A family history priority is gathering stories & records from family members while we still can.
This Thanksgiving my mother-in-law started talking about her ancestors from Norway. She’s the oldest living relative on her side of the family and she was telling stories from her childhood no other living family would know or remember.
We panicked and asked for a Thanksgiving Day redo. After picking up her family albums, we asked her to tell us what she remembered about each photo and we recorded her stories, scanned the photos, and uploaded them to FamilySearch on their Memories page.
A great place to record and store family stories is FamilySearch. It’s completely free and there’s never a charge for storing photos, audio files, or stories. Even better, anyone who creates a free FamilySearch account can search the entire body of tagged photos/stories/documents, so it’s an easy way to share with extended family (rather than using Dropbox, etc).
FamilySearch Memories can be accessed with a phone app or your personal computer. If you opt to use the phone app you can download it for iOS devices at the Apple Store or Android devices at Google Play. I use both the phone app and my personal computer. There are more available features if you use your computer but the phone app offers easy portability as well as an immediately available photo and/or audio recording device.
First I’ll share how I to use FamilySearch Memories on a personal computer and then I’ll share some information about the phone app.
If you have an account at FamilySearch, in the upper right-hand corner you’re prompted to Sign In, otherwise, you’re prompted to create a Free Account before you can add photos or stories or visit the Gallery.
With a free account at FamilySearch, you’ll select Memories from the top menu bar.
MEMORIES – MENU OPTIONS
Below is a screenshot of the Memories menu at FamilySearch with the top menu bar expanded so you can see your options which include:
Overview, is a page for beginners to learn what’s available and be linked to other menu options
Gallery, is where you’ll go to Add a Memory (photo, story, or audio)
People, if you have a free family tree at FamilySearch, People displays every deceased person you are related to who has a memory (photo, story, or audio) uploaded and tagged to a person at FamilySearch Memories
Find, is where you’ll search the entire tagged FamilySearch Memories database, by an individual’s name, for any photos, stories, or audio clips about that individual
MEMORIES – OVERVIEW
Visit the Overview page if you have any questions about FamilySearch Memories and what it offers. You can use this page to Add a Memory by following this path:
Select Memories, then select Overview, then select Add a Memory, or Go the Gallery, or See the List View
MEMORIES – GALLERY
The Gallery is where you’ll add all your memories.
On the top menu, first select Memories, then select Gallery
You will be taken to a page that looks like this. Yours will be pretty empty if you haven’t added memories before.
First, you’ll move your cursor to the type of media you want to add, and you’ll select that media option.
Your options are:
a photo (camera icon)
a story (book icon)
a document (paper icon)
an audio file (microphone icon)
Then, after you’ve selected a media type, you’ll hit the green + button.
How to Add a Photo in the Gallery
So to add a photo to FamilySearch Memories, Gallery:
First, you’ll move your cursor to the camera icon
Then, you’ll select the green + button
Now that you’ve selected add a photo, you’ll be prompted to Drag and drop files to upload or Choose Files (from your computer)
In our case, we needed to quickly scan a few old photos before we could upload them.
Don’t have a scanner?
There are phone apps you can use to create scans of documents or photos (PhotoScan by Google for iOS or Android is one option). You can also check with your local library or a nearby Family History Center to see if they have scanners you can use. (Any service at an LDS Family History Center will be free. I’m going with my mother-in-law to a local Family History Center to scan the rest of the photos in her magnetic album because they have a high speed, automatic-feed scanner which will save us hours of work.)
We have an old scanner, nothing exciting, and we quickly scanned some photos and saved them on our computer as .tif files at 600 dpi so we’d have high-quality scans for our personal library. Then we saved a second copy of each photo as a .jpg file to get the file size below the 15 MB maximum permitted for photos being uploaded to FamilySearch Memories.
You can also attach photos from connected accounts at Facebook, Instagram, or Google Photos. FamilySearch supports these file types: .jpg, .tif, .bmp, .png, .pdf, .mp3, .m4a, and .wav, up to 15MB.
After you upload a photo you have lots of options for things you can do with the photo. The effort I put into this on Thanksgiving Day was pretty minimal, but I’ll show you what I did.
I tagged Minnie in this photo to add this memory to her page in the Family Tree. Now this memory can be seen by others.
I gave a brief description of the photo, especially helpful because the filename I used was pathetic.
I used this option to add a story about Minnie.
I didn’t do anything here, but anyone who views this photo on FamilySearch can comment and connect with you. Sometimes family members will comment on a photo I’ve uploaded or add their own story in the comments.*
*If someone adds a comment to your photo/story/audio file, it will show up in your Gallery with a comment icon on the far right side.
How to Add a Story to your Photo
Back to adding a story to a photo. I opted to add a story to this photo using the Add button (by the Green Arrow 3 above).
When I added the story, I quickly typed what my mother-in-law said. These were just off the cuff remarks and can be edited later for a more polished family history. I love hearing not only the memories but the actual speech patterns of the storyteller. If you read the story below, you’ll see it’s in desperate need of editing for clarification and accuracy.
Below is a picture of the story I added to the photo.
How to Add a Story with no Photo
Back to FamilySearch Memories, if you have a story to tell, but no photo, move your cursor to the book icon and then select the green + button.
I was on the phone with an aunt who is the oldest living relative on my mother’s side of the family and she started to tell me a family story from her father’s side of the family. I’d never heard the story and I knew it would die with her if I didn’t write it down so I quickly logged into FamilySearch and added the story to “Memories” and then attached it to our deceased ancestor, Laura Ella Vernon, on a shared family tree. When I’m adding stories told by someone else, I preface the story with that person’s name and either “recollections” or “memories” to let people know who is actually telling the story. FamilySearch records me as the contributor and I don’t want people to be confused and think these are my personal recollections.
MEMORIES – FIND
You use the Find menu to search the ENTIRE database of tagged Memories at FamilySearch and find photos, stories, or documents uploaded by anyone. These memories need to have been tagged (attached to a person’s page at the Family Tree at FamilySearch) in order for them to show up in your search results. So be sure to tag any of your memories you want to share.
Go to Memories, then Find, and type in a name. You can limit your search returns by photos, stories, or documents.
MEMORIES – PEOPLE
If you’ve created a free family tree at FamilySearch, there’s a menu option, Memories, then People, which will automatically pull up all tagged photos, stories, documents, etc for any person in your family tree.
In the People image below, I didn’t add all these photos and I don’t know who some of these people are, but I can select View My Relationship beneath any photo and FamilySearch will show me how I’m related to them.
(This is one of the benefits and drawbacks of a FamilySearch family tree, it’s a shared family tree you don’t solely control, but you benefit from all the work distant relatives do, extending your family tree. Somewhere, you need to have a family tree you alone control.)
Long Story Short
So, long story short, any time you gather with family, either in person, online, or by phone, do yourself and your posterity a favor and take a few extra minutes to record the family memories. You can use the camera on your phone (remember to have the volume on) or type stories into your computer as they dictate, but don’t let the opportunity to record family memories slip away.
One of my regrets is not leaving a recording device going as we gathered for my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday party when her six sons told stories about their childhoods. It was like sitting in a confessional hearing “what really happened.” How the fire really started, what really happened when Mom and Dad went on a dream vacation and left the oldest son in charge, etc. As they were telling stories and we were all laughing, I thought to myself, “I’ll never forget that story!” Wrong. Two years later I can’t remember what had us laughing so hard.
If you don’t want to stifle the family fun by pausing to type up a story, ask everyone’s permission to turn on your video camera and record them telling their stories (remember you can’t upload video files to FamilySearch Memories, but you can type up the story from the video) OR ask if they’ll let you record their voices as they tell their story, using the FamilySearch Memories app to record/create this audio file. But absolutely ask permission before you record someone.
DO ask permission before you record a story
DO record the story, with permission, in some format, be it video, audio, or text
DON’T record a story without permission (I’ve been told some family secrets that I was specifically asked not to share. These will die with me.)
DON’T miss an opportunity to save memories of your ancestors and make them accessible to your family and posterity
If you opt to use the phone app instead of your personal computer, you’ll still need to create a free account at FamilySearch but you’ll have the added benefit of being able to instantly record a story on your phone (audio only) you can then upload to your FamilySearch Memories. There’s never a charge for storing these memories at FamilySearch and once you’ve synced your memories they will be removed from your phone, clearing up space on your device. With the app, you’ll also have access to all your memories at FamilySearch and you can pass your phone around and let others see the stories and photos you’ve uploaded.
And last of all, once you’ve created an account at FamilySearch, you can search the Memories/Gallery for any stories or photos about your relatives others may have uploaded. This is a feature you can only do from a personal computer. The phone app does not let you search the entire Gallery at FamilySearch; it only lets you search your personal gallery.
Happy Holidays and remember to record and share those memories!