In second half of “Preserving Your Family’s Oral History & Stories” webinar, Thomas stressed the importance of doing something with the history & stories you’ve gathered. Do not think you’re done and leave them on a shelf or in your computer!
As mentioned in the previous post, Thomas recommends transcribing it as soon after the interview as possible, while it’s fresh. Once you get your transcription done, look at what you’ve got. Start brainstorming about the best way to display it or share with family members.
Whether you do a list, storyboard, or spreadsheet, start organizing your ideas. Could your story benefit from a timeline? Do you have any old home movies? What about slides? Audio tapes? These need to be digitized. Unless you’ve been doing this, Thomas suggests leaving it to the professionals. Costco or Sam’s club will transfer your old stuff for you. He did mention that all these media types deteriorate over time. Don’t wait. Do it NOW, before they’re lost forever.
Check for photos you can incorporate. Speaking of photos, I was surprised to learn there are 3 trillion printed photos ‘out there’ waiting to be digitized. I forget the number of photos that are uploaded daily but it was mind boggling. Photos are precious. Treat them with tender care.
Give some thought and energy into this process. And don’t limit yourself. Look through things that may have accumulated over the years: Bills, receipts, funeral programs, wedding invitations or bulletins, recipe cards, postcards, letters, envelopes, stamps. Even things that aren’t flat, like quilts, doilies, knitting, military medals or pins and button can be scanned and included.
There are many platforms to choose from. Here’s part of the list he mentioned:
Blogs are also a great way to publish your family stories — you already know that because you’re reading this blog! He mentioned the three major ones: Blogger, Blogspot and Word Press. Weebly is also a good option for website building.
Consider publishing a book. He suggested Lulu, My Publisher, or Stories To Tell books. The former is suggested for those who have some experience. Stories To Tell is what he described as a “hand holding” service. They guide you all the way through, and help in whatever way they can. “Help at every step, from draft to publication,” according to their website.
Once you get your book put together, put them up for sale. Refer your relatives to a link for their purchase. That way you’re not spending a lot of money to have a stack of books sitting around your house. Once you get it on the Internet with a good description, you may even draw in distant relatives you didn’t know existed!
More of a multi-media person? Do a video. Like to cook? Design a cookbook with your ancestors’ recipes. If you have photos of your relative, their kitchen, or their house, include those. Priceless to their descendants.
Get creative with your stories and memories. Thomas showed a slide of a wedding table runner made out of photos of the bride and groom. Same idea would work for birthdays. Or anniversaries. Just get your stuff “out there.”
You’re already the family genealogist. Become the Family Story Teller. Use technology to get your stories out. Try Saving Memories Forever. Download their app and play around with it. If that doesn’t work, don’t give up. Keep trying until you find something that works for you.
There was a question and answer period at the end. One of the questions stuck in my mind, because I have run across it so much. “What can I do? My relatives just aren’t interested.”
Thomas said sometimes people aren’t interested in genealogy or story telling until they have children. To get the younger generation interested, use something they ARE interested in. If they’re young men, perhaps talking about their male relatives who fought in the wars. The 100th Anniversary of World War I is coming up. We are currently in the middle of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War. Find something they can relate to.
In summary, he emphasized these points. Make a plan. Interview your relatives NOW. Don’t wait until it’s too late and their stories are buried and gone forever. Ask other relatives to help you. Working together you can pass it on to the next generation and beyond.