The most complete family histories draw on a wide variety of resources. Documents and records provide important basic facts, while photos paint a fuller, more in-depth picture of ancestors. Oral histories add another invaluable layer with stories, personalities, and details that bring your ancestors to life. And with FamilySearch’s Family Tree and Memories apps, making audio recordings part of your family history has never been easier.
If you don’t have the apps yet, just go to the FamilySearch Family Tree and the FamilySearch Memories app pages to learn more and to download these free apps. Then read on to learn how to use the apps effectively to make oral histories part of your family tree.
Using the Apps
Both apps are simple to use and provide ready tools to record and upload audio clips to your FamilySearch family tree. To get started, follow the steps below for each app.
The Memories app was created to make it easy for you to preserve family memories no matter where you are and to connect these preserved memories to your tree. With this app, recording family stories and histories is straight-forward and convenient.
Once you open the Memories app, tap the Audio icon in the bottom right corner if you are an Apple user or in the white toolbar at the top of the screen in an Android product. Then tap the plus symbol in in the top right corner.
The recording screen will open. You then have the option to use a provided topic as a prompt, or tap Begin
Recording at the bottom of the screen. Then simply tap Start to begin recording. When you have finished, tap Done to stop the recording.
After typing a title and saving your recording, you’re ready to add this audio to the appropriate person in your FamilySearch family tree. Select the audio recording, and then tap on the Tag icon to indicate which family member’s profile you want to save it to. As you start typing, possible matches from your tree will appear. When you see the correct person, tap the name. You can also choose Add New if the person is not already in your tree. You aren’t limited to just one person. If the recording applies to more than one person on the tree, you can attach it to everyone it fits.
You can also share your recording by text or email or in other ways by tapping the “Share” symbol.
The Family Tree App
To use the Family Tree App to record memories, start by selecting the person you would like to make a recording about. In the bar under the person’s name and photo, tap Memories.
Then tap the green plus symbol in the bottom right corner of the screen. Several options will appear. Tap Record Audio, and a list of questions will automatically appear. These questions are ideas to get you started. If you have something else in mind, simply tap the green Begin Recording bar at the bottom of the screen.
From this point, the process is very similar to the Memories app process described above. Tap the Start button to begin the recording. Type a title for it, and choose whom to attach it to on your family tree. As with the Memories app, you can also choose to share the recording with others.
The Basics: Tips for Great Interviews
Before diving in to using the apps, you might want to take a moment to review the basics of oral interviews. Here are some tips to ensure your success with the FamilySearch apps.
- Start with older family members to make sure you preserve their invaluable memories before it’s too late.
- Branch out to others who may have known your relatives and who can share insights, stories, and memories of them. These people can include family members of all ages or others such as family friends.
- Keep recordings short. The FamilySearch apps allow recordings of up to 15 minutes at a time, but the apps encourage you to keep recordings to around five minutes each to make them easy to listen to.
- Ask open-ended questions. Instead of asking, “When were you born?,” ask “What are some of your favorite childhood memories?” Let your family member’s personality shine through by not interrupting or micromanaging answers.
- Expand beyond traditional interview questions. Record family members retelling favorite family stories or jokes, giving advice, or sharing family mottos. Or record tidbits of actual events, such as a piano or vocal solo, a short speech, or an awards presentation.
- Don’t forget to label your recordings and attach them to your tree!
If you’re ready to record and preserve your family’s stories, be sure to start with FamilySearch’s apps. With these tools, it has never been easier to preserve memories and make them part of your family tree so others can enjoy them for generations to come.
For More Information
Need more question ideas? Here are some articles, lists, and steps that can help:
- “Share #52Stories from Your Personal History This Year,” FamilySearch.org
- “Bring a Family Story to Life with Oral Histories,” FamilySearch.org
- “20 Questions You Can Use to Capture Grandma’s Story,” FamilySearch.org
- “150 Questions to Ask Family Members about Their Lives,” Deseret News
- “Family History Sample Outline and Questions,” UCLA Library Center for Oral History Research