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Capturing Family History with Email

I was thrilled to hear that this year’s winner of the Innovator’s Challenge at Rootstech 2015 is StoryWorth.  I’m all about collecting and preserving stories so when a company who is dedicated to doing just that takes centre stage, it thrills me. I love the idea that we are looking for more convenient ways to capture our families stories.  

How StoryWorth Works

StoryWorth primarily uses email to help you capture your family history stories. It's a brilliant idea. I enlist the use of email in my own family history interviews and offer it as an option in my ebook, The Complete Guide to the Family History Interview. However, StoryWorth has taken the email interivew one step further. Each week, StoryWorth will email an interview question to your loved one. All your relative has to do is answer the question via email, or if writing is not their thing, they can respond to the question by telephone, recording their answer. Their reply to the question is uploaded to your personal page at StoryWorth. Very simple.

You can let StoryWorth send the question or you can select the question from their library of 600 questions. If you want more control, you can edit and write your own questions. You invite a family member to be a storyteller and an unlimited number of people to read the stories. You can also upload pictures and audio files to accompany those stories on your StoryWorth page. You can save and edit all your stories on the StoryWorth website, as well download a copy of all your stories at any time.

If you want to turn your stories into a print book, StoryWorth can handle that for you at an additional cost.

Here’s how I can see family historians taking advantage of this in their own lives.

Interviewing Family

Family historians can use it as a means of interviewing relatives particularly long distant relatives. While interviewing in person is always preferable, it's not always possible. StoryWorth is utilizing email as great tool to capture stories. It works because it’s not intrusive and your relative has time to answer the question at their own pace. Currently, I’m working on my mother’s book, and I think this might be the perfect way to interview her and her sisters. StoryWorth let’s me interview up 6 storytellers at a time. I know my mother would welcome an email each week on her iPad that she could answer and reminisce about her life. It’s just the right pace to hold her interest but not so much as to overwhelm her.

Write A Memoir

Family Historians can capture their own life story and write a memoir, or help a parent or grandparent to write their memoir.  While we understand the importance of a documented life, we family historians often are the last people to do so. StoryWorth is a perfect opportunity to start. If you have an aging parent or grandparent this is an excellent process for getting those memories recorded.  

Digital Journal

I love the idea of using StoryWorth as a personal digital journal. You can use the questions StoryWorth provides or you can insert your own questions.  Since you can keep your StoryWorth page completely private, you don’t have to worry about sharing your writing with the world. Everything is private by default, you control who sees your stories. No stories are published publicly. They do not post stories to Facebook or other social networks. 

Create a Writing Habit

For the beginner writer, StoryWorth is the perfect way to establish a weekly habit of writing. Writing a family history or memoir can be an overwhelming task. Often family historians come to writing their stories with little or no writing experience. StoryWorth is the perfect opportunity to make writing a weekly part of your life, before you take on a large project like a family history book. Think of it like a weekly writing prompt. 

You can sign up for free for a month, no credit card required. There are two levels of pricing. If you wish to only pay by the month, the cost is $12.49 per month. However, sign up for a year, and the price drops considerably to only $6.49 a month, a one-time payment of $77.88.

Upon signing up you are prompted to invite a storyteller, and then schedule when they receive their email, you can adjust from weekly, to bi-weekly to monthly. You are also asked to identify their relationship to you and write a personal invite. If you have a lot of interviews to conduct, they also have larger plans for up to 15 Storytellers.

I think StoryWorth is a brilliant concept. I can let it handle capturing my families stories and saving them for me while I continue to do my research. 

Note: If you use the links in this post to sign up for StoryWorth, you'll receive a 10% discount. 

StoryWorth is co-founded by Nick and Krista Baum. Here’s a small video by Nick with his story and the thoughts behind his mission of StoryWorth. 

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