Do you like the idea of your life being written up so it can be passed on to your family, but you’re worried you haven’t done enough exciting things or are not good with computers? If you would like to compile a record of family stories and memories, there is now a choice of digital and analogue solutions to suit everyone. Which ever method you choose, the first thing to do is talk to your relatives.
Frederique Hull, director of digital memory solution Family Quilt, says it is not unusual for people, especially older ones, to be shy and unassuming about their lives. “What can they possibly talk about that is worth telling? For the family whom they are sharing with it is completely different, pretty much everything is interesting. It does not take long before they realise how little they really know about their parents/relatives and so they love hearing the stories of daily lives, of hardships and joyful events. They are not looking for momentous achievements!” To help the process, Family Quilt has collected over 150 questions covering themes from growing up to working life and wisdom. “In those questions, there is a starting point for everybody. Browse them and see where they take you. Getting going is the hardest. Once started, stories will come back flowing.”
Jim Martin, director of memory video producer Loftbox, agrees. “Being comfortable and relaxed is key and that’s why we visit people in their own home. I am a very good listener with great empathy which, combined with my 25 years experience in conducting interviews and as a qualified oral historian, means I can talk about a wide range of topics designed to relax people and to stimulate conversation.”
Yvette Lowery of memoir publisher Personal Memento feels that with the advent of email, text and social media, the soul has gone out of our communication. “I find little things like receiving a hand-written letter or card through the post really heart-warming as it tends to be something that we just don’t do any more. It is quicker and easier to fire off an email, but this can lack that personal touch. We store photographs on our computers and smartphones, but what if the computer or phone crashes and these images become obsolete? There has been an increased interest in personal history over these last few years, and I feel that many people still like to have something solid in front of them, be it a photo album or a book, rather than looking at images on a screen.”
Memory books are a craft-based way of taking a standard album, adding your mementoes and photos, choosing scrapbooking papers and embellishments to create a very personalised record of your family member. Eve Parris of Uniform Memories advises her clients on the compilation of a themed album that could become a treasured family album. “We live in a digital age where everything is supposedly available at the click of a button – except that it isn’t. Instead of the hundreds of photographs that you never look at on your computer, scrapbooking provides a personal and tangible reminder of that special someone or occasion. Something that you have spent time on, that is as individual as you are and that can evoke memories at the mere turn of a page.”
Family Quilt’s Frederique Hull says it comes down to personal choice. “The ‘old fashioned’ books and the digital solutions may suit different people (especially if some older persons are less confident with computers) but in my mind, importantly, they are complementary. Digital solutions give you a lot of flexibility – you can choose how you record your stories (write, voice or video record), you can keep adding over time, you can easily save draft stories. They also make sharing easy – across different locations and in real time. But holding a book in your hand of your life story or of your family history remains really special. The browsing of the book creates great emotions. The physical book is also the visible legacy of a life well spent, of a family across generations.”
Loftbox’s Jim Martin says families are merging keepsakes with digital records. “An ageing population is part of the answer, but also we are seeing the suitcase in the attic generation digitizing their old analogue content in order to merge it with their new digital content.” Loftbox captures film of loved ones telling their memories so future generations can experience a relative’s, personality, smile, laughter and tears.
It is common to view your own life as mundane, but when family stories are shared with relatives you may be surprised at how vibrant your life really is. Just think of the laughter and tears at family reunions when old photographs are share. Yvette Lowery of Personal Memento says it is important to remember that, “future members of your family, many of whom will not be in existence for many years to come, will learn about what your life was like, the person you are and what really matters to you. Important pieces of a family’s history are found only in the memories of the living relatives and creating a book for yourself is a great way to ensure your memories are recorded accurately and gives you the opportunity to share with people the memories that you have never had time to discuss. This is an exciting process and the completed book will be cherished by your loved ones and yourself, as well as future generations.”
This professional memoir writing service is a family business that enables someone to create their own unique biography making a permanent legacy for family and loved ones. Director Yvette Lowery says, “Your life events and memories are what make you the unique person that you are, and we help you create a solid, permanent record of your life for the enjoyment of both yourself and your loved ones. Future generations will discover much more about you and how life has changed over the years in a personal, interesting way, rather than through a history book.”
Interviews are always conducted by Yvette Lowery, either face to face or by Zoom/Skype or over the telephone. The client decides how he/she would like her book to be created and which photographs they would like included. Documents such as army credentials, marriage certificates and other documentation which is important to the client can be included within their book. “We work with the client to produce the front and back cover and offer various suggestions to enable the client to make an informed decision.”
The client’s life and memories are discussed during weekly, fortnightly or monthly interviews; these are recorded, written and edited, to create their unique, individual book. Each book takes between eight to ten interviews, but Personal Memento is flexible and can adapt to suit the client. “The client can regularly review their story to ensure that they are happy every step of the way and prior to publication of their completed book they will receive the printer’s proof copy for approval.The relationship between the client and myself is important and there needs to be trust, respect and sincerity.
“I understand and respect that some discussions may be of a confidential nature and not to be recorded or written in any form. If clients choose to conduct interviews through other mediums rather than face to face, we can arrange for photographs and documents to be securely mailed to us. We would like to be able to work with any client who wishes to use our services, with no geographical or other barriers which may prevent this.”
Personal Memento website
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From complete beginners who are looking for that unique way of capturing memories, or seasoned scrapbookers who wish to advance their craft, Uniform Memories can provide an individual service, with advice and ideas to allow them to complete that special project. Classes and courses are available to guide customers on the basics allowing them to build a unique and truly personal memory that can evolve and grow as they wish. Director Eve Parris says, “although the business was started to provide and sell scrapbook materials on a military theme, it is this personal service that makes us stand apart from out competitors.”
Uniform Memories at Facebook
Family Quilt is a fresh and easy way to digitally capture your life stories. In your private online space, capture the memories that make you and your family unique. Voice record or write your memories, add photos and files and easily share them with your chosen family members. A digital collection of memories is easy to share with family members in different locations. The collection is easy to build over long periods of time – there is no end to collecting. The stories can be voice recorded or written up giving choice and variety to the storyteller. The memories are easy to browse as they can be viewed in different ways (date they happened, date of input, topics). You can always print a book of your memories if you wanted to.
Sharing family stories is a very personal journey. Not all the stories are happy, not all the stories make us proud. And yet when sharing, candidness is critical to preserve the person’s or the family’s legacy. Privacy, and controlling who sees your stories is a key element to help a story teller feel safe in his/her openness. Family Quilt was built to be completely private and we have 2 in-built features to provide this safety: the storyteller chooses who they want to share their Quilt with. From their account tab, they invite the family members they want to share with – if any, and they can remove them at any time. We, at Family Quilt, do not have access to the stories written by the members. The storyteller can also decide when a story is shared with their family members by choosing to publish it to their Quilt. A story can be saved as a draft for as long as one is not happy to share it.
Cost: one-off £24 purchase. This gives you a lifetime access to the system, unlimited stories, unlimited photos and unlimited family members to share with. We have kept the price affordable to encourage as many families as possible to collect, share and enjoy their memories.
Family Quilt website
Family Quilt at Facebook
A Loftbox interview can be arranged and implemented quickly. Some of the most candid and entertaining interviews Jim Martin has done have been those with the least planning and advance preparation. “Everyone has stories to tell and whilst these might not appeal to a national TV audience, your family and friends will love to hear them. Stories from your childhood are always great to hear along with insights into what you got up to as a teenager, your first crush/kiss and falling in love, your achievements and the lessons you have learned on the way are all great stories to hear told in your own unique way.”
Typical interviews are conducted over a two hour session, with the edit taking five to seven days to complete and send for approval or feedback. Loftbox can incorporate treasured photographs into a personal film, explains Jim Martin. “In my experience, people have spent a lot of money converting thousands of photographs and hundreds of 35mm slides and cine films into digital format, and still haven’t done anything meaningful with them since. Our main focus is on capturing your stories on film, after which we will identifying very specific photographs and video clips that will be used to enhance the interview material.”
Once the project is completed the invoice is paid, the the rights of that video are passed to the customer. Loftbox deletes the master files in accordance with GDPR.
Cost: £499 which includes the pre-filming conversation to assess priorities, travel to the client’s home, set up of video/sound/lighting, two hour interview, video editing, one set of client amendments and exporting the film onto a dedicated USB card. A secondary edit – to add in photographs and other media to support the stories and memories being shared – is charged separately.
Watch this video to see how Loftbox works.
Loftbox at Facebook
Don’t leave it too late. This moving film by Loftbox encourages us all to share our memories now. Anyone that has lost someone close, or is faced with losing a loved one who is terminally ill will know that feeling of wanting to turn the clocks back to talk more about their early lives and to record those magical memories to treasure in the future.
For more articles about researching family records, try:-
The paternity question
Researching European records
20 top tips to find your missing family
Ignoring Gravity is first in the ‘Identity Detective’ series of novels. Two pairs of sisters, separated by a generation of secrets. Rose Haldane is confident about her identity. She pulls the same face as her grandfather when she has to do something she doesn’t want to do, she knows her DNA is the same as his. Except it isn’t: because Rose is adopted and doesn’t know it.
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