Have you ever thought about
making a video of your family history? If you do, how do you include your
grandparents, great grandparents, etc.? Can you have music in the
background? How do you interview your living family members for the
Of course, it's a good idea to talk to someone familiar with video making.
You can always go to a professional videographer for help...but much of
the work can be done by you and other members of your family.
Perhaps the first thing to do would be to gather other interested members
of your family and talk about a video family history. There will be more
talent in your family than you maybe would think. There will be someone
who has a video camera and someone else who has family pictures...and even
someone else who might have treasured memorabilia relevant to your
family...and much more.
If I were doing such a project, I'd sit down with my address book and
gather all of my family addresses. I'd then write a letter and copy it for
each of my cousins, aunts and uncles and other miscellaneous family. The
letter would say something like, "Dear Folks, I'm going to work on a video
history of our family. I need your help!"
If you have family scattered all over the country - or even the world -
you can ask near-by family members to interview family there. You can ask
them to video the old "homeplace" or the places and homes that are
important in your own family.
Perhaps a cousin in California inherited the silver tea service that came
over in a trunk from Germany, or France, or Great Britain or
Czechoslovakia or Africa...Someone can video the tea service or trunk or
your great-grandfathers signet ring and send the tape to you.
With video cameras it's easy to interview someone in comfortable
surroundings...sitting on the front porch, on a bench under the old oak
tree...wherever your subjects feel comfortable.
What do you ask? It's helpful to sit down before the interview and make a
list of questions...but the most important thing in a successful interview
is to listen. Listen to what the person says...and ask questions that come
We have a list of interview questions that I'll be glad to share. Just
come by my office at the library and we'll make a copy of the questions
for you...but these are just ideas and your own interviews will be shaped
by each person you talk with.
Be sure and include the table set with grandmother's china, silver and
crystal...or the everyday dishes that were beloved so much they are now
cracked and worn. Be sure and video the family Bible and other important
You can certainly video those treasured family photographs...and it's
amazing how much movement and life you can put into those pictures by the
way you video them.
Video places that your family lived or that were important to your own
family. In Mel's family, for example, Simon Gay owned the land down near
Valdosta where the prison farm is now located. He obtained that land
through a Revolutionary War Land Lottery. It's always interesting to our
family to look at those riverbanks and the topography of the land...and to
imagine how it looked 200 years ago.
Of course, you can use music. If grandpa played the fiddle - use fiddle
music. If your grandmother loved Sweet Adeline on the piano, try and find
the very music she loved.
You might have to get professional help to splice together all of the
video you get from near and far...and to get the background music just
But, there are many things you can do yourself. Instead of having
expensive on-screen lettering done to introduce your video - you can do
something as simple as writing on a blackboard and videoing that.
No matter the work and the time you put into this project, it will be well
worth all of the efforts. It will be a project to be enjoyed through the