family, history

7 Steps To Use Your Phone To Collect Family Stories

0 Comments 15 December 2014

Zana in uniform
It’s never been easier to record stories from you family.  I’ve been doing it for years and have learned so much and heard so many wonderful tales.

Here are a few steps to follow.

1. Before the interview…

Call and talk to your subject (a relative or family member) before to ask their permission and set up a time.  Sometimes with an elderly family member, you’ll want to enlist the help of one of their children to help. My cousin Linda was a big help in collecting photographs and helping out my great aunt ahead of time.

2. Make Sure You Have Room On Your Phone.

This is basic, but easy to forget.  Make sure to clear off your phone so there is plenty of room.  You’ve completed Angry Birds Star Wars 3 times already, so you can delete and win it again.

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 7.26.01 PM

3. Prep your subject on how you want to do the interview.

I recommend doing several smaller clips rather than one really long recording.  Let your interviewee know that you need to do these in shorter clips, where you’ll need to stop them every few minutes between questions.

4.  Figure out what questions you want to ask.

Here is a great list of 50 questions for oral histories: (

Francis in pharmacist school

5. Use photos to spark memories.

A picture is worth a thousands words in interviews as well.  Pick photos of events and family gatherings and ask your subject to describe

– Who was there?

– What do you remember about that day?

– Where did it take place?

– Why was it so important?

6. Ask about personality traits, pastimes, and hobbies.

One of the things that drives me is not just know birth, marriage and death dates to make a family tree, but also what made it a family.  What were people like?  What do you remember most about a person?  What did people say about him or her?  What did they do for fun?

Lana Wedding Picture

7. Download these onto your computer, cloud, or other storage space as soon as possible.

Chances are you’ve recorded things no one else in your family has.  Make sure to save them as soon as possible.  Depending on your comfort level and those of the people you’ve interviewed, you can put them on youtube either as public, unlisted or private links, and share with family and friends.  You can create a Facebook group or a free blog where you can post these as well.

Just doing these simple things can create and save memories for generations to come.

What have you done to make a family history? What has worked and hasn’t worked for you?


- who has written 165 posts on

Christian, husband, dad. Founder of, SVP at Triathlon and history addict.

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This post was written by who has written 165 posts on

Christian, husband, dad. Founder of, SVP at Triathlon and history addict.

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