Recording Families’ Voices & Passing on Stories – capturing the past

BBC’s Broadcasting House are featuring Guy Garvey’s appeal to record the voices & stories of parents – encouraging grandparents, parents & elderly relatives to make the offer to younger members of families: “If you would like to record my stories for future generations to listen to, that would be OK with me”

No But – Yes Because
Yet so many of the residents of care homes in which Special2Us works come up with comments such as “No, no, nobody would be interested in what I have to say” or “nobody cares when you are as old as me”

But in every family, there is always a favourite saying… or an anecdote… maybe its about Uncle Nick being too mean to keep the heating on or Auntie Hannah who always gave her glasses away after having had “one too many”…

Buts its these stories which bind families together… what about Cousin Steve who when riled would snap down the newspaper & announce “I neither know nor care”?

They did WHAT?
But out of these stories also comes social & technology history – for my daughter, it’s amazement to hear that in 1960s one house (Fred & Joan’s) on Kersley Road and neighbours would queue up and give 6d (2.5p) to make a local call… and close friends were allowed. A year in advance: to book a call to Australia on Christmas Day… in those days, it was called an ADC (Advised Duration & Cost) so the phone’s owners could charge their friends for the cost of the use of the phone.

A Funny Way of Talking
Another useful application of recording relatives & relations is to chart the changes in language & speech patterns in the family: would a grandchild use a sentence of 30-40 words containing such descriptions as “obfuscation” or is that  more likely to be the dialect and lexicography of their grandchildren and the rich Uncle who “went to a posh school”?… but by looking at the length & complexity of words, sentence construction & the changes in accent within regions, the family’s recordings can chart a far more interesting social history than a “dates-names-places-parentage” study in genealogy can ever achieve.

Never too Early, Never too Late
Special2Us exhibited at the Idea Home Show earlier this year… we chatted to 7,200 visitors, of which more than a few would say things such as “I wish I’d done that before my mother died” or “It’s too late now, my grandfather has passed away” Frustrating comments when, on further questioning, the man who said everything was too late had 6 children all of whom were interested in their grandmother and, no doubt, would have treasured his memories & stories about his own childhood and how he was brought up.

Start Now, Start with Somebody Else
My Auntie May was a cantankerous whats-it… very kind but always critical and always contrary. A mine of interesting information which was never talked about but it would immediately come forth when the conversation would be  started by “Grandma said…” to which May would always reply “Edith always gets things wrong, let me tell you what REALLY happened”

Ready Steady GO
Maybe you already have the family’s old photos scanned & ready to go? If not (& none of us ever have!), how about a simple, quick, “easy win” start? Pull out your phone, click the favourite picture on the mantle-piece or bedside table and use that as the conversation starter… “who took the picture?” or “what did you do later that day/” or “who else in the family has got pictures that could go with this one/”.

One of the features of Special2Us is that voice recordings create a transcription of the recording, so if there are facts you might want to remember or check up on, a quick click on the search facility can identify the word or phrase that’s needed. If there are other members of th family who would like a transcription in their 1st language, the translation option will produce transcription in any one of over a hundred natural dialects. Be it Tamil or Turkish, English or Estonian, if the voice is clear, so are the words, the emotions and the family’s history.

The story is just the starter, the technology just the link between yesterday and tomorrow’s tomorrow

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