Let me tell you a quick little story. I LOVE my Grandpa, and I miss him dearly. I was living with him when he passed away, so it was definitely a difficult time for me. He was a prisoner of war during World War II and spent 2 years in a German prisoner of war camp. He was a pilot and was shot down (that is how he got caught by the Germans). His story is CAPTIVATING. Every time he would speak in public, the entire audience would be riveted, hanging on every word. Fortunately for myself, and for my entire family, my brother had the foresight to sit down with Grandpa and video his entire story. From the day he was shot down in Germany until he met my Grandma on the flight home from the war. A few months after he got the recording, my Grandpa passed away. Can you even imagine if my brother had thought to himself… oh I’ll do it this summer when I have some more time. Or if he just kept pushing it back a few more weeks? These stories told in the absolute best way (by him), would have been lost forever. We have these recordings now and can watch them whenever we want. We can show them to our children who can learn about their own family history from these amazing recordings! You can watch his whole story here.
So, this is my plea to you. Just start. Don’t wait. It’s so easy to get these stories down, and a lot of times with minimal cost and effort from you. Especially with the holidays coming up very soon, it will be a perfect time to sit down with your relatives and get all these stories, photos, and documents digitized!
Everyone usually has their smartphone on them, right? The cameras on these phones are now sometimes even better than our actual cameras! I mean, how many of you actually have a separate camera that you use on a regular basis? Our phones are about a thousand times better than the old video cameras we had growing up, for sure! So, when you are all gathered together for the holidays, take your phone and your Grandparent, parent, aunt, uncle, whomever into a small room. Attach your phone to a tripod like this one, and start recording!
I’ve even put together a list of 20 questions to get the ball rolling, and find out some really fun things about their past! Download the list here. Make sure you ask about all of your favorite stories to get them down.
While everyone is already getting together, it’s also a great time to scan all the photos and documents that you may have spread throughout your individual families. Using a ScanSnap scanner by Fujitsu is a super portable and quick way to get all that scanning done quickly and without having to connect to a computer at all!
Once you get all the history scanned in, you can use Dropbox to share it with the rest of your family. Or store it on a NAS (Network Attached Storage) like the Western Digital MyCloud Duo. This will allow you to share it with family members, but everyone won’t have to pay for cloud storage. Don’t forget to share it with all of your cousins as well (if the photos and stories involve your grandparents). Both are also great options to share your family vacation photos. My siblings and I go on a vacation together every other year. Once we are done, we all upload our photos to the same folder so we can see each other’s pictures!
You can also store documents, photos, and videos on ancestry.com or familysearch.org. When you upload them to these locations, they can also be discovered by long-lost relatives and 2nd and 3rd cousins you never even knew you had!
Now that you’ve taken care of the past and the present, let’s talk about the future. Keeping a personal journal is SO important! And don’t rely on social media to keep this history! Fun fact about me. When I was in high school I kept EXTENSIVE journals. I seriously love going back and reading what my thoughts were and what I was doing back in elementary school, junior high, and high school. I even kept a pretty good journal through college.
Sometimes when I’m reading what I wrote I can’t even remember that story or situation! Memory can be so fickle, so it’s important to get your thoughts and stories recorded! It can be just as easy as the other items above. I use Journey (a journaling app for your phone). I can access my journal from my desktop, my phone, or my tablet. This way, if there is something important I need to write down, I can use my full keyboard to get it down quickly.
For the day-to-day stuff though, I can just snap a picture and write a couple of quick sentences about my day, or use the voice to text option to transcribe it, or just record a quick audio version of it. The point is to get in the habit so that in the future YOUR grandkids will already have your history! I’ve put together a HUGE list of 201 journal writing prompts for you too, so you can have something to say for most of the year! Some of the questions won’t apply, depending on your age. Download the list here!
A couple of other apps I like to use are Write a Day, so I can quickly write little sentences throughout the day with what I’m feeling or what I’m doing at that moment. At the end of the day, I can import the log into Journey or just keep it there. Another favorite is called Grid Diary. This can help you a lot when you aren’t sure what to write about each day.
Now that you know you already have most of the tools necessary to complete this task…go do it! Start today! You will NOT regret starting sooner, but you MAY regret waiting.