How to record your family’s history and preserve memories

How to record your family’s history and preserve memories

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.

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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 relieve 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

A photo album is covered in mud from Kentucky flooding on Saturday, July 30, 2022. 

A photo album is covered in mud from Kentucky flooding on Saturday, July 30, 2022.  ((Silas Walker/Lexington Herald-Leader/Tribune News Service via Getty Images))

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.

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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.

Digital photo camera, memory cards and mobile phone on wooden table

Digital photo camera, memory cards and mobile phone on wooden table (iStock)

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.

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.

Eastman Kodak Co, the photography icon that invented the hand-held camera and helped bring the world the first pictures from the moon, is exiting the camera business.

Eastman Kodak Co, the photography icon that invented the hand-held camera and helped bring the world the first pictures from the moon, is exiting the camera business. (Reuters)

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.

Keep your tech-know going 

My popular podcast is called “Kim Komando Today.” It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like you from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for a recent episode.

PODCAST PICK: Best cheap gifts, airline app tricks, win a $100 Amazon gift card

In 30 minutes, you’ll learn 1: What apps to download before holiday travel, 2: How to add your driver’s license to your phone’s wallet, and 3: How to win a $100 Amazon gift card.

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Today” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”

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Get more tech know-how on The Kim Komando Show, broadcast on 425+ radio stations and available as a podcast. Sign up for Kim’s 5-minute free morning roundup for the latest security breaches and tech news. Need help? Drop your question for Kim here.

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