Interviewing older relatives is a time honored and very effective method of learning more about your family tree. I well remember interviewing my 93-year-old great aunt a few months before she passed away. She was the last surviving family member of my grandparents' generation. Her mind seemed to be as sharp as it had been in her youth. She remembered nearly everything she had done or seen in the past ninety years or so. She told me stories and "family gossip" about my great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, and other relatives that I could never find any other way. Such stories are not recorded in census records, military records, or even in a town clerk's ledger.
Those of us who have experienced such interviews will always advise others to record your discussions with older family members. It is impossible to remember every detail, every fact, or every family story months or years later. Making a recording is a great method of being able to refresh your own memory. With today's technologies, it is also possible to share parts or perhaps the entire interview with others. You might do that by publishing the interviews on the World Wide Web although I suspect it is more common to simply provide an MP3 audio file directly to your cousins or anyone else who asks. They can play the interview on their computer, Apple iPod, or other MP3 player.
For years, the standard method of recording interviews was to make a tape recording. However, such tapes have now almost disappeared. Reel-to-reel tape recorders vanished years ago although cassette recorders remained popular for a long time. However, if you have tried to purchase a cassette tape player recently, you have already discovered that they are almost impossible to find in the stores. They will soon be as difficult to locate as 8-track tape players. Blank tapes are also difficult to locate.
If you make a copy of a tape, perhaps none of your cousins will ever be able to listen to it as they will not have tape players. Even worse, if you would like to preserve the audio interview for 20 years, 50 years, or even longer, nobody will have cassette tape equipment later this century. Finally, even if you do find all the necessary equipment, producing copies of a standard tape introduces hiss and "white noise." A copy of a copy of a copy may be unusable.
Switching to a digital recording method simplifies these problems. Digital files can easily be copied every few years to whatever media is in use at that time. Unlike analog tapes, digital audio files can be copied time and time again with no loss of fidelity and no "hiss" being added. Each new copy sounds as good as the original.
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