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August 25, 2011

Capturing Memories Told By My 88 Year Old Aunt

Eileen September 1941
This is a portrait of my Aunt Eileen in 1941. She was 18 years old and performing tap dances with a group of minstrels.

Yesterday I had a nice long visit with her in her apartment. I encouraged her to tell me stories of her childhood and about my grandparents, my mother (her sister), and my great-grandparents.

Auntie "I" as we call her, has a fabulous memory and knowing from past visits that she would talk faster than I could write, this time I was prepared. I took my Echo Smart Pen with me.

With the Smart Pen I was able to make jot notes (point form) as my aunt shared her wonderful stories. My Pen recorded her words so all I had to do was make the occasional notation in my notebook.  It is easy to transfer the recorded audio to a computer to work with it.  I could even touch my pen to the brief notes I made and hear the recording at that point of the story.

In an hour I learned more than I'd ever known about my mom's family life as a young girl in Guelph Ontario. Why didn't anyone tell me that my Grandfather was an accomplished singer? That he sang in church choirs as well as performed in Vaudeville and Minstrel Shows? That he woke up singing and sang as he worked throughout the day? That every Saturday evening the whole family gathered around the player piano and sang songs so loudly that the neighbours would come and join them. My mom never mentioned a word about growing up in such a musical home. 

Auntie "I" tells stories and my Smart Pen records them
Auntie "I" had so many memories and stories they came tumbling out. I was thrilled! I heard about the Christmas her grandfather (my great-grandfather) had a little too much brandy on his rounds of St. Joseph's Hospital in Guelph. It seems that every Christmas he visited all children in the Hospital to dispense gifts.

The Nuns would give him a bit of brandy to warm him up before he made his way home, but one Christmas he got a bit tipsy and fell into a snowbank on his way home. Unable to get out he lay there giggling until my grandfather found him. What a great story! I love to be able to form a picture in my head of what was just a name and dates of an ancestor. Now great-grandpa is a real person to me.

I spent several hours happily listening to Auntie "I"'s stories and she enjoyed telling them. I can hardly wait to go back and hear more. 

When I got home I transferred the recording of Auntie "I" to my computer and now I have the fun of transcribing her words. If you want to record family memories you can buy the Livescribe 8 GB Echo Smartpen  from


Kristin said...

Sounds like a dream interview!

Patti said...

Wow, what an awesome opportunity you had...and a wonderful gift she provided you.

I wish I still had some 85+ year old relatives from whom I could glean some stories. My grandparents and their siblings have all passed away.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing Aunt Lorine! Auntie I is a wonderful and interesting lady, cant wait to hear more