The Family History Help & Product Review Newsletter Tools, Toys & Motivation for Family Historians

Welcome to this issue of Family History Help & Product Review Newsletter.  I hope that it find you in good health and spirits. I have another exciting issue for you, but....

... before you dig in -- please do your friends and family a favor and forward them a copy of this newsletter/e-mail or send them this link so they can subscribe:

In This Issue....

News: Memorygrabber, Used by 4th Graders  

Article: You are Hereby Appointed Family Historian

Product Review: Digital Voice Recorders - Download your voice recording to your PC - Automatically convert to text with voice recognition software. 

Tips & Tidbits: Are Your Home Videos Fading Away?

Life Story Writing Exercise: Places That Have Meaning

If you don't know [your family's] history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree.
--Michael Crichton

News & Happenings

Memorygrabber Helps 4th Graders in Iowa 

I was very honored this week to learn that yet another school is using Memorygrabber, my 150 page life story workbook, to help them conduct life story interviews with family members and elderly members of their community.

Ms. Karen Ketchum's fourth graders, in Iowa, are undertaking this project and I know that the experience will be a learning one for the children and a rewarding one for those interviewed.

If you teach school and would like to learn more about getting Memorygrabber into your classroom, please e-mail me at

Tools & Toys for the Family Historian

The following are available via download from the Family Web site...

Memorygrabber - An unrivaled fill-in-the-answer life story workbook and life story interview "script". Nearly 900 memory prompts, lists, activities and web resources. Free Sample Download Available 

Home Video DVD Cookbook - Turn those dusty family video tapes into a brilliant family DVD library. Free Sample Download Available 

Family Picture Calendar - Get rid of those generic calendars on your wall and replace it with your "official" family calendar. Distribute to family via e-mail. Free Sample Download Available 

All They'll Need to Know - Record and preserve vital information your family will need to know, when you aren't there to give it to them.

Feature Article

"You Are Hereby Appointed Family Historian!"
 Written by Michael Boyter

The Net is the futuristic version of a "cave wall". Can you imagine the longevity of what you write today? 

We all witnessed the passing of the last century, and with it's passing, the memories of the 1900s live on only in the minds and memories of we who lived in that time. Tragically, for those who fail to keep a record of it, priceless family history, is going, going and soon to be gone!

Think about this:

Those who where born in 1990's will not personally remember much if any of the 1900s.

Many born prior to the 1930's have already left us!

So it is left to the rest of us to record all we can about ourselves, the world we live in, and of our beloved family members that came and went in the 1900's. Without doing so, once we are gone…so is our family link to the past. Our families, in the years future, will have to make it through life without the benefit and comfort of our hard-earned wisdom,  knowledge and experience.

So, it is incumbent upon us to become historians of sorts.

Now how many of us, while sitting in a boring high school history class, ever thought that we'd be historians of the 1900s?

It's true that most of our written accounts of history will only be
read by our descendants, but we ought not to discount the

The Net is the futuristic version of a "cave wall". The typical cave discovery tells us of how people lived thousands of years ago. Likewise, your personal history tells your story, but it also
indirectly records society and how it affected you and
everyone around you.

Many of us put some of our family history on the Net and it's likely that our descendant will someday "contribute" other parts of your history to online archive/biography-type sites.

Can you imagine the longevity of what you write today? Even on message boards! Information can reside on computer servers for....well, forever.

I have, in my possession, a journal written by my
great-great-great-great grandfather. His name was John Murdock. He was born in the late 1700s, more than two hundred years ago.

It's hard for me to imagine that my great-great-great-great
grandchildren might be reading about my life in the year 2200, or thereabouts . Imagine how the world will change by then and how the time in which we now live will contrast against theirs.

With the technology and ability to store information that we now possess, there really is no excuse for anyone's descendants in the year 2200, just to name a year, not to know of you and of the time in which you lived.

There are many people who believe that their life is so boring and mundane that no one will want to read anything they write about their life.

If in the future, there are no more newspapers made of paper, how "boring" will it be to casual comment in your journal concerning headlines in your local newspaper or about "clipping" coupons.

If in the future, there are no more gasoline-powered cars, how
"boring" will it be to passively mentioned changing oil, going to the fuel pump and using language like "miles per gallon/liter".

While to us, these things are boring everyday things, they will be read with great interest by our descendants.

I know I am preaching to the choir, but I have one last point.

To show how fast one's family history can fade, I wish to relate my experiences that I had while working with some 18-26 year olds.

During the mid-1990s I was an Air Force recruiter and I routinely helped these young adults in filling out background investigation paperwork.

I think you'd be surprised at how often it was that these young adults couldn't tell me their parent's birth dates. Nor did many of them know where their parents were born. Some didn't even know their grandparent's full names.

This is a sad trend. You, by keeping a journal and writing your
family history, can prevent a trend like this one from happening in your family.

Someday your descendants will number in the thousands. Will they know of you and share your wisdom? Will they feel a connection and a sense of connection with their past? Will they know anything of the eventful 1900s and the good times you had?

It's entirely up to you.  Only your actions can answer that question.

Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family. -- Anthony Brandt

Tips & Tidbits...

The other night I was going through and listening to a few of my old cassette music tapes and looking at a few of our home videos that we purchased and took during the 1980s.  Wow, the eighties seem just like yesterday, yet, I couldn't believe how deteriorated the music tapes had gotten and the video tapes of important family events didn't fair much better. 

This led me to think. What exactly is my plan with these magnetic tapes that are so important to me?  Am I going to just hand them down in an old cardboard box, until they became so bad that my kids would eventually set them curbside to be picked up as trash?

The experts have all suggested that we convert these previous family videos into a digital format. Most of the tools that you'll need to do this may reside right there in that computer you are reading this on. Find out more about editing and creating Home Video DVDs!  

Product Review:

Digital Voice Recorders                    

Should you get one?

Several years ago, my wife and I interviewed our parents. We recorded to audio tape their answers to many family history questions that we had for them.  We were very excited at the stories and memories that they each shared with us… 

…Then came the hard part. Believe me when I tell you that, despite being a good typist, transcribing three or four cassette tapes to the computer screen is not fun!  I can’t imagine how many times I had to hit the stop, rewind and play buttons, while trying to type each word.  But I kept at it, because I knew the memories contained on the tapes would make it worth it.

The tired fingers and heavy work involved had actually kept me from wanting to do it again. I’m ashamed to admit that, but I’m sure many of you can relate to this. You’ve either experienced it, first hand, or you have a good imagination.  

Well, thanks to technology those days are over thanks to Digital Voice Recorders.  Have you heard about these?    

Digital voice recorders, which offer recording time of up to 22 hours and other advanced features, are fast becoming the recording tool of choice among personal journal writers and life story writers. 

Whether you need to record lectures, interviews, meetings or simply short notes and comments, digital voice recordings last longer than tape, can be easily retrieved, downloaded to your PC - and automatically converted to text with voice recognition software.

Since a digital recording is just a sound file, if the file is recorded under a high quality mode it can be used in conjunction with speech recognition software. All you need to do is download your speech file, then launch the voice-to-text software. The software does the rest.

Imagine the possibilities! 

- Talk into your Digital Voice Recorder instead of writing your journal by hand. Many times I’ve not felt like writing, just before I went to bed, but how are would it be to grab up a DVR and start talking. Then, the next day, convert it to print on your computer instantly!

- Interview parents, grandparents and other family members and avoid having to wear yourself out. like I described above.   

Typical digital recorders hold from ninety minutes to twenty-two hours of recording time. However, the longer recording mode results in a lesser quality of recorded sound. Like a VCR, most digital recorders have SP and LP modes. When you need excellent sound quality, use SP mode, which may only offer up to 30 minutes of recording time. When you need to record for long periods, use LP mode, even though it will reduce the quality of sound.  

All digital recorders have folders to make it very easy to find recordings. Each folder can store up to 99 messages (recordings) or more. With multiple folders, you can use one to record all messages and another folder to keep important messages transferred from the first folder. Some recorders also have a "Schedule" folder, where you can store recordings by date for easy retrieval. This is very useful journal keeping.  

Digital Voice Recorders range in price from $99-$300, but there are many good models in the $100 range.  

More Information on Digital Voice Recorders

Some family trees bear an enormous crop of nuts.
--Wayne H

Life Story Writing Exercise

List creating is a powerful, yet easy way to keep a journal, write your life story or whatever you wish to call it.

In this writing exercise, I'm asking you to write a list using the following prompt:

  • List Places that Have Deep Meaning to You

Then, of course, tell why they are so meaningful to you. Some examples could be where your wedding proposal took place or grandma's house.

 I invite you to post your list to our message board. This is optional, of course.


Well, that's all for this issue of the newsletter. Please submit comments, feedback and suggestion to

Until next time, keep preserving those memories, because it's work that needs to be done, it's enjoyable and above all else, it's worth it!

I wish you and your family the best.


Best Regards,

Michael R. Boyter,


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