Using FamilySearch Apps to Record Oral Histories

July 31, 2017  - by 
Find out how to use FamilySearch's Family Tree app to make recording oral histories easier than ever!

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.

FamilySearch Memories

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
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:

4 easy steps to creating an oral history

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Leslie Albrecht Huber

Leslie Albrecht Huber has written for dozens of magazines and journals on genealogy and other topics. She currently does communications consulting and contract work for nonprofit organizations. Leslie received a bachelor's degree in history from Brigham Young University and a Master of Public Affairs (MPA) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has worked as a professional genealogist, helpingothers trace their families, and has spoken on genealogy and history topics to groups across the United States.

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  1. Shouldn’t we be asking permission of those we record before we post their recordings on the apps? Even if they appear in our “Private Space”, it seem basic courtesy to ask permission.

    1. I think it is always a good idea to ask permission! A lot can also be done if you yourself record oral stories.

  2. This is amazing!! I had no idea that FamilySearch is so much more than charts and graphs with a bunch of people’s names–some I know and some I don’t know.

    I’m so excited to download the FamilySearch app and get started. I recently moved back to Utah, where both of my parents live. Before my move, I had the distinct impression that I need to spend time with my dad. As much as I dislike admitting it, I understood that impression to mean that time may be short, so I need to make this a priority.

    With no plan as to the next steps, I’m sincerely grateful for your interview tips and FamilySearch apps. I’m so excited to learn that I can use my phone to record my dad. The questions will help to inspire our conversation–something I will need. If you knew my dad, you’d know that he’s not one to “chat,” at least not naturally. I can use the questions to inspire our conversation and the recorder to capture his memories and record his voice. It warms my heart realizing that I can have a recording of his voice that I can play back again and again.

    Several months back, during my BYU-I Pathway cIass, I watched a recording of President Hinckley–I don’t remember what he said or what the video was about, but I still remember exactly how I felt when I heard his voice. Even the memory moves me to tears as I write. My heart just swelled at the sound of his voice. I was filled with a reverent kind of joy. I know I will have the same experience when I hear President Monson’s voice again and again, at his funeral tomorrow, and every time after.

    I want this reverent joyful memory of my dad, too. So I plan to download your app first thing tomorrow. I’m going to schedule some time with my dad this weekend, and begin recording his memories and capture his voice. And when I do, I will be grateful for your work and for making FamilySearch so much more than a list of names of people I may or may not know…

  3. This would be great in printed in small booklet form that could be given to members as an easy way to start family history by ward temple and family history consultants (and newly called leader)

  4. I called someone and then interviewed them. I when we went to play it back there was no sound. Can I not record it from the phone

    1. The best way you can record someone through the phone is to call them on another phone and put it on speaker. Then with your phone on the app hit the record button. Your app will pick up the audio that is coming from the other phone on the speaker. Hope this helps!

  5. Can oral histories only be uploaded to family search trees or can they transfer to trees?

    1. Hi Andrea! Thank you for your question. Please check out this Help Center article for more information and instructions: How do I upload audio files? I’m not sure if you can upload them to Ancestry. You will need to check with their company to see if they support these type of files.

  6. This tool seems important to me, not only because of the historical content it provides, but also the voice of the person, it seems emotional to be able to hear the voice of their ancestors, for the descendants who do not get to know their ancestors when they are alive