Today’s research roundup is about collecting and processing your audio and video files. While the process of rounding up digital media files is easy yet sometimes tedious, rounding up hard copy media files can be difficult and expensive. You’ll have to make decisions about what files to convert so you can store them digitally and what files to continue to save in their original format.
Rounding up your digital media files is a matter of finding them on your computer or other devices and storing them all in one place. FHnotebook provides a simple framework for you to store your media files, and you can organize them into family-specific notebooks.
In the last two Research Roundups, we talked about collecting the written word—in the form of personal papers and email. Today, we’ll talk about how to gather photographs and make sense out of the billions and billions of images you have. The wonderful thing about FHnotebook is how you can organize your files into your specific notebooks, storing pictures next to documents and audio files, and you can further label each file with category tags to make them searchable.
First, and most importantly, find a systematic way to gather and digitize your hard copy pictures. Even if you don’t want to spend the time or money to create beautiful digital copies, you should still document your hard copies for several reasons: 1) Security: storing and backing up your files in the cloud means that you’ll always have access to copies of your files, no matter what happens to your computer or home; 2) Storage space: instead of keeping thousands of important photos readily accessible in boxes and file cabinets, you can store them all digitally in your FHnotebook, which will use less space and be more easily accessible; and 3) Organization: not only can you search and find specific items more easily with FHnotebook, but you can add category tags to pictures to group related images in multiple ways, helping you make crucial connections in your family history research.
One of the greatest ways to generate family history information is to interview relatives and record their stories. In theory, this is an easy process, but there are several things to consider when planning on interviewing a family member. How should you go about these interviews? What questions are the most important? Should you keep your great-grandmother focused instead of letting her ramble on about who knows what? I can’t answer these questions for you; each situation is different. But I can give you some advice as you gather valuable and exciting information from your own relatives.
There is plenty to do to prepare for a family history interview. Of course you need equipment: paper and pen, tape recorder, smartphone or tablet—we recommend FHmedia!—etc. Then, you need a plan. Even if you don’t stick to your plan at all during the interview, it’s still smart to have a few topics you want information on and specific questions you want to ask. In many situations, it helps your interviewee to have a specific topic to discuss for this specific interview. You don’t want this discussion to go longer than an hour or two for both of your sakes, so narrowing down the scope of the interview will be helpful.
We talked before about how to incorporate emails with unique family history information into your FHnotebook. The value of consistently and constantly gathering new information about your family history cannot be undersold. This week, we’ll talk about ways to add personal papers—such as letters, notes, lists, cards, etc.—to your FHnotebook.
Personal papers could refer to any piece of paper that has factual information, personal thoughts, or sentimental value in it—so basically any piece of paper that interests you or could interest your family! There are a few ways to digitize your personal papers and add them to your FHnotebook.
A great way to keep the fire of your family history enthusiasm burning is to create a family history blog. Blogs are a great way to collaborate research not only between friends and family, as you can do with email, but with genealogists and family history enthusiasts around the world. It’s easy to set up a blog for free, and you can post entries as often or infrequently as you like.
What is a Family History Blog?
Do any of your New Year’s Resolutions include family history? This is a great time to set new goals to further your family history research. Here are a few common family history resolutions and a few tips for helping you stick to them this year:
2012 is a great year to start getting involved in researching and recording your family history. There are now so many opportunities to help you research. Attend a conference or webinar. Check out a few online databases. Find an online community to share tips and tricks with. Contact relatives you know are involved in family history research—remember, you can share research easily through FHnotebook.
Tip: If you don’t know quite how to jump in, record your own memories using FHmedia. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to type or record your personal history—it’s important, too!
Remember our recommendation to collect memories this holiday season? I hope you were able to do that. If you did, you already have items ready to be organized in your FHnotebook. Now, go through your files and organize any family history information you have into your FHnotebook, where it will be safely backed up on our servers. You want to start the year out without any nagging feelings. If you can’t organize certain items right away, create a task to remind you to do it later.
Tip: Be systematic about your organization. You probably won’t be able to get everything moved over in one sitting, so make a plan that will allow you to be thorough and efficient as you gather and upload items to your FHnotebook.
You may be overwhelmed by the mountain of work ahead of you—your family history is never really complete—so try to find something that excites you. If you feel nagged or obligated to start your research, there is only a small chance that family history will turn into your favorite hobby. However, if you find motivation to keep you going when you hit a dead end or get confused, then you’ll find a way to continue working on your family history.
My motivation comes from listening to actual recordings of my ancestors. For Christmas, my uncle compiled a CD of stories told by my great great grandmother and mailed them to members of the family. Wow! It is amazing to hear her voice and have those stories recorded and passed around the family. Now that we each have a copy of her stories, (now digitized thanks to my uncle’s hard work), the chances of losing those stories are slim.
Tip: Using your FHnotebook, break down your family history into smaller, manageable chunks. As we’ve suggested, you can create a notebook for each side of the family. Within those notebooks, you can create notebooks for specific people or time periods; find a topic you are interested in, and create a notebook for it. This notebook will give you direction as you continue your research.
This time of year is a perfect time to observe and remember holiday traditions and stories. Be sure to use FHmedia and FHnotebook this season and record these memories. You won’t have to dig far to find that treasure trove of family history gems that you should save forever. We have a few suggestions to help you find traditions to record, either in the form of notes, pictures, audio recordings, or videos.
Most families have an event or two that is standard during the holidays. These events could be in the form of Christmas dinner, a trip to get a Christmas tree together, baking together, etc. In my family, every year we have a Christmas Eve gathering with our extended family. It includes dinner, a talent show, and a Nativity Scene Reenactment. It is comforting to have a set event each year—something to rely on even when the rest of the year has been difficult. And when we gather together Christmas Eve, we remember what happened the year before—like when my six-year-old niece wrote a song about hot chocolate and performed it for us, or when we heard a performance from a mini-band consisting of a French horn, trombone, and clarinet. I definitely want to remember stories like these. What events does your family participate in every year?
I was speaking with my mother-in-law, and she gets new Christmas decorations each year. What a novel idea! My family has had the same decorations since I was little. In fact, my mom tried to throw some away one year and we wouldn’t let her. How does your family decorate? Does everything have a theme? Does your mom trust the children to decorate the tree?
During the holidays, cooking is a central theme of family activities, service, and events. I’m sure your family has a traditional treat you make. In my family, my mother always makes a delicious German sweet bread called Stollen. For me, it wouldn’t be Christmas without it—watching my mom make batch after batch, delivering bread to friends, and finally getting to eat our own slices on Christmas Eve at our family gathering.
Besides recording memories of cooking together, you can store your favorite holiday recipes in FHnotebook in the family notebooks they belong to. You can type the recipe into a note, or if you have a cherished recipe card, you can take a photo of it using FHmedia and then upload it to your FHnotebook, preserving the original card while ensuring you never lose the recipe! Cooking meals together can be a memorable experience. Take the time to either tell the stories you remember of cooking together, or gather your family around and tell them the story while you record the experience.
This year, I will write about our Christmas Eve party, include pictures and videos of the event, and write down the memories of previous years. I’ll save my mother’s Stollen recipe so I never lose it. My memories—my notes, pictures, and videos—will be organized into notebooks in FHnotebook with the correct category labels on each item. These treasured memories can then be shared with my family so we all have access to them now and in the years to come.
I struggle to keep track of my digital photo albums. Right now I have hundreds of pictures stored on a jump drive in my closet, a stack of printed photos on my bookshelf, and even more pictures on my 3-year-old laptop—the laptop that probably won’t make it much longer. So, I need a safer place to store my photos. I also need one place to put them all. And even better—a way to categorize each picture so I know who is in it! I am good at labeling folders on my computer, but I have a hard time remembering specifics, such as where I put that picture of the family reunion. (Was it in “Winter 2010”? Or “Family Albums”?)
FHnotebook solves ALL of these problems. You can store and backup all of your photos on our secure servers. Because of this, you can also access your photos from a laptop, your smartphone, tablet, or desktop. And you can keep adding pictures to your FHnotebook. Once you reach your 100 files, upgrade to our Hobbyist plan, which lets you store 1,000 files. And our Genealogist plan gives you 20Gb of storage, or 4,000 files!
Using FHmedia to Collect Pictures
I love knowing exactly where all my digital photos are. But what about my printed photos? Easy: the FHmedia app allows you to scan photographs and documents so you can store them securely with all of your other photos. You can still keep the printed copy, too, for peace of mind. In the app, you can choose the “take a new photo” option or the “scan a document” option. On iOS devices, the scanner has a grid to make it easier to scan documents and end up with straight images. Using FHmedia is great because I can take a photo and immediately upload it onto my FHnotebook. I can even leave a date stamp in the notes section so I know exactly when I took the photo.
The idea behind Family History Notebook is a simple one: You should be able to keep your family's entire story in one secure place. These days you can find fragments of your family story on numerous research websites, in microfilm collections, in boxes of old family journals and photos, and with your living relatives. All these pieces are stored in different places; some of those places aren’t as secure as you might like. Your home is a safe place to store hard copies of everything—until your research is met with a house fire, a flood, or a small child with a permanent marker.