Posted by on November 13, 2013 in Website


In about two weeks, many of us will be gathering either in our homes or those of family members and friends to enjoy another wonderful Thanksgiving. The holidays and Thanksgiving in particular bring people together under no other motive than to have great food and enjoy each other’s company and spend time with relatives you may not see very often.

If your family is anything like mine, Thanksgiving is a time to reminisce and share stories even if they’re ones we’ve heard one hundred times over. This means that Thanksgiving is an opportunity to start preserving some of those stories. Although finding records and discovering more data points about your ancestors is incredibly rewarding, wouldn’t it be great if you had their stories to go along with them? Recording and preserving your family stories can be quick and easy and can be a great gift to leave for future generations.

Before you start hooking up your family members to microphones and cameras, you have to remember that not everyone is a genealogist or family historian. Before you start recording, explain to your family members what you’re doing and why – let them know that this is important not just for you and your research but also for your family and for future generations who might miss out on these amazing stories.  Make sure that everyone is comfortable being recorded and that you are forthcoming about what this is going to be used for. If everyone has a mutual understanding that this is not just for you but also for everyone to have, hopefully your family will be more receptive and even excited to start sharing.

Family playing cards after dinner
Family playing cards after dinner

Now, let’s start talking about all of the ways you can start to record those stories. These days, recording is easier than ever. You don’t have to have an actual voice recorder with those tiny cassette tapes anymore, you really only need a smartphone or a computer to record and share what you’ve captured. We’ll start by taking a look at some apps:



Starting off with the most basic, every tablet and smartphone these days comes with the ability to record videos. This is great because rather than having to purchase expensive high-definition video cameras which could set you back quite a bit, use your smartphone or tablet’s video capture feature and start to capture some of the stories that you know you really want to preserve and share. Of course, you have to be mindful that video takes up a lot of space on your phone or tablet and also that the quality might not be the best it can be, but you’ll at least have something saved that you can share and watch over and over. Now here are some other options for recording audio stories around the dinner table.

Voice Memos – iPhone – Free

This app is a native app on your iPhone – meaning it is already downloaded and comes with your phone so you don’t even have to install it. It is meant to record any kind of memo or note to your self, but works great to record just about anything. It’s simple to use, just hit the red record button and then stop when you are finished and name the recording whatever you’d like. You can then share it via email or text message, or you can download it to your computer. If you decide to download to your computer, just make sure your sync settings with iTunes is set to sync your voice memos. It’s that easy to start your own audio library of stories!

iTalk Premium – iPhone – $1.99

Much like Voice Memos, iTalk is a great voice-recording app.  This app, unlike Voice Memos, however is paid. If you really are interested in capturing great sound, or think you will be recording in a place with a lot of ambient noise, this really is worth the extra for the added quality. A great feature available in iTalk is the ability to save all of your recording to your Dropbox account – a cloud server which will make your recordings accessible anywhere from any device.

StoryPress – iPad & Android – Free

Since many family historians these days love to use tablets, StoryPress is a great app for iPads to help you record stories. The app is specifically designed to help you create “books” of stories by walking you through from beginning to end, how to create a story book out of a conversation with a family member. For example, you can create a book about your grandmother’s childhood and the StoryPress app will help you create the book, and give you questions you should ask. Then when you are done it is saved to your library and you can watch it and share with others.

Saving Memories Forever – iPhone, iPad & Android – Free

Much like StoryPress, Saving Memories Forever allows you to create storytellers and add stories according to different categories, like childhood, adolescence, etc. and then prompts questions for you to ask and records the response. Then after you have recorded the story, it is uploaded to their website where you can replay the stories and share them if you’d like. Although the app is free, there is an option for a premium membership online at their website which allows you to have a few other features not available in the free membership.

Timeline 3D – iPhone & iPad – $9.99

Although this app may not be for recording stories, this app creates beautiful multimedia timelines. Use this app on your iPad or iPhone and you use the help of your family to start charting important events in your family’s history. You can then go back and add photos, insert movies, and add more detail. This is a great activity to do with everyone around the dinner table. This could also be a great way for a genealogist to showcase some of the information you have found and present it in a really easy but beautiful visual.

These are some the great apps that are available for you to download straight to your iPhone or tablet. But what if you don’t have a smartphone of a tablet? Don’t worry, there are a few ways you can record audio with your computer that are very quick and easy to find.


For Mac Users:


The easiest and quickest way to record audio is using Quicktime – this is already a program that comes with your computer and should be easy to find. If you aren’t sure if you have it, click on the search function (the magnifying glass) at the top right hand corner of your computer screen and search for “Quicktime”. You should see the program and be able to open it from there. Now to start a new recording, simply go to ‘File’ then ‘New Audio Recording’. This will open a window where you will hit the red record button and pause when you are finished. When you are finished, save the recording somewhere convenient on your computer.

Word in Notebook Layout

Another easy way to record audio for Mac users is through Word. If you have Office for Mac, and you have Word, open a new document. Go to ‘View’ and select ‘Notebook Layout’. This will make your Word document appear like a notebook and your toolbar options at the top of your window will change. You will now see a tab that says ‘Audio Notes’ – here is where you will press ‘Record’ and start capturing your audio. The great thing about using Word to collect audio is that you can also type notes as you go along and when you go back to listen to the audio, you can actually find what was being recorded when you wrote something down. You can also export your audio as a file to save/share.


For PC Users:

Sound Recorder

For a PC user, the easiest way to record any audio is using Sound Recorder. Much like a Mac user, hit the ‘Start’ button in your toolbar and search for ‘Sound Recorder’. Once you find it, open it and click ‘Start Recording’. When you are done hit ‘Stop Recording‘ which will then prompt you to save your audio wherever you want on your computer.


These are just some of the many ways you can start to record and preserve your family story. Now if you’re like my family and probably have an old video camera or handheld voice recorder laying around the house, use what you have! Even if it’s low-tech, it’s still a great way to get started.  For those of you who don’t, I hope this run down of fairly inexpensive options will help out when you’re gathered with your loved ones for the holidays.


What are some of your favorite apps for sharing family stories?





  1. Larry

    What would be really helpful is a list of suggested “starter questions.” Some things to ask family members to get them started on the right track? Any ideas???

  2. Larry

    What would be really helpful would be a list of “starter questions.” Some things to ask family members to get them started on the right track.

  3. Pam Velazquez

    Hi Larry,
    Stay tuned! We will be writing a post about what kinds of interview questions to ask in the next week or two. Make sure and check in on the blog for more information!


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