December 9

A for Audio and Video: Recording your Elder’s Memories

Your relatives have a lot of great memories—in their heads! Here's a brief introduction on recording their memories with audio and video.

We hope your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents are still around. Not all of us are so fortunate. When I ask married couples if their parents are still living, the answer usually is three or four. Depending on their age, they might have some grandparents living, too.

I speak from personal experience When I say it is so important to capture your parents’ and grandparents’ memories while you can. My parents both passed when I was in my 20s. When they were gone, I lost my opportunity to ask them about their childhood, high school, college, the Second World War.

I did have two grandmothers that both lived to be 100 years old. I made sure to spend time with both and write down or record their memories. In many cases they had photo albums, so we went through them. I annotated the photos with sticky notes or write in the album itself with a felt-tip pen.

Cassette Recorder with Microphone tapes recording preserving family memories analog

I used a cassette recorder and talked to them for 90 minutes, the length of the tapes.

Digital Voice Recorder Dictaphone recording preserving family memories

Now, there are many ways to capture audio and video from your mobile phone. There also are portable recording devices with better sound capturing than my old tape recorder. Digital voice recorders do this without tapes you have to label organize and store.

You also can walk with them around their home and ask them about the stories for memorabilia. “Tell me the story of this Danish plate,” I asked Grandmother Lil.

Grandmother Lil went one step further: She annotated each figurine and Danish plate she had in her home and made sure the name of person who was to inherit it was on the piece.

Today, I recommend you record your family’s memories using your phone. You’ll have a log of what his or her wishes were at the time. If your parents are still vibrant, focus the conversation on personal history; avoid who gets what when they pass. Recording memories is an important part of your family’s history and one you want to record before it’s too late.

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