RootsTech class: 10 fun family history activities

Published: Saturday, March 23 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

For some, family history may seem like a daunting task. With today's tools and technology, preserving family history can actually be fun.

Ideas for 10 family history activities meant to be fun and enjoyable, not stressful, were presented by ppeakers Ben Bennett, vice president at FamilySearch International, and Holly Linford, trainer and curriculum developer at Stampin' Up, during a presentation at the RootsTech Family History and Technology Conference on Thursday.

Bennett and Linford talked about activities that can show people how to capture memories, preserve old photos, diaries and letters, record what they learn, and share ideas to help others.

Activity 1: Keep a personal or family blog

Many people have blogs where they share events, milestones and fun activities with relatives and friends. Picking the right platform for a blog depends on personal preferences as blogging platforms vary. Some of the most popular online sites are Blogger, WordPress and Typepad. Both Blogger and WordPress are free to use, although WordPress can be upgraded for a cost. Typepad prices range from $9 to $30 per month.

Activity 2: Record an audio interview

Before they're forgotten, record personal experiences and family stories. Children and grandchildren can forever cherish being able to hear a loved one's voice. All that is needed is someone to record and a device such as an electronic recorder. An electronic recorder makes it easy transfer the audio files onto a computer. There are numerous smartphone apps, such as Saving Memories Forever, that allow users to record and sync the recording to an online family tree or social media site.

Activity 3: Take better and more photos

Similar to voice recordings, photos have a way of telling stories that can last forever. Some tips to take good photos include use natural sunlight when possible, follow the rule of thirds and use different camera angles to add variety. If using a smartphone to take photos, use a photo app with editing features. Some free photo apps include Photoshop Express, Snapseed and Pixlr.

In a unique photo project, BillionGraves, volunteers use smartphones to take GPS-encoded pictures for headstones, which are then uploaded to the Internet. The writing on the headstones can be transcribed and indexed for easy searching. The BillionGraves software is free, easy to use, and available for computers and smartphones.

Activity 4: Create a digital scrapbook

A simple way to organize and share stories is with digital scrapbooking. It's easy to print a photo album to share with others after creating scrapbook pages on a computer. Some digital scrapbooking software packages include Stampin' Up: My Digital Studio, the My Memories suite and Memory Mixer. Printing a digital scrapbook can be done with MyPicTales, Picaboo, Shutterfly or Mixbook.

Activity 5: Scan family history books

Scanning family history books and uploading them online makes for easy access. The benefits of scanning books include having a preserved digital copy, the low cost, and helping others who share ancestral lines obtain a digital copy at FamilySearch or Mocavo.

Activity 6: Use FamilySearch.org to upload photos and transcribe stories

On FamilySearch, users can upload scanned photos and transcribe family stories from old letters or diaries. The many options include linking photos to a person on the tree, creating albums to stay organized, continuing to add photos to albums and sharing albums with others.

Activity 7: Record information on an online tree

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