Seeking Advice – Favorite Recording Methods & Why?

deane duval - funny faceMy Grandma, date unknown

I have been preparing for my big trip.  I’m excited.  But.  I am struggling with a very important decision.  How am I going to record my interviews?

I keep changing my mind.  There are so many different technologies available.  It’s been a long time since I did a proper interview and everything is so different.

Rather than bore you with all of the MANY swirly, crazy thoughts bouncing around in my head about the many different ways I could record my interviews and what I think about each one, I was hoping to get some advice.

What is your favorite method of recording an interview and why?

Do you prefer audio or video?

What technology do you like?

All suggestions, tips, warnings, and advice are welcomed, wanted, and needed!

19 thoughts on “Seeking Advice – Favorite Recording Methods & Why?”

  1. Love the photo. Well audio for me is a bit easier in terms of transcribing the info but for having a proper record of the interview it might be nice to do video, nice to have a record of who you are talking to like that.

    1. Thanks Alex. I’m considering doing a mix of some audio and some video. Any tips on audio recorders? I need to buy a new one. The last time I bought one was so long ago it is a cassette tape recorder. 😉

      1. Well there are plenty of good digital voice recorders out there these days. My husband used to use his ipod with a microphone attached to record team meetings at his work to then type up the minutes later. I suppose it depends on how much use you will get out of it if you buy a digital voice recorder, it would be worth it if you plan to use it regularly.

  2. I personally like video. When I was about 3 or 4, my mom recorded my grandma and her sister telling tales of their family’s involvement in the Civil War while touring the areas. We still have it on VHS (I really need to convert that to DVD!!!) and it’s so neat to SEE them as well as HEAR the stories. It’s also funny because I was a little troublemaker, so my grandma can be heard yelling at me many times! 🙂

    1. Hi Melanie, thanks for the input! I also love to watch old videos. I plan to spend quite a bit of time with my Grandma and some of it really won’t need to be video recorded but I know I want to make sure I do capture some great video moments as well. Isn’t the converting process a pain?! I wish genealogy facilities could afford to have the equipment for converting older items…

  3. The picture is awesome. Your grandmother looks like a fun person. I’ve never recorded anything when talking with people about family history. I usually just take notes and maybe a picture or two–but I probably should be using either audio or video to record what they say.

    1. Thank you. She is definitely fun. I often just take notes as well and then I regret not recording. I really want to make sure I get every detail I can so I’m planning to record away. 🙂

  4. My new favourite recording is my iPad with a digital “Voice Record” App. I find if I turn it on and just set the iPad on the table the interviewee tends to forget that it is there and relaxes more. It doesn’t matter if I the interview is interrupted, I can edit out unnecessary sections. Of course I can also take a few photos or a bit of video on my iPad as well, and show the person I am interviewing my collect of family photos to jog their memory, and they can also view the family tree. I just have to remember to recharge the battery before I set out.

  5. When I interviewed my mom in the last few years of her life, I used a couple of different methods. When I visited her in-person, I pulled out my mp3 player of the day and was able to capture quite a high-quality .wma/.mp3; now I have an app on my phone, which is great as I am always carrying around a recording device. I just don’t have as much opportunity to use it for interviews it seems.
    Another method I used for long-distance interviews was a recording plug-in for Skype, which was very handy. Both methods created file names with dates and times, which was very handy.

    I think my mom preferred audio recordings to video, as the latter made her self-conscious, but I guess that depends on the interviewee.

  6. My advice would be this:
    –video recordings are best- then you get to see the person speaking. If this makes them uncomfortable- put it off to the side, press record once and forget about it- also, have a back up like an ipad digital voice recorder.
    –Don’t forget to snap a picture of you with the individual that day.
    –silence is awkward…but oh so rewarding! If you don’t chime in to fill in the silence- they may go on to elaborate- allow it as much as possible, ramblings can lead to unexpected memories or thoughts.
    –have water and tissues nearby.
    –Sometimes after my interviews, I will have “photo prompts” this is where I hand them an old picture and ask them about it- the background details they might give can be info you would have otherwise never known, like, “Behind us is Smith’s backyard, where I first got kissed”
    You can find these and other tips on my blog at

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