After hours of transcribing audio or video files of your family stories and events, you may discover that your mind gets into a rhythm: Listen, think, type, edit; Listen, think, type, edit; Listen, think, type, edit. The chorus to this song is when you stop to think of new ideas.

Because you are listening to family stories every minute becomes a reunion. You’ll find yourself stopping to laugh, cry, and remind yourself to call someone.

Two things always come to mind when I’m transcribing audio or video files of my family stories. First, I begin to think about new questions I would like to ask the storytellers. Maybe they didn’t go deep enough into a story or I’d like to know more about it. I start to think of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. 

Allow your curiosity to flow and ask the addition questions, if you have the opportunity to conduct follow-up interviews with family members. Make a list of all your questions.

What you create next with your transcriptions will both fill in the details and make the reader (or listener) feel like they’ve lived the experience with you.

In my transcriptions, I include follow-up questions in a separate paragraph in red, separated by [brackets] or (parenthesis).  I place those questions in the body of the transcription, exactly where I believe more details are needed.


[Question: Who did you typically walk with to school? Did your parents ever drive you?]

The second revelation that happens when I transcribe files is that I naturally begin to think about other research ideas. Sometimes it’s just confirming dates, times, history, military terminology, the history of a downtown, weather data, proper spellings, or location information. Sometimes I can get this information from clients and sometimes it’s faster if I simply research it. 

When transcribing a two-hour audio interview, I typically estimate two hours of research time or genealogy research to confirm or clarify information. When I’m writing an interview into a life story or memoir, I estimate four to six hours of research, depending on the storytellers.

Again, make a list of your research questions and insert them into the body of the transcription. 


[To do: Research the distance from Marcy Street to the kindergarten entrance in 1969 at Elizabeth Avenue School. What other markers were along Mary’s walking path. How many students attended the school? Average class size? Check the Census data for information in 1965-1969.]

The bold red letter is a reminder that you feel your project needs a little more information. It will help you flow through the process. 


[Note: Don’t miss our next blog – How to Hire a Transcriptionist]