5 Tips for Preserving Family Memories
Jamie Yuenger, founder of StoryKeep, shares her best advice
Jamie Yuenger is in the business of preserving family memories. She founded StoryKeep, a service that provides families with Hollywood-quality books and documentaries. You read that right: Her company will create a documentary and/or a book about your family. Though not everyone may have the ability to invest in such a project, Jamie shares some lower-cost ways to honor your family’s history. Here are her top tips.
1. Focus on one thing you’re passionate about
You may have boxes and boxes of letters that your grandparents wrote to each other or family photos scattered about your home in various albums. Set an achievable goal like digitizing 50% of the best photos and loading them into an online photo book. You don’t have to do everything in one sitting. Set aside half a Sunday for a month and get the project done before starting anything else.
2. Establish trust
If you want a family member to open up about their life, it’s essential to prove that you don’t have ulterior motives and won’t abuse or misuse the information you receive. Show your own vulnerability by sharing your own stories; build rapport from an equal exchange. Never push—if a relative wants something off the record, keep it there until they’re comfortable allowing the point back in. Remember: it may not be the film or recording that has the most value. Often these personal conversations can bring about healing and that in itself is meaningful.
3. Listen with intention
If you plan to interview family members to capture their stories, put on the hat of a journalist and be an observer, not a participant. Ask a question you’re genuinely interested in and truly listen to the answer without interrupting or sidetracking. You can record the sessions and type up the transcripts, or take notes by hand or on a computer.
4. Embrace awkward silences
Often when there’s a pause in a conversation, we’re anxious to fill it. If you really want to get an interesting response to a question, allow your subject—even if it’s shy Aunt Betty—to take the time to fill the space. You may be surprised at what emerges.
5. Remember time is of the essence
Try not to procrastinate when it comes to paying homage to a cherished family member or family story. Honor them while the important players are still alive. It’s an incredibly rewarding journey for all involved.
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