How you can become a Memory Keeper
Locate Military Medical and Service Records
If you wish you knew more about the military service of someone in your family here are some sources to help in your search:
To start your military service record search, go to http://www.archives.gov This site will lead you through the process. If it has been sixty-two years since the date of discharge from service the military records are open to the public and may be ordered online. Archives.gov lists addresses and phone numbers of military record custodians for the various military branches.
You can also contact your local American Legion or VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) and they will help you find information.
Preserve Photographs and Letters
Future generations learn about their heritage through family photographs and letters. Many families lose precious memories because they think preservation is complicated . . . it’s not. Following are some simple guidelines to safeguard your family photographs and letters.
1) You can greatly increase the value of a photograph by identifying who, what, when and where. To label photographs place the photograph on a hard surface and write with light pressure to avoid damaging the photograph. With a soft lead pencil or felt-tip marking pen identify names, dates, place and event. Write on the back of the photograph, along the edge, not in the middle.
2) Place photographs in plastic pocket pages or paper pages with or without a clear plastic cover sheet. Avoid magnetic or self-stick albums because the adhesives stain photos and cause deterioration over time. Purchase marking pens and plastic pocket pages in the scrapbook section of stores. The key words to look for on the package are “acid-free” and “archival quality.”
3) Avoid over-handling letters. Remove all paper clips, staples and rubber bands. Scan letters and handle the copies rather than the originals. Scan the envelopes, too.
4) On separate pages add identification details for the letter including names, dates, places, events, and any other known information.
5) To slow deterioration of paper and fading of the ink store letters flat with sheets of tissue paper between them. Or put each letter in a plastic pocket page.
6) Store letters and photographs in an environment with stable temperature and humidity–like a shelf in your closet. Avoid hot attics and garages, or damp basements. Light damages paper and fades inks and photographs, so display copies and store the originals. The most precious photographs or letters are best protected in a safe or safety deposit box.
An excellent source on preservation is: http://www.archives.gov/preservation/family-archives/
For preservation of wartime letters see: http://www.warletters.com/preserve/index.html
Record Oral Histories
We all have stories to tell. In fact, we organize the memories of our lives into stories. Oral histories record the everyday memories of everyday people and preserve family histories for future generations.
It takes two people to capture an oral history: the interviewer (you) and the interviewee. There are three ways to capture the oral history: (1) You take notes by hand during the interview; (2) Tape record the interview, thus capturing the voice, dialect and exact words; (3) Video tape the interview to capture both visual and audio. Video taping the interview is the best method, but the most important thing is to conduct the interview while the interviewee can still recall and share the stories. Just do it!
A “Step-by-Step Guide to Oral History” by Judith Moyer can be found at: http://dohistory.org/on_your_own/toolkit/oralHistory.html
There is a local organization, the Missouri Veterans History Project (MVHP), that has done many veteran history interviews: http://mvhp.net/ On it you’ll find some excerpts of local veteran interviews plus links to the Missouri State Historical Society which has copies of those veteran interviews along with lots of other interviews: http://statehistoricalsocietyofmissouri.org/ Jeff Corrigan, oral historian with the State Historical Society recommends the following website: http://www.oralhistory.org/about/principles-and-practices/
Another great resource for oral histories with veterans is the Library of Congress Veteran’s History Project. Click on “How to Participate” and you’ll find guidelines for interviews and forms you’ll need for submitting an interview: http://www.loc.gov/vets/
Contact the author with comments or to schedule a program for your club or civic organization.
[Historical non-fiction, paperback, 326 pages, publisher: Compass Flower Press]
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