Capture the stories of your loved ones

Nov 23, 2015 | Everything Else

Thursday will be Thanksgiving Day in the US. Families will gather around the table and tell stories to each other.

Family stories

Some stories will be familiar. When I was growing up, no Thanksgiving dinner could go by without one of my parents telling what we called the “sweater story.” It was about the time, early in their marriage, when my mother gave my father’s only sweater to a hobo. She reasoned that my father had a coat and a warm house and that the hobo needed the sweater.

Other stories will be newly told. They will be about old times or special moments, bits of family history and shards of memory. Most of the time those stories will be told and enjoyed but even though they are important, most of them will not be saved.

Save the stories

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to capture those stories. You can record them in audio or video. You can use your smartphone. There’s even an app to help. Decades from now you’ll be able to see what a parent or friend looked and sounded like. You’ll have a record of those special stories you can share.

You can have the recording transcribed if you want a written record. But that’s only the beginning of the benefits.

The interview is its own reward

I’ve done hundreds of interviews over the years and each one is a unique personal experience. Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorps says that “the interview is the purpose.” He’s right.

No matter what you do with the recording or your notes, you and the person you interview will make a unique personal connection. It’s worth the time and worth the effort.

Make Thanksgiving story capture time

Take some time this Thanksgiving to capture some of the stories you love now and want to remember years from now. Take the time to discover stories you’ve never heard before. Enjoy the special experience that sharing important stories can be.

Here are some resources to help you.

A Wall Street Journal story about StoryCorps by Geoffrey Fowler inspired this blog post. It’s titled “It’s Time to Record Our Grandparents’ History.”

From Dave Isay: Everyone around you has a story the world needs to hear (TED talk)

“Dave Isay opened the first StoryCorps booth in New York’s Grand Central Terminal in 2003 with the intention of creating a quiet place where a person could honor someone who mattered to them by listening to their story. Since then, StoryCorps has evolved into the single largest collection of human voices ever recorded. His TED Prize wish: to grow this digital archive of the collective wisdom of humanity. Hear his vision to take StoryCorps global — and how you can be a part of it by interviewing someone with the StoryCorps app.”

The StoryCorps app is available for iOS and Android.

From Pam LeBlanc: Recording your parents’ life stories

“For years I thought about recording my father’s life stories — I didn’t want those tales of basement science experiments gone awry or soy sauce mistaken for fine wine to fade into oblivion. Like most people, though, I put it off. It took my dad’s diagnosis with nonsmoker’s lung cancer to spur me to action.”


“Questions you’ve never thought to ask, sent weekly. Each week we email your loved one a question about their life. You can select them from the hundreds we’ve already written, or you can write your own.”

Wally’s Comment: This is a subscription service that may make capturing stories easier for you.

The UCLA Library Center for Oral History has some helpful interviewing guidelines.