Using Technology to Help You Share Your Family’s Stories
A recurring theme here at Modern Heirloom Books is that while we are drowning in our digital images, most people are not doing anything really worthwhile with their pictures. That’s a main reason we exist as a company—to help you curate your pictures and craft them into stories you can share through exquisitely designed books.
What of those stories, though? There is plenty you can do to ensure that you are—easily!—capturing bits and pieces of your family history along the way. Even if a photo book is way off in your future, take steps now to make life easier later.
In the last few years a host of memory sharing sites have arisen to help tech-savvy families record and share their family memories. Some have evolved over time, while new ones continue to hit the app store in an attempt to simplify the process with more elegant and engaging interfaces. Many of them are too labor-intensive or convoluted to warrant your time, however (and I doubt they’ll be around in a few more years).
One Memory-Sharing App That’s Worth Your Time—and One to Watch (IOHO)
You know those fill-in-the-blank memory books that tempt on Barnes & Noble bookshelves, or the beautiful journals that promise to leave your story for your children? (You know, the one that sits on your nightstand with just two pages filled in?) They’re a wonderful idea, if only we’d truly sit down and answer the questions. StoryWorth is like a digital version of these books, but with so many more benefits.
StoryWorth recipients receive a weekly email prompting them to answer a question based on their life experiences. The array of questions is vast and evocative, though users may always choose to answer a question they themselves craft. When a reply is input, answers are emailed to a preset list of people (so, as many family members and friends as you want to designate may receive your stories).
The value? It’s easy and fun to answer these prompts, whether a subject types a response on the website or via email, or chooses to record an audio clip over the phone. Photos and audio files can also be uploaded to the site, and stories—all saved on StoryWorth and available for printing or download at any time—are editable and secure. Remember: These aren’t biographies you’re crafting. They are nuggets from your (or your mother’s or grandfather’s) life—the time you hitchhiked across the state, the first time he flew on an airplane, that time none of the kids could find the hidden Easter eggs—colorful tales that the rest of there family will be thrilled to discover.
The site has a few packages ranging from $39 to $119 per year, and they offer a one-month free trial (you don’t even have to enter your credit card to start your trial). Check it out.
If your memories are all over the multimedia map and you want something more dynamic and mobile-friendly, I venture to guess that the imminent app I Rememba might be a good choice. I can’t say much more, though, as the app is still in development; I have signed up for access to their beta launch, so I’ll update you when I’ve eventually had time to test it. Why does it warrant my interest? Well, I am right there with the founder’s inspiration:
The launch site promises ways to preserve, capture, and share memories, in whatever format (video, audio, photo, text, and even family tree charts), and to “leave your legacy through time capsules.” I Rememba, like Modern Heirloom Books, is about preservation of memories and connecting generations. I’ll be watching them!
Family History vs. Family Stories
There is a place for memoirs and full-fledged biographies: the library.
Your own stories should not be told in minute detail, covering every life decision and milestone. I am not insinuating that your accomplishments and experiences are not worthwhile—truly, I am not. But for most of us, that…long…story would be rather…boring.
Perhaps it is important for you to chronicle your heritage, and I value a detailed family tree as much as any genealogist. For me, though, the personal tales that inspire a smile or reveal a person’s character are of even greater value. As the cliché goes, no one wants to sit through two hours’ worth of family vacation video, but a highlight reel is always welcome! Likewise, your descendants don’t want to feel like they are reading a 100-page history lesson, but rather as if they are being introduced to the interesting, unique people who came before them.
The memory-sharing apps mentioned above are great options for capturing the memories that matter. You’ll know which stories resonate when you get responses from your family members. “OMG I had no idea you were such a rebel soul!!” “I always knew you had a generous spirit, but this is above and beyond.” “LOL you are the same now as when you were 6yo!” “Now that I’m a mom I do the same thing!!”
“You’re not faced with thinking about your whole life or even what story you want to tell,” Nancy Mills told the NY Times about her experience with StoryWorth. “It’s like you’re having a conversation.”
And editing out stories that are less impactful—meaning that when you read them months later they don’t make you feel something—is easy.
Whether you actually sit down and use a good old-fashioned pen to record your memories (my mother did, and the book she left me will be forever cherished) or you subscribe to StoryWorth or another tech-aid, just do it. Get your stories down, and saved in one place.
Then, when you’re ready, let’s turn them into something even more special.