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6 steps to recording family memories

Tips and technologies to take the chore out of memory gathering.

It is easy to snap photos of your day with your smartphone, maybe upload one or two to your social media accounts, and then move on. Maybe those photos will pop up in your memories a year later, but other than that, you don’t necessarily cherish them. 

The same could be said of family stories and old family memories. How many times have you heard your grandparents or older loved ones sharing the hows, the whats and the whos of your history and thought, “I should write this down,” but don’t? How many times have your children said something hilarious that you wanted to remember, but then you forget to record it?

The truth is, properly recording memories for your family can be daunting – but many agree the pros far outweigh the inconveniences. According to the Mayo Clinic, taking time to record your family memories and history can not only offer potential benefits to physical health; it can bring about much-desired improvements to emotional health as well.

Reasons for recording memories

There are many reasons for recording memories – the most obvious being to remember and relive past experiences.

As your memory fades, it’s convenient to have video and audio recordings that allow you to easily recall past experiences, events, and adventures. Along the same vein, it’s also important to set aside some time to reflect on how these memories were influential in shaping your story and how they helped you become the person you are today. Participating in this exercise allows you to appreciate your growth, see how far you’ve come, and envision where you want to go. 

However, the most important reason for recording memories is that there will never be another you. Your story is unique and deserves to be told (and immortalized) through your eyes and voice. When you miss the opportunity to share your personal experiences with others, you leave the door open for interpretation. Make sure you take the time to capture your memories to your liking, so that you are leaving behind a family legacy that you love.

How to record and save memories

The key to capturing amazing memories and moments is simply to get started! There is no proper way to document your family’s adventures. When deciding where to begin, choose a recording method that best reflects your family’s lifestyle. For example…

If you enjoy snapping candids as much as posed portraits...photography is your medium. If you ever worry about not taking enough photos to capture the minute details and emotions from all of your family vacations, it sounds like your best friend might be your smartphone camera or your DSLR (if you’re really into shooting!) As you plan out how you might want to record your family’s history, think about how you can focus the most attention on your photos and build a story around them. 

If you enjoy pressing the record button...video is your medium. Ever hear groans from your family that go a little something like “Ugh, mom. Don’t get this on tape”? If so, you’re the family videographer. Being the videographer can be tricky because it might require shooting the same scene multiple times or making sure you actually capture the big moment on tape (because moments happen so quickly!) ,but if you enjoy filming, use home movies as the base for telling your story. 

If you enjoy telling all your friends about every moment of your child’s day...audio is your medium. Do you remember moments of narrating what your child was doing when they were young? Perhaps you were the one who encouraged and gave them the confidence to take their first steps. Perhaps you were also the one who used to sing to them to help them fall asleep at night. And perhaps, you remember gushing to your friends about the first piece of art they brought home from school. Whatever the case may be, if these scenarios feel familiar, you may want to consider using audio as the primary medium to craft your tale. You can record messages on your smartphone or a simple audio device. Plus, you can also ask others to send you heartfelt audio recordings as well to diversify your story and uncover their unique perspectives on the same events you attended.  

No matter how you choose to collect memories, it’s important to remember to have fun with it. Record and save memories in a way that you enjoy and can fondly look back on, knowing that you enjoyed both living in and capturing that moment in time.

Black And White Photos Of Children

6 steps to recording family memories

  1. Explore your motivation

    The New York Public Library lists a whole host of reasons why you should invest in recording memories. One 2014 study found that 67% of people said documenting their family history made them feel wiser as a person and 72% said it helped them feel closer to older relatives. Whatever makes you decide to get the story of your life together – or even create a system to save future moments – you have to find your own motivation. For some people, that’s a desire to feel connected to family, for others it could be finding answers to unknown questions about health history. Regardless of where your motivation lies, recording and organizing your family memories will most likely take at least a little time and effort. To stay on track, it’s important to keep reminding yourself of your why.

  2. Make a game plan

    Once you have that why, try to identify your how and your what. Collecting and organizing your family memories starts with creating a game plan of what exactly you want to record – oral history, family photographs, videos, dates from memorable events – and the means by which you want to record it. While we’ll go into technology options to make saving and organizing memories easier in a bit, try to focus on just getting the lay of the land initially. If you have hard copies of photos you’d like to keep, for example, start exploring albums and bins to store them, and identify a place where they can live. The National Archives, for example, recommends storing photos in a climate-controlled space (not the garage) to prevent decay. Making a game plan could also mean identifying which relatives you want to talk to and topics you may want to address with them. A little front-end preparation (and organization) can go a long way in making the process of gathering and organizing your family memories more seamless.

  3. Don’t limit your channels

    Your life doesn’t happen in one channel, so there’s no reason why your memories should be organized in one. Telling the story of your family can mean weaving together audio recordings from grandparents, handwritten notes, photos, videos from family vacations, trinkets, calendars of important dates. There are plenty of apps to help you record interviews with older family members on your smartphone so you don’t have to stress about having special equipment either. If you’re feeling inspired, you could go so far as to create family movies. However much time you want to invest in gathering your family’s memories is up to you. Embracing your creativity may mean a little extra effort when it comes to storing and protecting memories in different multimedia channels, but it could help preserve cherished memories for your children and their children to enjoy years down the road.

  4. Take advantage of technology

    You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t embrace the latest technologies aimed at helping you collect and organize your family memories more efficiently and effectively. From options that allow you to scan photos by the batch to features that help you organize by year or occasion, there are devices and smart apps that can save a lot of time and frustration over the course of your project. The Rosy Home console and Rosy Go app, for example, allows users to digitize photos, cards and mementos all at once, with one single touch of a button. You can also narrate memories through a “storytelling” feature that allows you to attach unique voice recordings to specific collections of memories. When you’re exploring options, make sure you also take into account shareability and simplicity. Some of the greatest joys from compiling the story of your family may come from being able to share it with your relatives. The easier the sharing functionality, the better, especially if you’d like older relatives to enjoy the fruits of your labor as well.

  5. Enlist involvement from your family

    In addition to recording audio interviews from other family members so that you can accurately record some of your most important memories, make sure you get their buy-in as well. Involving everyone in recording your family’s history can increase your chances for success and help you add details you may not have gotten otherwise. Those could come in the form of videos and photos you solicit from other family members, documents they have that are pertinent to your family’s history, or short audio recordings that offer different points of view on important events. In addition to helping your project, this could be a great opportunity for bonding as well, especially if you welcome the opportunity to inject some humor into your memory collecting process.

  6. Focus on the story

    In the end, the task of recording memories of your family can be as detailed as you’d like it to be. What’s essential is that you focus more on the story instead of getting caught up in the hows and whys of actually completing it. Exploring technology options to make it easier may lead to greater success, and they make it easier to pick up where you leave off if you choose to make this a long-term project. Ultimately, if you focus on the enjoyable parts of documenting your family’s history, then you’ll be accomplishing what you set out to do.


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