Saturday night story time for my little one consisted of listening to MY Grandpa reading The Tooth Book. This awesome moment was many years and the efforts of several people in the making. Here’s what it took to make the magic happen:
- My Grandpa visited my family years ago – in the 80s maybe? While visiting he pulled out his tape recorder, two blank tapes, and a big stack of our picture books. He read for 2 hours. He must have done it while we were sleeping because I don’t hear any kid noises in the background.
- My mom stored those tapes all this time in her closet. When I asked about tapes of HER Grandpa’s interview she threw in the tapes of MY Grandpa reading stories. This was sometime last year.
- I went to RootsTech this year, connected with Larsen Digital, they emailed me to remind me of their RootsTech special and I took my tapes to them to be digitized.
- When the files got back I really wanted to break those big long audio tracks into individual tracks by story so they would be more user friendly. I asked my cousin Matt to tackle that and he did! On the very day I asked him to help!!
- A few days after we got the tracks back from Matt, my husband dug around in our children’s books to find the only book we currently own that my Grandpa read all those years ago. He sat our little guy down next to me on the couch with book in hand and finally – Family History MAGIC for my preschooler.
I am so grateful that everything worked together to culminate in this cool moment. We have listened over and over to my Grandpa already and I hope we will continue to do so. All of this leads me to a few very specific points I want to make.
First, asking my cousin Matt was a big leap for me. Not because I thought he would say no or anything, just that I, like many of you, bear the responsibility of being the Family Genealogist without complaint or much hope of ever really sharing the load. But is that fair?
When I help new genealogists who are just starting to work on their family history they often express concern that they will “mess something up” and so-and-so in their family will be upset. Because of that they have never gotten involved before and are hesitant now.
This repeated experience has taught me that I probably have family members who would be happy to pitch in if they felt comfortable doing it and knew where to start and what to do. When those audio files showed up in my email from Larsen Digital and I was facing an unknown task that would take me a lot of time to master, I remembered all of this and thought of my cousin Matt.
Here he is. He looks friendly right? He totally is. Plus, he has expressed interest in our family history repeatedly over the years. AND, he happens to have an MBA in something to do with the music industry – I should totally remember what exactly but I don’t. He lives in Tennessee and works in the music industry. I took a stab that he would know how to split apart those tracks or would have access to someone who could teach him.
My thought process went a little something like this – “I will probably spend about two weeks trying to figure this out, get really frustrated, learn a lot of new things, and finally get this done. OR, I could ask Matt. I bet he knows how to do this. If he doesn’t he can ask one of his friends. He could probably do it MUCH faster then me. Plus it gives him a chance to get involved in our Family History and he has wanted that in the past.” Deep breath. “Okay, I’ll ask Matt to help. And be sure to give him an easy way out if he doesn’t want to do it.”
I asked. He accepted. And he did it lickity split, that very day.
Second. All of that hard work and effort by multiple people needs to be preserved and protected in such a way that generations of my family can have access to my Grandpa reading children’s books. So step one was emailing my family to let them know. Step two was inviting them to my dropbox folder with the recordings so they can download and listen to them. And last, step three was more complicated and the most important. I uploaded the audio files to archive.org so that there is a place online where those files will be stored indefinitely. I shared the link on our family Facebook page, in a story on my Grandpa’s page on FamilySearch, and on his page in my private Ancestry tree that my family has all been invited too. This way if they choose not to download the files now or lose track of them, there is a way they can find them.
Third. This experience has caused me to reflect on how we can get our family members more involved in our Family History efforts. I’m certainly not an expert on this but my experience with Matt and with other family members in the past has caused me to consider a few points that help lead to a moment like the one Matt and I shared.
As the family genealogist, we should create broad family interest in our history through regular, gentle, bite-sized sharing of stories, photos, artifacts, and facts about our family. Then we need to pay attention to who is interested in what we share. What special skills do they have and how can those skills help our family history efforts? What is their schedule like? How much time could they share?
This simple equation has been successful for me in the past in small ways and once again with my cousin Matt and these audio tracks.
Have you been able to get your family members involved in your Family History work? If so, how? If not, what have you tried that didn’t work?