San Diego had to spend a few months to move the information to its computer servers.

The collection was compiled by LeRoy Chatfield, 79, a friend of United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez who worked closely with the civil rights activist in the 1960s and ’70s. The university paid Chatfield $50,000 for the project, which he gathered over more than 10 years.

Read the full article.

Click Directly to the Farmworker Movement Documentation Project website.

Thanks to ResearchBuzz for the heads-up.

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

Introduction
Family History
Childhood
Youth
Middle Age
Old Age
Narrator as Parent
Grandchildren
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
Index

 

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

Thanksgiving and Family Drift

Ted-&-Virginia

Tomorrow is thanksgiving and I find myself looking back at the Thanksgivings of my past. Born in Washington State and surrounded by most of my extended family, we always got together with the full family at Thanksgiving and Christmas. But with the deaths of all of my grandparents and the growing up of my cousins we have all moved on from those close childhood experiences. Arizona, Australia, Maryland, Utah, California, Colorado and Washington – we are spread too far apart to get together on this holiday.

family2-300p

Genealogy brings you closer to your family, but holidays also remind us of how many family members you no longer see.

On the other hand, many of us will see our loved ones on this holiday. I have my parents, my brother, our wives, their families and our children, to spend the day with. I will hold them close, remember those who cannot be there and we will share our memories. I hope you share yours too.

family-300p

The holidays are the time of year we have those people together that we may want to interview. We usually realize too late where the memory-holes in our relatives lives are. It is a tragedy when only after his death do you realize there is a 12 year gap in grandpa’s life – a gap that we really know nothing about. Where was he? Was he really a logger for that long? That would make it his longest held job!

In this vane, let me direct you to my friend, Marlo Schuldt’s, blog. In his article titled “Sharing, Recording, and Preserving Family Stories”. He discusses a number of ways to save these memories. I like his suggestions and plan on using them.

Written by Dale R. Meitzler

Saving Memories Forever Announces First Community Outreach: American Widows Project

The following news release is from Thomas MacEntee:

Saving Memories Forever proudly announces its first community effort. Starting February 11, 2013 Saving Memories Forever will sponsor a fundraising campaign on behalf of the American Widow Project. The fundraiser will run through the end of March 2013.

The American Widow Project (AWP) is a non-profit organization that provides military widows with peer-to-peer support as they rebuild their lives. AWP places an emphasis on healing through sharing stories, tears and laughter. They host a Hotline service and write a monthly newsletter. They also hold multiples events each year where widows come together to enjoy life the way they did when their spouse was still alive.

The program is available to all military wives whose spouses have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, an estimated 3,200 widows. The American Widow Project was created in 2007 by Taryn Davis whose husband was killed in Iraq. Taryn has received numerous awards. She was named a Top 10 CNN Hero Honoree in 2011. She has also been honored as one of Newsweek Magazine’s “150 Women Who Shake the World”, Diller-Von Furstenburg Foundation’s “People’s Voice” Award Winner, and L’Oreal Woman of Worth Honoree in 2010.

The American Widow Project and Saving Memories Forever share a common goal: keeping alive the memories and stories of American soldiers, husbands, and oftentimes fathers. Saving Memories Forever honors the service of the men and applauds the life-affirming efforts of their wives. Saving Memories Forever welcomes the wives and looks forward to the years ahead as our service helps give them comfort and joy.

As part of this campaign, SMF will donate 20 Premium Subscriptions. In addition, AWP will receive 40% of the profits from people who subscribe to Saving Memories Forever using the special fundraiser Promo Code AWP213. You can visit the American Widow Project at: http://www.americanwidowproject.org.

Saving Memories Forever is committed to helping non-profit organizations whose mission ties in with telling and saving stories. If you know of an organization whose mission ties in with ours, please contact us.

ReelGenie a Finalist for the High-Profile SXSW Accelerator

The following News Release is from Thomas MacEntee:

Washington, DC (PRWEB) January 30, 2013: ReelGenie, an innovator in digital storytelling, has been selected as a finalist for the high-profile SXSW Accelerator. The company, based in Washington, D.C., is among eight competitors selected from hundreds of applicants in the Social Technologies category. ReelGenie will unveil its new technology at the live event.

ReelGenie helps people create and share family videos online. Users select a storyline for their movie, and ReelGenie guides them through the process of uploading photos, videos, and historical documents; recording voiceovers; and adding music to generate an online movie that can be shared with family and friends. Geared toward the creation of personal history movies for birthdays, memorials, anniversaries, and reunions, the service is the first of its kind. It improves upon slideshows and photo books by guiding users to tell a compelling story while incorporating a variety of rich content.

“My mother and I were making a video for my Grandmother’s memorial when we realized that the available tools were limited,” said David Adelman, ReelGenie’s founder and CEO. “An online slideshow didn’t give us the capability to tell a story, and editing software was expensive and difficult to use. We just wanted a way to create an inexpensive, compelling video that told a powerful story. That’s how ReelGenie was born.”

ReelGenie was developed to utilize the collaborative advantages of the Internet. Groups of users can work together, so each person can contribute their own material and participate in the creative process. The site also makes it easy to share completed videos with friends and family through social media tools and other publishing options.

“Our mission is to empower people to tell and preserve their stories, no matter how big or small,” said Adelman. “We all have a unique story. Anyone should be able to make an emotional, expressive movie they are proud to share. ReelGenie was created so that everyone has affordable, easy-to-use tools at their fingertips.”

ReelGenie combines three of the most popular computing trends — the collaboration of social media, the visual power of online video, and the technology benefits of the cloud — with a rapidly-growing interest in family history and storytelling. The company will present in front of a live audience and industry judges during the fifth-annual SXSW Accelerator at the Austin Hilton on March 11-12.

About ReelGenie
ReelGenie makes it easy for anyone to create family history stories by turning pictures, documents, text, and voice narration into engaging movies. Featuring intuitive interfaces, a collaborative production process, and seamless social media integration, ReelGenie lets users bring stories to life and preserve them for generations to come. Dubbed “The Genealogy Technology to Watch in 2013” by thought leader Thomas MacEntee, ReelGenie is revolutionizing video storytelling through its Web-based movie platform.
For more information on ReelGenie, please visit http://www.reelgenie.com. Follow ReelGenie’s progress at SXSW on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/reelgeniefilms or on Twitter at @reelgenie.

About SXSW Accelerator
The fifth annual SXSW Accelerator will take place March 11-13 in Austin, Texas. A live audience, as well as a panel of expert judges will be discovering advancements in social media, mobile applications, web entertainment, and more. The best part? Product demonstrations by the most ambitious talents in the world with the most creative new ideas to change it. We will catch a glimpse of the industry’s future, with a guided tour by our emcees and judges.

This competition will be unlike any other. On March 11, 48 companies battle for your taste-making, trend-setting attention, leading to a fireworks display of innovation. Connections will be made and careers launched. On Tuesday March 12, the top 18 companies will be invited back, and at the end of the day winners of SXSW Accelerator will be announced.

Saving Memories Forever Launches Free Genealogy App for Android Devices

The following news release is from PRNewsWire:

Now iPhones and Android Devices Can Be Used To Easily Record and Share Family History Through Audio Recordings

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Jan. 15, 2013 – /PRNewswire/: Saving Memories Forever™ (SMF), has just launched its new Android app. The application expands upon the previously introduced iPhone app, making interviewing and preserving family stories through audio recordings even easier. The technology helps families build meaningful story archives they can share and manage through the SMF website, http://www.SavingMemoriesForever.com. Both apps are free.

Since the launch of the SMF smartphone based system in 2012, Saving Memories Forever has received many positive comments and reviews from parents and genealogists.

“Ever since they announced the iPhone app, I’ve been waiting for the Android version. I’m thrilled this technology is available because now I can grab my Android, snap a few photos, and then use my downloaded Saving Memories Forever app to capture my girls as they talk. While these are captured moments, we’ll all enjoy listening to them again and again. Our relatives love it when I share these,” said Sara, mother of two.

Stephanie Pitcher Fishman from The In-Depth Genealogist comments the family-based company is a pioneer in saving family stories. “Their unique – and easy to use – free iPhone and Android apps help people young and old record their stories for others. Their free and premium memberships have applications for genealogists and family historians, homeschooling families, parents, family reunions and more. Use their categorized questions (story prompts, really!) to help guide you through the adventures of your life.”

Lisa A. Alzo, at Internet Genealogy, said SMF is a great way to preserve a relative’s recordings in one secure location. “One of the biggest problems I had in the past was trying to remember where I stored all of my audio files from those interviews I did. With SMF, I can save my favorite clips or those I find most relevant to my genealogy research and share them with the addition of an e-mail address to family members. It is really nice to be able to have the ‘voices from the past’ organized so nicely in one place, especially since so many of the people I’ve interviewed have now passed away — including my parents.”

This new approach to sharing family history through audio recordings was created by Harvey and Jane Baker. The two saw a need to go beyond ancestry and the family tree to create an online portal where family members could tell their stories in their own voices to share and save for current and future generations.

This smartphone web-based system allows people to talk about the important things in their life, including happy, sad, and amusing memories. This combination of stories gives true insight into what a person was all about and is an invaluable oral tool for anyone interested in preserving family genealogy. It gives a grandchild or great-grandchild the chance to really know a deceased relative –far beyond facts and statistics.

About Saving Memories Forever
Saving Memories Forever™ provides a new online system to not only create and preserve family memories, but also build legacies through audio recordings. Each subscriber has a dedicated area on the site to upload and manage their recordings. Recordings on the SMF website are categorized, private, secure, and permission based. The basic package is free. Subscriptions with many additional features are offered at just $3.99 per month. A new zipfile feature gives users the option of backing-up their stories at home. A how-to-video provides step-by-step instructions. For additional information visit http://www.SavingMemoriesForever.com.

More Suggestions for Family Interviews

The following article was written by my good friend, William Dollarhide. Enjoy…

Dollarhide’s Genealogy Rule No. 48: If you never ask the question, you’ll never know the answer.

As a follow-up to my earlier article, If You Never Ask the Question, here are some more suggestions for interviewing your family members:

● One technique I use is to ask a question that I’m pretty sure will get a negative response. With some relatives if you just say “Aunt Betty was born around 1930, right?” they will simply agree and not give details. But if you phrase it as “Aunt Betty was a lot younger than you, right?” you may not only get a “No, she was NOT!” but a stream of details supporting this. This is a parallel to the suggestion to ask about a person’s experiences – make it personal. You just have to know which relatives this works with. (from a GenealogyBlog reader)

● My great uncle was a veteran of WWII. His company was at Normandy Beach, not in the first wave, but fairly soon after most of the intense fighting was done on that same day. He has always refused to give much information about that time in his life and when asked to speak at church functions, etc. has always told them “no.” When I interviewed him, I approached many other subjects first to help him feel comfortable and then I led up to that time by showing him pictures of himself before he got on the train to leave his family and a few pictures that I have of him in uniform. I didn’t ask him about his experiences, just about facts. For example, what company was he in? What exactly does the anti-aircraft artillery do? When did he get to Normandy? Each time he answered a factual question he would add some memories with it. Eventually I didn’t have to ask any more questions and I got over an hour of tape with stories from the war. My mother, who was with me, said it was the most she has ever heard him talk about his experiences in the war. My grandmother has lost most of her long-term memory. Sometimes though I just throw out names and places or ask her if she had a playhouse when she was little or a favorite ice cream. Almost always she is able to come back with some memories and I write them down immediately. Usually in the next hour she doesn’t remember it anymore.
(from Stacey Dietiker)

● During WW2 everyone had ration cards and they had to be signed by the person to whom they were issued — I was about 14 years old and just found mine in some papers and I am thrilled to see that my signature shows what my handwriting was at that time, to say nothing of having such an official document represent me. For someone who never had seen one, my own children are thrilled too, just to see what the ration card and stamps looked like. At this point in my life, I have no idea why this was saved and probably wouldn’t have included it in anything I was showing as an artifact of the war days, unless someone specifically asked. (from Betty N. Rhoda)

● Betty’s comment brought back a memory about ration cards in my own family. I recall mother telling me about the war years in Seattle and learned that in 1942 my Dad had gone downtown to get ration stamps. Apparently, he had to fill in an application form and list every member of the family, including their names, ages, heights, and weights. When he came home he had my height listed as “one foot” on the form (I was six months old). Mother thought that was just hysterical — that he thought I was 12 inches long at age of six months. (How long are you at six months, anyway?) But, then, knowing my Dad, he probably just placed his hands apart the way a fisherman would recall the size of a fish he once caught. In any case, that there were some records taken at the time of rationing during WWII with such specific personal information makes one wonder whether such records were ever retained somewhere. They sound like primary genealogical sources. Anyone know? (from Bill Dollarhide)

● I also recall a favorite story of my Dad’s about the rationing era. Before the War, he had a friend who was always kidding him about having so many children – I was the final one, number seven, born four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, so the fellow must of thought six kids was too many. But during the rationing era of World War II, the number of ration stamps increased by the number of family members you had. Dad loved telling about the time the same friend asked him for a couple ration stamps so he could buy gas, but Dad told him, “Sorry, buddy, if you just had more children, you wouldn’t need more gas stamps.” (from Bill Dollarhide)

● I have been doing Life’s Reflections (oral histories) for over 20 years and have heard some of the most fascinating stories and recollections over this time period. People kept asking to borrow my questions so I put it in a kit form so folks can do their own interviewing. A fun question I have recently added into the format is “What have you made that other people have enjoyed?”
Also ask for their thoughts on abortion, capital punishment, assisted suicide — the answers are awesome, as I get such a wonderful variety of answers. My web site basically deals with my Life’s Reflections Memories kit — though I also offer to do the interviewing myself (for a fee) for two 90-minute tapes in a nice personalized album with a picture of the person taken the day of the interview. I find the best way to market both of these is to be in network groups. Any other suggestions? Check out my website if you so desire at www.lifesreflections.com
(from Jan Lindgren)

Suggested Reading:
See my earlier blog, If you Never Ask the Question.
See Recording Your Family History, by William Fletcher

Memories are Fragile & Easily Distorted

They say that five people can see the same event unfold and all remember what they saw differently. That’s bad enough, but now there’s solid evidence that our memories change with recall. That’s downright scary for the genealogist. I found an article posted in the October 21, 2012 edition of Tampa Bay Online to be very enlightening. Now … if I can only remember exactly what I read…

I doubt very many genealogists consider themselves scientists. A recent study —published in the Journal of Neuroscience — however, offers proof that valid genealogical study works on a solid scientific basis and isn’t something based on whims of obsessed family historians.

Proof that a brain alters memories — and then believes it hasn’t — came from a study by Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine post doctoral fellow Donna Jo Bridge.

Bridge is studying long-term memory consolidation, focusing on points such as how an experience is transformed into a long-term representation, whether retrieving a memory influences what we remember later, and whether memories really reflect events that happened when they were initially experienced or whether they become distorted over time.

It’s quickly obvious that work in these areas would be critical to genealogical research, much of which depends on written accounts of historical events or interviews with (usually) elderly family members.

Bridge wrote “your memory of an event can grow less precise even to the point of being totally false with each retrieval.” She adds, “When someone tells me they are sure they remember exactly the way something happened, I just laugh.”

Read the full article.

Learning to Create an Oral History

FamilySearch.org recently posted an excellent blog pointing to resources for learning to capture an oral history. Here is an abstract from that blog:

Online Resources for Learning About Creating Oral Histories

October 16, 2012 By Guest Blogger

Oral History Article

With the advent of inexpensive digital voice recorders, it is now possible to make a direct digital recording of your relatives’ stories and family history. Digital voice recorders are so small and unobtrusive that they can be carried in a pocket and used when the opportunity arises. But before you sit down with a relative to record a life history or talk about family events, it is vitally important that you are prepared. Fortunately, there are lots of online resources, some with detailed outlines, to help with gathering your oral history. The equipment needed to capture an oral history is minimal; a digital voice recorder and a digital camera. You could get more elaborate and do a full-blown video recording, but likely you will have to do some convincing with older relatives.

To begin to understand the terminology and references to equipment used in making audio recordings, it is a good idea to review a glossary of the terms used in digital oral histories. Here is a link to the Glossary for Digital Oral History (PDF file) from the Baylor University, Institute for Oral History.

Before you get out your voice recorder and push the record button, you just may wish to take some time in preparation. There are some tried and true procedures that will make any oral history a lot more interesting and relevant. It is also important to plan how you are going to preserve the files after they are on your computer. So making a successful oral history involves four steps:

Be sure to click here to read the full post at FamilySearch.org. There are plenty of links in the article to additional learning materials.

Your Life & Times: How to Put a Life Story on Tape—An Oral History

Sometimes the best description for a book is a short one. There is not always a need to elaborate on what simply is. So it is, with Your Life & Times: How to Put a Life Story on Tape—An Oral History Handbook. Despite its long title, this book can be summarized in just a few words. This book offers a collection of chronologically arranged questions, covering Birth through Retirement, useful in interviews one’s family, including themselves. In addition, there is a special section on special interst items, such as religion, travel, and family pets.

This guide 8.5″ x 11″, 50 page guide also includes, “helpful tips for easy taping,” and “suggested variations including videotaping, creating a Memorial to a loved one, chronicling a family’s history, turning memories into treasured gift books, [and more.]” In short, this book will help the reader record their own oral history, or interview other, by answering a series of simple questions.

 

Table of Contents

Before you Begin

My Life and Times

  • My Earliest Years
  • Starting School
  • Growing Up
  • High School Years
  • College or Trade School

My Family

  • My Father and Mother
  • My Aunts and Uncles
  • My Parents Together
  • My Brother and Sisters
  • My Spouse
  • Courting Days
  • Our Marriage
  • My Children
  • How They Grew
  • Daughter or Son-in-Law
  • My Grandchildren

Working Life

  • Military Service
  • My Work History
  • My Business
  • Retirement Plans
  • Retirement Days

Appendix

  • Moving Homes
  • Vacations
  • Travels
  • Pets
  • Automobiles
  • Communications
  • Favorite Foods and Recipes
  • Hobbies
  • Religion
  • Philosophy of LIfe

Dedication

Some Advice for Those Who Want to Search into the Past

 

Your Life & Times: How to Put a Life Story on Tape—An Oral History Handbook can be ordered from Family Roots Publishing; Price: $8.77.

Recording Your Family History: A Guide to Preserving Oral History

Recording Your Family History: A Guide to Preserving Oral History helps genealogist record 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

Introduction
Family History
Childhood
Youth
Middle Age
Old Age
Narrator as Parent
Grandchildren
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
Index

 

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

Digital Storytelling gets a Boost from Storytree.me

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 www.storytree.me 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?

Ancestry.com Marks Black History Month with 250,000 New African American Records

The following news release was received from Anastasia Harman at Ancestry.com. I’ve added links to the records.

Nearly 35 Million Americans Can Find an Ancestor in the World’s Largest Online Collection of African American Family History Records

ancestry.com

PROVO, UTAH (February 1, 2011) – In honor of Black History Month, Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online family history resource, today launched more than 250,000 new historical records documenting early African American family history. The five new collections span more than a century and contain important details about the lives of African Americans who bravely fought in the U.S. Civil War, document the transportation of slaves to and from the prominent slave ports of New Orleans and Savannah, GA, and include poignant first-person accounts from former slaves.

Ancestry.com’s historical record collection now contains more than 3.2 million African American slave records. As 88 percent of the United States’ black population in 1850 was comprised of slaves, when extrapolated to its current population, nearly 35 million Americans may find a slave ancestor in Ancestry.com’s African American collections.

The Ancestry.com African American Historical Record Collection includes thousands of poignant stories that bring this part of American history to life. One story outlines how Solomon Northup was lured from New York to Washington, D.C with the promise of a job in a circus. Instead he was kidnapped, put on a boat to New Orleans and sold into slavery. His liberation in 1853 prompted him to write “Twelve Years a Slave, 1841-1853,” which became both a popular seller at the time and an important historical document. The ship record of his transfer to New Orleans, which also lists most of the cast of characters from his book, can be found in Ancestry.com’s Slave Ship Manifests from New Orleans, 1807-1860. (original record images available)

The five new collections form part of the 60 million records already included in Ancestry.com’s African American Historical Record collection—the largest online collection of African American family history records available. These new collections are:

  • US Colored Troops Service Records, 1861-1867: Approximately 178,000 African American troops served the Union in the final two years of the US Civil War. Their compiled service records include enlistment papers, casualty sheets, death reports and correspondence.
  • Slave Ship Manifests from Savannah, 1789-1859: Although the transatlantic slave trade was banned in 1807, the internal transportation of slaves remained, especially as the tobacco industry diminished in the North while the cotton industry boomed in the South. These port records document the arrival and departure of more than 10,000 slaves through the port of Savannah, GA.
  • Slave Ship Manifests from New Orleans, 1807-1860: Another important Southern port, this collection includes records for more than 100,000 slaves who arrived or departed through the port of New Orleans.
  • Freedmen’s Bureau Records, 1865-1878: The Freedmen’s Bureau was formed after the Civil War to aid in Reconstruction efforts. This collection contains hundreds of thousands of records relating to former slaves the Bureau helped find work, to establish schools, negotiate contracts, seek medical care, legalize marriages and more.
  • Slave Narratives, 1936-1938 (updated): In the early 1930s, an effort began to document the life stories of 3,500 former slaves. The result is a series of moving, individual accounts of their lives, as told in their own words.

With collections such as these now online and searchable for the first time, exploring African American roots is becoming increasingly accessible and popular. For example, leading African American actress and singer Vanessa Williams’ own family journey will be showcased during the second-season premiere of the hit NBC series “Who Do You Think You Are?”on Friday, February 4. Ancestry.com is the official sponsor for the NBC series and worked closely with the producers to provide the family history research for those celebrities featured. Lionel Richie’s family history will also be showcased this season, building on the compelling African American stories of Spike Lee and Emmitt Smith, who were featured last season.

“As we continue to expand our collection of African American family history records, more Americans than ever can make exciting breakthroughs when researching their early heritage,” said Josh Hanna, Head of Global Marketing at Ancestry.com. “According to independent statistical analysis, one in nine Americans has early African roots and so may have ancestors just waiting to be discovered in our collections.”

These inspiring collections can help millions of African Americans uncover their own family stories. To search the African American Historical Record Collection, visit www.ancestry.com/aahistory. For further stories and updates related to African American family history research, you can also follow Ancestry.com on Facebook and Twitter.

About Ancestry.com
Ancestry.com Inc. (Nasdaq: ACOM) is the world’s largest online family history resource, with nearly 1.4 million paying subscribers. More than 6 billion records have been added to the site in the past 14 years. Ancestry users have created more than 20 million family trees containing over 2 billion profiles. Ancestry.com has local Web sites directed at nine countries that help people discover, preserve and share their family history, including its flagship Web site at www.ancestry.com.

Oral Histories of Ellis Island Immigrants Now Online FREE at Ancestry.com – Also Search Immigration Records FREE Through the Labor Day Weekend.

The Eliis Island Oral Histories are now available at Ancestry.com. There will be no charge for accessing these files. In addition, Ancestry.com is making their immigration records available to the public at NO CHARGE through September 6 – that’s all the way through the Labor Day weekend.

The following news release was received from Heather Erickson at Ancestry.com:

More than 1,700 first-hand audio recordings now available for free online

Ellis Island Oral Histories PROVO, Utah, September 1, 2010—Ancestry.com announced today it has launched a collection of more than 1,700 recorded oral histories from immigrants who arrived in the United States through Ellis Island. This is the first time this collection of poignant recordings has been available online. To celebrate the new addition, Ancestry.com is making its entire U.S. Immigration Collection free through Labor Day.

“As immigrants created new lives in the U.S., the stories of their homelands and their remarkable journeys to America were often lost,” said Christopher Tracy, senior vice president of global content for Ancestry.com. “We are thrilled to offer people the opportunity to hear the voices of their ancestors sharing stories of their lives.”

Ellis Island was the gateway for millions of immigrants between 1892 and 1954. The oral histories were captured by the National Park Service starting in the 1970s, and contain uniquely inspiring first-hand accounts recalling the lives these immigrants left behind, their reasons for leaving and their incredible and often-trying journeys to America. These recordings are housed at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and until now could be heard only by visitors to the Island itself. In addition to oral histories from immigrants, the collection also includes recordings from military personnel who were stationed on Ellis Island and former Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty workers.

“To our family it is important that we in the U.S. know the origin of the people who came to this country, settled here and made it what it is today. It makes us very proud to know that our mother was part of this,” said Yvonne Rumac, daughter of oral history participant Estelle Belford, who immigrated to the United States from Romania via Ellis Island in 1905.

Other Records Added to the Ancestry.com U.S. Immigration Collection:
The Ellis Island Oral Histories are the latest addition to Ancestry.com, which boasts the world’s largest online collection of U.S. immigration records. Comprised of more than 170 million records, the Ancestry.com U.S. Immigration Collection includes lists of passengers who immigrated by ship to America between 1820 and 1960, including those who came through Ellis Island; more than 7 million citizenship and naturalization records; border crossings, passport applications and more to help reconstruct our ancestors’ journeys and early lives in America.

Ancestry.com has also added nearly 2 million new U.S. naturalization record indexes, thanks to the many individuals who are part of the Ancestry.com World Archives Project – a community effort aimed at transcribing historical records. The indexes span 11 states (AK, CA, CT, HI, LA, ME, MT, NY, PA, TN, WA) and will provide Americans greater opportunity to learn more about their ancestors’ citizenship experience.

In addition, Ancestry.com has added nearly 2 million records documenting crew members on ships who arrived in the port of Boston. The records were added to an existing collection of over 3.8 million records from Boston Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1943.

To honor our nation’s immigrant heritage, Ancestry.com has opened up its entire U.S. Immigration Collection so that it can be searched free through Labor Day. The Ellis Island Oral History Collection will remain permanently free on Ancestry.com.

To begin exploring your family’s journey to America, visit www.ancestry.com/immigration.

About Ancestry.com Inc.
Ancestry.com Inc. (Nasdaq: ACOM) is the world’s largest online family history resource, with more than one million paying subscribers. More than 5 billion records have been added to the site in the past 13 years. Ancestry users have created more than 18 million family trees containing over 1.8 billion profiles. Ancestry.com has local Web sites directed at nine countries, including its flagship Web site at http://www.ancestry.com.