Part Two – Preserving Family Memories

Here are the next two tips concerning preserving family memories. If you missed the first tip, check the previous post for tip one.


Tip  2


Determine how you are going to record the memories.


When I chose to record my father, I chose to use a hand held mini cassette recorder.  It was small, easy to handle and not intimidating – not that my father would have been intimidated by a video camera. He would’ve performed rather that give me what I needed.  He enjoyed being in front of the camera and always acted silly. He liked to play too much – I would’ve been “chasing rabbits” if I video taped him.


  • I use a digital audio recorder now. With a digital recorder, if you have the right program, you can transfer the audio file to your computer for storage and future use. This works also work for a digital video recorder.


  • With video recording, you have another type of history preserved. You have how the person dressed, their mannerism and facial expressions to go along with their spoken words.


  • Whether audio or video, it doesn’t really matter.  What is important is just to record the memories of the person you chose to interview. Once you have the information recorded, you can transcribe them into written memories at your own pace and time.


  • Make sure to have extra batteries on hand and if using anything other than digital recording, have extra blank tapes with you.


Tip 3


Choose a location where the individual is comfortable and do your best to help them feel at ease.


  • Take care of preliminary matters before beginning the interview.  Make sure to have water, or soft drinks close by.  Once the interview begins, you or the interviewee may need something to wet a dry mouth. 


  • Help interviewee feel comfortable and at ease by starting out with small talk.


  • Once you are ready to begin, turn on recorder and start by using the questions ( I will provide sample questions with the next post). Since your hands will be free, you may wish to take notes.  This will help speed up the process of transcribing the audio tapes.


  • Take necessary breaks.  You want the interviewee to be comfortable.  Stretch your legs take bathroom breaks then get started on completing the interview.  Look for cues that your subject is getting tired or ready to stop.  If later you find you need more information, perhaps you can schedule a second interview.


I recorded my father in the family room of his house with the TV on and a nephew running through the house. My father was comfortable, didn’t mind talking and eagerly shared memories from his past. Whether it is done in your home, the person’s home or in a public location, it is important for them to be relaxed and comfortable.


Here is a portion of what I wrote when transcribing my father’s memories:


Daddy’s uncle Jessie had a team of mules that he loaned for the family to use when they moved to their farm. They were able to load everything they owned onto two wagons – corn, hay, furniture, chickens etc were loaded onto the wagons. When they arrived at the Madison/Garrard County line, they had to cross a wooden bridge. The horse that pulled the wagon was named “Old Jim.”  Old Jim wouldn’t cross the bridge because he could hear the wood creaking under the buggy and it scared him. He stopped and started backwards away from the bridge. My grandmother got off the buggy and took hold of  the mule’s bridle. My daddy and his brother Raymond took over driving Old Jim across the bridge while my grandmother pulled him. What a stubborn mule! Daddy recalled another time when Old Jim was so wild, bucking and kicking, that whoever was on the buggy had to jump off and run across the bridge while his mother held and pulled Old Jim.  


Let me know if you have any questions or comments.