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Archive for November 2013

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Overcoming Three Obstacles to Recording Your Oral History Interview

You can now more smoothly record and share your ancestor’s story with the tools and advice shared here. With careful planning and the right tools, you can feel the satisfaction that comes with preserving your family history for future generations.

If you have tried before and felt that the technology that you used complicated the process or if you really did not know what to do with your file after production, you do not need to feel that way this time when you sit down this Thanksgiving to record. Using the following tips and strategies, you won’t be caught by these three obstacles that would otherwise cause you grief.

1.Figure Out Which Tools Suit You Best.

You do not really need expensive equipment. You probably are already holding the most convenient device to record the interview – your smart phone or iPhone. The following apps can be downloaded to your device:

Tape A Talk

Tape-a-Talk: I have used this app several times successfully. The sound quality was great each time. Even if you will not be with you the person that you want to interview this Thanksgiving, all you have to do is call them from your Android device after you begin your recording with Tape-a-Talk. Hang up, and stop the recording. It will be saved as an .mp3 file on your device. Oh, did I mention this app has a free version?

See “The Best Voice Recording App for Android.” Download it here. Also see the video: “How to use Tape-a-Talk” (YouTube).

Tape-a-Talk Screenshot by Robin Foster

Audio Memos

Audio Memos: If you have an iPhone, see “The Best Recording App for iPhone.” Download it here.

Audio Memos Screenshot by Robin Foster

StoryCorps

StoryCorps: StoryCorps has partnered with SoundCloud making it possible for you to log in here using your Facebook account or your SoundCloud account where you can then record your interview right from your web browser using the SoundCloud app. You can then upload the interview to the Wall of Listening where you are invited to share your story. Be sure to have a photo of you and the person you interview to upload with your recording. Post the link to your interview on the National Day of Listening: Lowcountry Wall of Listening Facebook page too!

StoryCorps Screenshot by Robin Foster

Other Ways

If you conduct a long distance interview, use Skype to record it. Keep in mind that someone may have to help your interviewee set up the technology ahead of time. If this technology is a bit of a leap for you, you may consider using a digital recorder or a laptop and a HD webcam.

2. Sound Quality

Be sure you and your relative are positioned close enough for your voices to be picked up clearly. If either of you have a soft voice, you may consider using a separate microphone that is compatible with the device you will use to record.

Keep the microphone far enough away to prevent distorted sounds, and make sure it is kept still and does not brush against clothing or other objects. Record in a quiet place, but make sure your voices do not echo. Do a test run beforehand to make sure everything works properly and you are comfortable using the technology.

3. Sharing the File

You will not want your interview to just sit forever on your device. You will probably want to share it with others if you were given permission to do so. You may choose to share in more than one way. Video formats are best converted to .mp4 or .wav files (Windows Media Player). Sound files are most commonly .mp3. Here are a few ways to share:

  • - Save on CD
  • - Upload the interview to StoryCorps
  • - Share videos on YouTube or Vimeo (Sometimes videos need to be converted to .mp4 or .wav or other formats to share them. You can do this with Windows Movie Maker which comes automatically on a PC)
  • - Create a DVD (Photoshop Elements)
  • - Upload the file to Dropbox or Box, and e-mail a link to the file to family members

Now you have some planning before the big day. I hope these ideas help you to be ready for your Turkey Day interview! Please let us know how things went in the comment section below.

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5 Ways to Celebrate the National Day of Listening

Simple Ways to Honor Those Who Have Touched Our Lives

Friday, November 29, 2013 is the sixth annual National Day of Listening.

Each year, Story Corps asks all Americans to set aside an hour on the day after Thanksgiving to interview a friend, loved one or community member about their lives, and to record the interview using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, smartphones, tape recorders or pen and paper, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide.

While your loved ones are gathered for the holidays, why not sit down with an elder and learn more about their lives and their memories of those who came before you?

In so many ways, listening to elders gives voice to ancestors. Elders hold the stories behind the documents we gather in our family history research - the stories of how our ancestors lived, the challenges they faced, the family traditions they passed along to us.

The National Day of Listening is a great time to gather and preserve the life stories of loved ones, but there are many ways to celebrate the holiday. Here are five suggestions for how you can participate in the National Day of Listening:

1. Interview a friend, loved one or community member

Interview a friend, loved one or community member about his or her life, and record and preserve the interview. Then you can share who you interviewed on Story Corps' Wall of Listening.

To record your own National Day of Listening Interview:

  • Find someone you would like to interview
  • Create your question list
  • Sit down to record your conversation

StoryCorps has created a free Do-It-Yourself (DIY) interview guide with step-by-step interview instructions, equipment recommendations, and sample questions that is available online.

You can record your interview using equipment that is readily available in most homes—from cell phones to tape recorders to computers or even pen and paper.

By participating in this year’s National Day of Listening, we hope you’ll find that taking the time out to interview someone about his or her life is the least expensive but most meaningful gift that you can give. And you will create wonderful memories to make the holiday season all the more special.

Don't have time for a full interview? You can ask a few questions of elders or other family members who are gathered for Thanksgiving. You may learn new details for breaking through brick walls in your family research.

2. Help Raise Awareness of the National Day of Listening

This year we've created a fab sign for you to share before the National Day of Listening, to help Story Corps raise awareness and encourage your friends to participate. You can grab the sign here and print it out. Don't have a color printer? No problem, you can grab the graphic in greyscale below, too:

Story Corps has chosen "Stories of Love and Gratitude" as this year's theme. You can help raise awareness of the National Day of Listening by snapping your picture with the sign, then sharing it on our Lowcountry Wall of Listening on Facebook.

Then don't forget to share it on your own Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn page with this text: "The National Day of Listening is a new national holiday started by StoryCorps in 2008. On the day after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asks all Americans to take an hour to record an interview with a loved one, using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, iPhones, and tape recorders, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide at http://nationaldayoflistening.org/downloads/DIY-Instruction-Guide.pdf."

Here are images you can grab that are the perfect size for sharing on Facebook and Google+:

Voila! You have helped Story Corps raise awareness of the National Day of Listening!

3.Participate in the Lowcountry Wall of Listening on Facebook

We've created the Lowcountry Wall of Listening as a place to share who you will interview for the National Day of Listening, share pictures of your interview and discuss the experience. Come join the conversation!

4.Set aside an hour to record your OWN story
and preserve it for those who are yet to come. Have you ever wished an ancestor had left a journal or some recollections about their lives? You can make it easier for descendants to remember you by recording your own story. You can also bring out family photographs, flip them over and place a caption on the back - a simple way to preserve family treasures for future family historians.

5.Transcribe old family history interview tapes

Do you have tapes of family oral history interviews you conducted in the past, but have not yet transcribed? Bring them out, listen anew and start transcribing. You may find details that will reveal new avenues of research. Don't forget to share the transcriptions with family members as well.

Ways to Share and Preserve Your Interview

There are many ways to share and preserve your National Day of Listening interview:

  • Be sure to share a copy with the person you interviewed, so they can preserve their story for future generations of family members.
  • You can enter your name and the name of the person you interviewed on the Wall of Listening on the National Day of Listening website. When you fill in the Wall of Listening form, you can request a Certificate of Participation. You can also select to share your Wall of Listening entry on Facebook and Twitter.
  • You can share and preserve your interview on our Family Stories page, where you can share text, sound and video recordings.
  • Will you be blogging about your National Day of Listening interview? Send us the link to your blog entry and we'll share it on Facebook and Twitter!

However you choose to celebrate the National Day of Listening, we hope it is a wonderful opportunity to share a special experience with someone who has enriched your life. We look forward to hearing about your National Day of Listening experience!

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Guest Blogger Thomas MacEntee: Heritage Travel Comes of Age

Travel Iconsmall

There comes a time in our lives when the need to learn more about our ancestors “kicks in.” The timing is different for everyone, but one component of the discovery process that more and more people are embracing is the concept of heritage travel. Making a trip, or a series of trips, back to the land of our ancestors can bring meaning to family history and actually change the way we look at not only ourselves but also travel.

Trip Savvy – This Is Not Your Grandfather’s Travel

Our ancestors may have crossed the ocean on a ship or across America in a covered wagon, but our own travel has become much easier in the 21st century. Not only can we get from point A to point B faster and in comfort, but consider all the “tools” at our disposal to enjoy the trip and preserve the memories.

We live in an age when we not only can take photos and videos with our smartphones, but actually use them to plan a heritage trip. Take a look at Pinterest and you’ll see some amazing resources including apps to find the best airplane seat or how to keep a travel journal.

I’m sure you’re tired of hearing, “There’s never been a better time . ..” but it is true when it comes to travel. So pack your suitcase (or valise as my grandparents would say) and plan your next trip to a place where your ancestors lived.

Tips and Tricks for Planning Heritage Travel

Here are some ideas to consider when planning your next trip with a focus on family history:

    • Travel Solo or With Someone? Whether you decide to go it alone or with one or more fellow travelers is up to you. Take some time to understand what type of traveler you are (Bare bones? Adventurous? Pampered?) and whether you’ll be a good fit with others.
    • Plan Early. Now is the time to start looking at Spring 2014 travel and beyond. This doesn’t mean you can’t make a trip now. In fact, you should always have a bag packed and ready to go for those last minute specials that pop up!
    • Set Goals. Many travelers make a list of the “must see” or “must experience” places on a trip. The same can be true for a heritage trip: seeing your great-grandparents farm, visiting the stores where they shopped etc. Make a list and prioritize the stops.
    • Call Ahead. Travel books and even websites can only help you so much. Imagine the disappointment if you tried to visit a historical site only to find it closed? Make sure you use the phone and email to ensure that you’ll be able to experience those “must see” places.
    • Be Flexible. Stuff happens. Have a back-up plan and also plan for emergencies. Make sure family members know where you will be and how to reach you.
  • Collect and Preserve. You’ll have great experiences on your heritage trip, but how will you share them with others? You may need to plan ahead to make sure you can preserve the best moments of the trip. Download any apps you need and make sure you have all the tools required for capturing photos and more.
 

Travel With Purpose and Meaning

How do you describe to a friend or even a stranger, what it was like to visit the places where your ancestors lived, worked and laid the foundation for your being here? You won’t know until you make that journey yourself. I can’t predict everything that may happen on your own heritage journey, but I have a pretty good idea: the trip will pass all too quickly and you’ll want to preserve every moment so you can savor it again and again.

© 2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

About Thomas MacEntee

tmacenteemar2013 cropped

Thomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogy research and as a way to connect with others in the family history community. He is the author of Family History Trippin’: A Guide to Planning a Genealogy Research Trip available at Amazon.

When he’s not busy writing blog posts, organizing the 3,000+ members of GeneaBloggers.com, teaching online genealogy webinars and more, Thomas is busy in his role as “genealogy ninja.” Stealth is not easy, but he manages to get the inside track on emerging technologies and vendors as they relate to the genealogy industry. After being laid off from a 25-year career in the tech industry in 2008, Thomas has been able to “repurpose” his skill set for the genealogy community and loves to see other genealogists succeed, whether it is with their own research or building their own careers in the field.

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