No other family is exactly like yours. Search out those memories that are unique to you and yours and preserve them. As I’ve said before, my favorite method is to use the tape recorder. I find that much easier than trying to write down all that’s said, and I can refer back to the tape later to be sure I have it right. Also, it’s great to have your loved one’s voices preserved.

Here are four tips for where—and how—to get good recordings:

  1. Always start by speaking the date into the recorder. Also, identify who is speaking. Afterwards, label the tape so you can tell at a glance who you’ve recorded.
  2. Carry a tape recorder in the car and share tidbits of your life as you travel. My husband and I have done that and told little details of our childhood and school days. The only drawback is the road noise the recorder picks up. However, some programs can filter out at least part of the unwanted noise later.
  3. Family reunions or any family get-togethers are good for story-telling. Be straightforward and ask for stories. That works better than trying to be sneaky with a hidden tape recorder. One story brings back memories of another, and we can usually get several good ones. At one reunion, my cousin asked our uncle to tell how he broke his leg when he was young. His voice was no longer strong, and he wasn’t sure it would hold up well enough for him to tell of that childhood accident. But he did, and we have the story as only he could have told it.
  4. For several years we have had annual campouts with my husband’s siblings. We sit around the campfire, I turn on the tape recorder, and the stories begin. Honestly, I don’t know how my in-laws survived the escapades of those five kids! Sometimes the siblings don’t agree on how the incidents occurred, and that just adds to the interest. They manage to work in some good stories about their parents, too—like the time my mother-in-law threw the dishwater out the door. That dirty water went straight up and came down on her head.
  5. Interviews are good sources, too. When my daughter-in-law had to interview senior citizens for a college class, she asked my dad to tell about life in the 1930s.

Next month: Ideas for sharing the memories you’ve collected.