How Do You Tell a Family History Story – Audio

How Do You Tell a Family History Story – Audio


We've explored possibilities for telling your family story in the last two blog articles. We've looked at the written word and video. In this article, I want to focus on another way to tell your family story: audio.

How Can You Tell Your Family Story Via Audio?

Most genealogists are familiar with conducting and recording oral interviews. With mobile devices, capturing audio recordings is easy. Most mobile devices have the built-in ability to record audio files, but you can download a recording app and even add an external mic, though it's unnecessary. If you'd rather not use our mobile device, you can use Skype, Zoom, or other programs to record audio from your computer.

How can you conduct an oral interview? It can be as simple as asking a few questions to start a conversation. The Legacy Webinars, Capturing their Stories: Best Practices for Recording Family History Interviews by Colleen Robledo Greene, MLIS and Nicka Smith's The Ultimate Family History Interview can help you with preparing and conducting your interviews.

Audio recordings don't have to be only interviews. You can record yourself talking about memories or stories. Is your family musical? You could record some of the music your family creates. The type and topic of the recording are only limited by your imagination.

Once your audio files are recorded, you can either upload the files to a cloud software program to be available to other family members or edit the files and create your family podcast. Articles online can help you through the steps of creating a podcast, including How to Record Your Own Family History Podcast from Family Tree Magazine.

If you create a family podcast, consider using a blog to add the link, transcription, and any records or images accompanying the episode. That way, your family can listen to the podcast and see any images you are describing or help tell the story.

Other opportunities exist for recording interviews. Programs like Story Corps encourage families to record stories in their studios or with the Story Corps App. The Story Corp website includes "great questions" to ask to get the conversation started.

For those planning a trip to Salt Lake City, The FamilySearch Library (previously known as the Family History Library) has a recording studio where you can record in audio or video. Some FamilySearch Centers also offer a recording studio.

What Story Will You Tell?

Can you utilize audio files for your family history story? Yes! Sometimes, you can use text, video, and audio files to tell the story your family is waiting for. Take some time to consider what family stories you want to tell and how to best do them. I'd love to hear your ideas. Please post them in the comments below.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


How Do You Tell a Family Story - Video

How Do You Tell a Family Story: Video

Last week, I asked, "How Do You Tell a Family Story?"  In that article, I focused on a book-length treatment of your family history. Thanks to everyone who commented on how they tell their family story. Keep those comments coming because we will revisit them in a future blog post.

I focused on the written word, but there are other ways to tell a story. With today's technological advances, you can skip the book and tell a story using video. Depending on length, videos can be uploaded to YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook or saved as an MP4 file to be placed on a computer or mobile device.

Your mobile device can be used to take videos for your family story. Additional accessories such as external microphones, tripods, and ring lights can help but aren't mandatory. You can make your video as simple or more complex (adding music and subtitles) as you want. However, keep in mind that a family history video should be short (ideally less than 15 minutes). Why? People (your family) are likelier to watch a short video than a long one. Consider making several shorter videos if you have a long story to tell.

To help get started in creating a family video, consider the following Legacy webinars on the topic for best practices:

What could you create a family video about? Just like the book-length treatment, the possibilities are endless. Some examples include:

  • A recreation of a family recipe
  • An interview with a family member exploring one question
  • Asking several family members to share their memories of an ancestor or an event
  • An overview of a family reunion
  • A "field trip" to a family home, a burial place, an ancestral town.
  • An heirloom and the story behind the heirloom

Will You Tell Their Story With Video?

The benefit of sharing family history via video is it can be easier and quicker than writing a book or a long narrative. Those who don't feel comfortable writing might find this alternative preferable. A brief interview with grandma (or yourself) can start you on the route of providing your shared family history with your descendants.

Have you told a family history story via video? Share the link with us in the comments below. Also, feel free to share your ideas and best practices.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


How Do You Tell A Family History Story?

How Do You Tell A Family History Story?

One of the questions I have been pondering is how do you tell your ancestors' stories? How do you tell their story, whether it's an individual ancestor, a family, or a specific family line?

When I started researching genealogy, I would read Everton's Genealogical Helper. In the Helper were advertisements for publishers who would print family history tomes. I remember thinking this was the research's ultimate goal: to publish a thick hardback book tracing one's family back generations. Then one of these publishers printed the books, and you would distribute them to all who wanted to pay $50 or so to get a copy.

But that was a long time ago, before the internet and the technological tools we have today. So is this the only way to tell a family's story?

It can be, but with self-publishing, online tools, and non-genealogists creatively telling family stories, it's time to rethink the family history tome.

How Do You Tell a Story?

Maybe you've been hesitant to print or publish your family history. I can understand how intimidating it can be with the proper numbering systems, proofreading, and the hundreds of pages it may take. But that's not the only way to tell a story. First, you need to decide who will be included. It can just be one ancestor. It can be a series of small narratives; it doesn't have to be 300 pages.

I'm always looking for exciting ways people tell their family stories. Here are a few examples I have found.


Autobiographical Comic/Graphic Memoir. Yes, I wrote "comic." Though I don't possess this talent, I've read two autobiographical comics with great stories and family history. Plus, what a great way to put your family's story in the younger generations' hands (and non-kids will also enjoy it). I recommend reading Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley and I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir by Malaka Gharib.

Grandma cookbook

Family Cookbook: You can put together a family cookbook in many ways. It might be one of the easier ways to tell your family's story. Don't stop at recipes. Include photos, relationships, and stories. You can use cookbook publisher templates to make it easy, or you can put tougher your cookbook and have it printed via your local copy store. I like this one I picked up at a book sale that is 8 ½ x 11 and includes over 1000 recipes (that's a lot! Don't worry about having much less). It contains photos and information about "Grandma Frank." A cookbook might be an easy way to dip your foot in the family history book water.

Mother charms

A Biography of Their Stuff: Have you considered writing something about your memories or the history of items your ancestors or family owned? My Mother's Charms by Kathleen Oldford looks at the author's inherited charm bracelets and the stories behind the charms. This is a creative way to tell a family story. You can research inherited or just items you remember and tell your family story through these.

How Will You Tell Their Story?

How have you told your family history story? What are your plans for future stories? We can all benefit from the experience of others, so please leave a comment below.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


Find American Historical Sites with Clio

Summer is winding down, but you may still have a few U.S. travel plans. Do you ever travel to a new place and wonder what historical sites exist? Do you want to take a staycation to visit the historical sites where you live? Clio is one way to identify what historical sites are near you, wherever you are.


Clio is a free, US-based website. The website describes itself as an educational website and mobile application that guides the public to thousands of historical and cultural sites throughout the United States along with nature trails, art walking tours, and virtual tours of museums and sites. Built by scholars for public benefit, each entry includes a concise summary and useful information about a historical site, museum, monument, landmark, or other site of cultural or historical significance. In addition, "time capsule" entries allow users to learn about historical events around them. Each entry offers turn-by-turn directions and links to relevant books, articles, videos, primary sources, and credible websites.

Walking tour

I decided to search their Walking Tours and Heritage Trails. I searched on the state of California, and the result listed four tours. Now obviously, four tours is not comprehensive, but the information on Clio is crowdsourced and so people and intuitions are encouraged to add to the website. This means that Clio continually expands with historical institutions, cities, and individuals adding to the database.

Internment tour

One of the four tours I found was called Japanese American Internment Sites 1942-1946 . Because I just watched Linda Harms Okazaki's World War II "Internment Camps" and Mass Incarceration in the U.S. webinar I decided to take a look at this tour.


The tour starts in California but then goes to other states. It stops at museums, internment camps, and assembly centers. The tour includes present-day and historical photos, text, and maps. If you want to know more, scroll to the bottom of the web page to find sources, including books, articles, and videos.

As you read through the tour, you can plan your trip using the website, the mobile app, or by printing off a customized map.


This is one of those websites you need to explore to fully understand what it can offer. It can take you on a virtual trip even if you aren't traveling.

Black Archives
One of their featured tours was for the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City. This tour is a virtual, 360-degree tour of the museum. By clicking on the green circles, you can read the museum exhibits just as you would if you were visiting in-person. This is an excellent feature for those who can't travel, are planning a trip, or are teaching children history.

Clio is not the only website that allows you to find historical sites where you are or where you want to go. It's not even the only site that offers virtual tours (for worldwide options, see Google Arts and Culture), but it's a great place to explore where our ancestors lived and what may help us better understand their lives.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


Inherited Address Books


I've been thinking about items that were commonplace 10+ years ago that are not so common now. These items will soon be considered antiques, worthy of nostalgia and collecting but not used in an ever-changing world.

You know these items and have used them, things like phone booths come to mind. Once in a while, I'll see one at a public place, but largely, depending on where you are, you might be hard-pressed to find one or one that works. In a world where the vast majority of people always have a phone with them, phone booths are a relic.

Another relic that is used by some but most likely not seen as a modern-day necessity is the personal address book. No, not the address book in your cell phone but the actual printed handwritten address book that we use to jot down our family and friends' contact information. These books have evolved with the times, such as including a space for a fax number or, later, an email address, but today they are not as convenient as information easily stored in an electronic mobile device. 

As these personal items, such as address books, disappear, it makes me consider their importance as a genealogist. Having inherited a few address books from family members that have passed, I can attest to their genealogical relevance. Still, these small personal books also may be one of those things that are quickly discarded. After all, you may have to choose what inherited items deserve space in an overcrowded house and which don't.

What makes a source have genealogical value? Many sources we use are "names lists," meaning they are a list of names, perhaps all names in a community or a select, curated list. Think of the census (which tracks almost everyone) or a tax list (which includes only those who pay taxes). From there, genealogical records can contain other biographical information, such as a residential address. It may collect information about an occupation, participation in an event (such as a school graduation), or religious affiliation, to name a few.

How is an address book a genealogically relevant record? What can an old address book hold, especially one that isn't yours? My mom has a fabulous address book given to her as a young bride. It includes family contact information and a place to mark who sent you a Christmas card. For a genealogist, this address book provides family member names that may include those she was in touch with but that I wasn't acquainted with. Notations about Christmas cards can include information about a death or a move. Address books are personal manuscripts. Although, like a form, it specifies what to add and where, owners may annotate other details such as relationship, marriage or death dates, and subsequent residential addresses. They are akin to a diary or journal in that the owner adds information that is relevant to them but, in turn, may have historical relevance to descendants.

As family historians, we need to consider the history we document or are curators of and the information we leave behind about ourselves and our immediate family. What can we add to our old written address books that might help the next generation of researchers? How can we annotate it to make it something that our children and family can read? As we inherit items such as the personal writings of family, we need to take a second look at what may seem like "trash" and see if, instead, they lead us to information not available elsewhere.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


Discover the New HathiTrust Website

Discover the New HathiTrust Website

Today I went to use the Hathi Trust website, and was pleasantly surprised at what I saw. Hathi Trust has been updated, which means it is an excellent time to take a second look.

If you aren't familiar with the website, their About page introduces themselves as:

HathiTrust was founded in 2008 as a not-for-profit collaborative of academic and research libraries, now preserving 18+ million digitized items in the HathiTrust Digital Library. We offer reading access to the fullest extent allowable by U.S. and international copyright law, text, and data mining tools for the entire corpus, and other emerging services based on the combined collection. [1]

Hathi Trust states that it is home to millions of digitized books and publications. While not everything is available to at-home users without institutional access, much of what we, as genealogists, are looking for, public domain items, is available.

What's New

Part of this redesign is cosmetic. Clean lines, white space, and easier searching. However, there are some other improvements, like a Get Help section at the top right of the website and a collections section to help you navigate the content found on the website. I like that they feature some of their content on the homepage, giving you an idea of what you might find or introducing you to something you didn't know existed.

HathiTrust Records of the American Colonies

Collections are just that, collections of items curated by individuals. Scrolling down the homepage, I found a link for Records of the American Colonies with 863 items. There is an Ancestry and Genealogy collection, but it appears not to have been updated since 2011, so you'll want to search beyond what is found here.

HathiTrust Jello Book

The homepage isn't the only part of the website that looks different. Clicking on the featured Jello booklet link on the homepage took me to the book page and allowed me to read through its 20 pages. Most of the features Hathi Trust had in the past are here, except for some of the tools found at the top of the page, which look to be found at the left-hand menu and the bottom.

Get Started

Hathi Trust is a place to search for publications about your ancestor, the place they lived in, the events they took part in, and anything else related to their lives. So beyond just searching by name, use a keyword search or relevant words to describe your ancestors, such as where they lived, their religion, the war they fought in, their occupation, and any events they took part in.

Once you conduct your search, you can narrow your results list to focus on precisely what you want. Then choose an item of interest and click the orange button (Full view).

If the item is restricted to only those at an institutional library, note the title and author and try to find it elsewhere. Sometimes Google Books or Internet Archive may have the item, or you can take a look at using an interlibrary loan from your local library.

Are you using Hathi Trust? It's a great tool for genealogists providing access to an extensive library from the comfort of your computer or mobile device. To learn more, see their Get Help center.


[1] "About," Hathi Trust ( accessed August 3rd 2023).


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


3 Ways to Find Genealogy Podcasts

3 Ways to Find Genealogy Podcasts

Are you a fan of podcasts? They can be great to listen to while you travel, exercise, or wait for an appointment. For genealogists, podcasts are a great resource to add to your learning plan.

Before we discuss how to find podcasts, let's define what a podcast is. A podcast is an audio program that can be listened to or downloaded from the Internet. Unlike video, the great thing about podcasts is that you can be listening while you're doing other things since you don't have to look a screen to understand what is going on. It's like a radio show, but anyone can create a podcast. Podcasters have shows that focus on a theme, and they may invite guests to be interviewed. Some podcasters publish "show notes" online that serve as a transcript of the show. This can be helpful when the show mentions websites.

When we consider genealogy podcasts, they can range from those that focus on interviewing guests, to ones that explore a topic in depth, to a podcast that is more like a "show" with different topics in one episode. So depending on your genealogical interest, you may find something on DNA, research methodology, or researching in a specific place. New podcast episodes may appear weekly, monthly, or be more infrequent. Most podcasts have a corresponding website or blog, so make sure to look for those to learn more about the podcast, the podcast schedule, and the show notes. 

So how do you find genealogy podcasts? Here are three ideas that can help:

  1. Your first go-to should be Cyndi's List. You might be accustomed to using Cyndi's List to find websites to help solve genealogical problems, but it's also the place to find podcasts. Peruse the listing of podcasts at Additional podcasts can be found by choosing Locality or Topic Specific link on the Podcasts for Genealogy web page. In addition to Cyndi's List, Conference Keeper also has a list of genealogy podcasts.

Podcast Cyndis List

2. Use a Podcast Search Engine. Listen Notes is a podcast search engine that describes itself as "It's like Google, but for podcasts." With over 3 million podcasts to search, you can use a keyword search to find podcasts or episodes (such as genealogy or a specific genealogist). When you click on the search bar, you will also have the option to Discover podcasts by categories, including Explorer (for similar podcasts), Hot Podcasts (what's popular today), and Playlists. If you want to learn how to create a podcast, their Podcast Academy will help.

Podcast Listen Notes

3. Ask! If you use social media, you may see podcasters post their latest episodes or genealogists posting about something they recently heard. The best way to find your next favorite podcast is to ask someone who listens to podcasts. This can be done at your genealogy society meeting or via a social media post.

Podcasts can provide everything from a book recommendation to genealogical how-tos, to an interview with a genealogist you admire. The best part of podcasts is you can pause them at your convenience, even pausing an episode when life interrupts you. Already a fan of podcasts? Make sure to spread the word and post about your favorite podcast or episode.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


Start Your Genealogy Christmas in July

Start Your Genealogy Christmas in July

Every holiday season comes and goes much quicker than I expected. I have the best of intentions in the late summer months, but then before I know it, we are celebrating a new year.

Family historians are the keepers of the family stories. One of the "job" duties is to share what we know with others. The holiday season is a great time to do that. But it's also a difficult time with obligations, family gatherings, and unexpected illnesses that have us down for the count for a week.

Do you want to make this the Christmas you share your family history? July is the perfect time to start. Even if you think the Summer is way too early to think about the holidays, I can assure you that they will be here sooner than you think, and just like last year, you may not be ready (or at least I'm not).

July is an excellent time to ask what type of holiday gift you want to give. Settling on an idea is half the battle. Possible gifts include:

  • Family Tree Charts (with or without photos)
  • Family History Book (one person, one ancestral couple, or more)
  • Digitized family photos
  • Transcribing family letters or diaries

Now these are ideas that you can probably complete with the help of your genealogy software, scanner, or just your time. Some gifts will require professionals, whether a professional genealogist, a company that sells printed charts, or one that scans media. You may also choose a more crafted gift requiring someone who is a quilter, woodworker, or other provider.

Once you know what you want to do, consider the time it will take.

  • How long will it take you to update your family history before sharing?
  • How long will it take you to create the item? (always assume it will take at least twice as long)
  • How long will it take any other providers who are part of the process? When do they need the item by?
  • How long will it take to mail and receive the item before the holidays?

Now consider what stands in the way of you completing the gift.

  • Do you routinely get sick during the winter months (I do!)
  • Do you have any travel scheduled?
  • Are you hosting any family gatherings?
  • Do you have family or work obligations?
  • When do you want to be done with your family history gift?

Answering these questions now will help you be prepared to share your family history gift with your family. If this all overwhelms you, consider a small gift, like a newsy Christmas letter. It's not the amount of money or time you spend; it's sharing your family history with others so that they can learn more about your shared family history. Who knows, they may even have information or a photo that can help you as you continue your genealogical journey.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.



Stretching Your Genealogy Research Knowledge in New Directions

Stretching Your Genealogy Research Knowledge in New Directions

This week I’ve been teaching at GRIP, the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. I am coordinating a Social History course but other courses are available that range from  DNA, land records, forensic genealogy, and research methodology.

Students interested in taking institute courses devote an entire week, 4-5 lectures a day, to a specific focused genealogical topic. Obviously, as students choose what they will register for, they study the lists of courses and lectures to determine which one they will invest their time and money.

One of the speakers in my course mentioned that her research project has taken her in directions she never would have guessed. The means she has had to learn about genealogical research that is different than what she typically focuses on for her Jewish research. This made me think about the benefits of attending presentation topics that are not your research focus whether you are attending an hour lecture at a genealogy society, an online webinar, a conference, or an institute.

Should you attend presentations that appear to have no connection to your ancestors or the research you are currently conducting?

If a lecture focuses on American Quakers and your family isn’t Quaker, does it hold value for you? If it’s a course focusing on Eastern European research, and your family came from England, should you attend?

This question may seem to have an obvious answer but we really need to reconsider how we look at our genealogical education. One of the GRIP attendees I talked to attended a course about researching a country that none of his ancestors are from. So why was he in the course? The teacher is one of his favorites and he feels that there is value in being in the course because of that teacher.

Why else might you choose a lecture or course that seemingly has nothing to do with your research?

If you’re a professional or hoping to become a professional, your clients will present all kinds of research opportunities. Knowing about other types of research and resources can be of benefit. You might find that by learning more about a specific type of research, you can expand your work opportunities. Even if your intent is to help others through volunteering, learning more about a wide scope of research can be helpful.

Genealogists understand that researching an ancestor’s FAN Club can be crucial to understanding our family’s life. But we need to remember that those who make up our
ancestor’s FAN Club may be very different than our ancestors. Our ancestor’s FAN Club may include immigrants from a different country, members of a different church or religion, or part of a different occupation. Knowing more about other groups can benefit your overall research. I purposely choose to attend lectures on topics that are different from my research because listening to other research experiences and resources can ultimately benefit my own research and skills.

The Legacy Webinars library provides you with the same opportunity. You can focus on your specific research location or ethnicity but you also have access to everything else, including topics that might not seem directly relevant to you.

Do you choose educational opportunities that differ from your own familiar research? What are your reasons? How has that helped you with your genealogy? 


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


Learn about Your Ancestors During Wartime through their Yearbooks


It probably wouldn't take much to convince you that searching for your ancestors in yearbooks is a good idea. My guess is that you already know they are a genealogical source that can include photographs, names, locations, dates, and other information about a person's school life.

That's all great. Yearbooks are an excellent source for learning about your 19th to 20th-century ancestors' younger years. But are they a source for anything outside of school life? 

I recently taught an institute course where we focused on American life during the years 1917-1930. A focus of the course was on understanding World War I and the relevant records. We discussed all types of military records, censuses, and other familiar genealogical records. But the surprise for me was something I purchased before the course that made me take a second look at yearbooks.

Yearbooks and War Time

What have you used yearbooks for? Have you considered their use in documenting wartime? Specifically, how did the war impact a school's students, staff, and faculty? Look at this edition of The Echo from the Milwaukee State Normal School, 1919. Yes, students, their photos, and quotes feature prominently on these pages. But the other topics include students' support of the war effort on the home front, those killed in the war, and those who served. Examples include:

Gold Star Honor Men. The Gold Star signifies someone who has died in military service. The school's yearbook shares photos of the dead and their bios, including when and where they were killed. It's here that other family members such as spouses are also listed.


The School Honor Rolls lists five pages of students who served, starting with the class of 1892. Name, rank, and where they served are listed.


The Faculty Honor Roll provides images and information about faculty who served, including two women. Ruth Stewart Milne, served as a first-class yeoman in the US Navy and Lilian E Webb worked with the YMCA in France.


Other related pages document the schools' SATC program (Student Army Training Corps), a panoramic photo of the students involved, and a page detailing patriotic activities.

Why Does This Matter?

Finding some information about ancestors during this time period can be challenging. This yearbook does more than document student life; it's documenting death and military service. On top of that, we have the person's FAN Club, which is beneficial to research. Using our World War I (or even other wars like World War II) yearbooks can include much more than just school information; it may provide what we need to find other records. And it includes alumni names. Yearbooks provide social history information we can use to understand our ancestral lives better as we seek to tell their stories.

Have you considered yearbooks for finding information beyond academic life? Please share your experience in the comments below.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.