We begin this YouTube journey with the historical footage of the funeral procession of Hiram Cronk. Cronk was the last known surviving veteran of the War of 1812 when he died in 1905, at the age of 105. The clip found on YouTube shows row after row of marching men passing by on the screen. A YouTube comment identifies them as “Civil War veterans in their 60s [and] Mexican-American War veterans in their 80s.” Another comment identifies the last group of marching soldiers as re-enactors wearing War of 1812 soldier’s uniforms.
In fact, YouTube offers us many opportunities to see the faces and actions of earlier generations of soldiers. Have you seen the famous footage of the storming of the beaches at Normandy? It’s on YouTube!
After sharing our last post, The Faces of U.S. Military Veterans through the Centuries, I received a comment from Stephen, a Genealogy Gems reader. Stephen’s father served in the U.S. Army during WWII and was in the Aleutian Islands. That caught my eye because my father-in-law also served in the Aleutian Islands. It was a challenging landscape in which to serve, which is evident in the YouTube video I found online.
Aleutian Islands WWII Campaign: Combat runs over Kiska, Alaska
There are other military history gems found on YouTube you may never have expected to see. This next video is a collection of early combat photos beginning in 1863 with the U.S. Civil War. The creator of this video gave some background on combat photography. He said:
“The first war photography took place in the Mexican-American War by an anonymous photographer, but it wasn’t until the American Civil War that the first combat photos were taken…The limitations posed by the time and complexity it took to take a photo in the mid-to-late 1800’s made it difficult to obtain images during battles, but a few of naval actions did emerge. There was also not a tradition of journalists and artists putting their lives on the line for an image. The overall amount of combat photography before World War I was small, but a few images did emerge from a few courageous and pioneering people. By the time of World War I, governments saw the value in having large numbers of photographers to document conflicts for propaganda purposes and improved camera technology allowed combat photographers to routinely capture most iconic images of many conflicts.”
This genealogy researcher searched for home movies on YouTube after hearing Lisa Louise Cooke talk about the kinds of footage you can find for your family history. Check out this eye-popping discovery of a video showing her daredevil great-uncle in action…at age...
I recently read Lisa Louise Cooke’s all-new edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition. I use Google every day and this book has so many helpful new search tips! But I was skeptical about her chapter on finding your family history on YouTube. So skeptical that I immediately opened YouTube to prove her wrong. Can you guess how this ends?
Following one of her tips, I entered an ancestral hometown and state and the word “history.” The fourth search result made my mouth drop open:
This is a 1937 newsreel showing my husband’s great-grandfather, Andrew O’Hotnicky, driving his fire truck with his dog Chief! Though Andrew’s not named, I can prove it’s him. He was the driver at the Olyphant Hose Co #2 during this time. Photos of him match the driver’s face. I have stories and a newspaper clipping about his dog, Chief. A distant relative watched the newsreel and confirmed his identity–and said a young man riding on the side of the truck was Andrew’s son Bill.
My father-in-law buy medication for dogs never knew his grandfather Andrew, who died before he was born. Imagine how thrilled he was to watch that newsreel! I was just as thrilled to find it. I’ve spent years researching Andrew’s family (click hereto read an article about him).
My own tip: search YouTube for relatives you already know something about. That way you will recognize them (from pictures or stories) when you see them. A lot of old footage won’t have names with it. I had to know who I was looking at. Once you find something, tag it with your relative’s name. You never know who will connect with you that way (check out the comments section in the above video)!
What can you learn about YOUR family history on YouTube or anywhere in the Google world? Learn how to search widely, deeply and effectively online in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.
Feeling frustrated by changing technology? Here’s a look back at a post I originally wrote in 2013 that addresses the mayhem tech changes can cause, and how a visit to a fast food restaurant changed my perspective on a particularly rough day.
The “Mayhem” commercials from Allstate are a riot, but of course all that mayhem isn’t all that funny when it’s happening to you.
Allstate Raccoon Mayhem Commercial
Sometimes it feels like technology companies are having a little mayhem fun with us when they get us up and running with their software program, or app, or phone, or tablet, or whatever, and then *BAM* they change it all up. Mayhem!
It’s not really that we don’t want new technology, it’s just that:
1. We sometimes get very little if any warning that it’s coming
2. The change requires investing time in learning all new ways to do something.
3. The change seems to be suspiciously benefiting the changer and not us – the “changee.”
4. We have to shift out of auto pilot into manual drive
…which means it takes longer to do tasks, and we tend to make mistakes more often because our brain, our eyes, and our fingers are all trained to quickly complete the task the old way.
I’m usually pretty excited about new technology and I love seeing what it can do for our genealogy efforts, but don’t think that I don’t have my moments when I just want to run screaming into the street and chuck my laptop in the gutter. We all have our moments. And I’m here to tell you that I feel your pain and have suffered myself, some mayhem this week, in fact, I call it:
See, the thing is, folks love their smart phones. Walt Mossberg,principal technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal just tweeted that according to an Experian marketing survey the average America spends an hour a day with his or her smartphone. And iPhone users spend more time than Android users.
Google, and specifically YouTube which they own, has definitely taken notice of all this smart phone savvy-ness, and they’ve decided to turn my world, and all the other YouTube Channel publisher’s worlds out there upside down.
I launched my YouTube channel way back in the stone-age, 2007, before Google even owned YouTube. And I have over 60 videos on the channel, and we’ve been diligently working on getting prepared for a while new phase of video production here at Genealogy Gems. So I have had my hands quite full on the video front.
YouTube has implemented a total redesign of YouTube channel pages. The goal is to make the channels mobile friendly, while still accommodating the wide range of full size computer screens that are out there. But in order to accomplish this, we as channel publishers have to scramble and get new artwork for our banner, produce a new introduction video and rearrange the video layout.
So how did I respond to this change you ask?
I ignored it, of course, until I had about a week left before they were set to flip the switch. And then this week all of a sudden it was an emergency to get my channel ready.
So I finally broke down and hired someone to create the new artwork, then I spent hours one morning trying to get all the changes made. My frustration level was growing a little because I just wasn’t happy with how the design of the new artwork was fitting the new layout. And there were so many other things I wanted and needed to be doing that week.
Then my sweet neighbor came to the door and my dogs, who think every knock on the door is a masked marauder, went totally ballistic, blasting through the room knocking over my morning coffee on their way to the door. So now I had coffee all over the carpet.
After my neighbor left I got the portable steam cleaner out to clean up the coffee stained carpet and it worked for a total of 45 seconds, then dribbled to nothing. So I went to the kitchen and set it on the counter to look at it and when I took the nozzle off it dribbled dirty water all over my freshly cleaned kitchen floor.
I spent the next two hours cleaning the kitchen floor, fixing the steam cleaner nozzle, and cleaning my carpet. And my YouTube channel was still not quite right, and I wasn’t sure how to fix it. Panic started to set in. All of a sudden I feared I would never figure it out, or get it done, and on top of that I was getting further behind on everything else I needed to do.
When my husband got home we went out for fast food because I hadn’t had a chance to do a thing about preparing dinner. So he listened to my day as we go through the line, and then I went to get my soda and I set my tray on the counter by the soda machine. Unfortunately I didn’t notice that the counter top was about six inches shorter than the tray, and my tray of shanghai beef and cream cheese won tons unceremoniously hit the floor.
At this point I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and pretty sure it was all YouTube’s fault.
Then, a woman my age came into the restaurant with her daughter and husband. She sat and waited while they ordered the food because she was in a wheel chair. And needless to say my perspective made a big course correction.
Maybe I don’t really know what frustration can be. And…get ready for it…maybe I over-reacted all day long.
She smiled at me and I smiled back and then I got to thinking back on my day. And I realized it’s so often not the change itself that causes the mayhem, but it’s our knee jerk response of fear to it.
If you have ever found yourself gritting your teeth as the next big technological roll out happens, or sometimes worse yet, the closing of a favorite tool like iGoogle or the Google News Timeline, here are some things to keep in mind:
First: Stay Calm and Carry On
Just like the famous saying from World War II Britain, we are much more effective in difficult times when we take a breath and stay calm, and then we continue moving forward to the best of our ability at our pace.
Often times it’s our lack of calm that causes us not carry on as usual, and in the end, brings more trouble down on our own heads.
The older I get the more I can see how human beings bring a lot of stuff on themselves. I didn’t start picking away at the new artwork and design until the last week before the change implementation because I was focusing on how they shouldn’t be changing it. And yea, that kind of thinking wasn’t hurting anyone but myself, because YouTube wasn’t about to call a halt to it because some channels didn’t like the idea.
And simple things, like I knew better than to set my coffee where I did, but I was so freaked out about the YouTube design I carelessly set it at dog level. And it was just silly to pull the nozzle off the steam cleaner over a clean floor rather than over the sink.
Second: The Technology Folks Probably Have a Good Reason for the Change
Sometimes it’s a financially driven change; they just can’t make it sustainable as is. And I would much rather see an inconvenient change than a complete disappearance of a Google or an Ancestry.
And sometimes it’s because the technology folks do have their eye on the future, and they see the big picture of how you and other users use your technology today. In the end the change will meet a pressing need, and they are striving to stay ahead of the game so we aren’t moaning down the road. YouTube’s change is a great example of that. They’ve made the case that a large percentage of users watch video from mobile devices and they challenged us as channel publishers to check our own analytics. And you know what, they’re right! I wasn’t keeping an eye on that but YouTube was.
Third: A Little Investment in Education can Go a Long Way
It’s OK if you have to slow down for a little while and spend some time getting re-educated. I decided to sign up for an online class YouTube offered channel publishers and in the first hour or so I came to better understand how my channel was going to benefit. And understanding the benefits will give you the motivation to take on the change.
I know, it’s hard to imagine that you can find even more time on education. But as I’ve said before on my Genealogy Gems Podcast, I think as genealogists we need to actually be budgeting a certain amount of time for education. Don’t leave it to be squeezed in in a panic. Allocate 10% of your research time for reading and education, and another 10% on staying organized, and I guarantee you remaining 80% will be much more productive!
The truth is, if my YouTube channel doesn’t look perfect yet, I trust that you guys will still be watching, and it certainly won’t stop me from publishing new videos.
And it’s sort of funny that this has been on my mind so much this week and I’ve been personally facing the YouTube change here at Genealogy Gems, because I just had the opportunity to sit in on a conference call with Ancestry.com where they provided a behind the scenes look at some of the changes they are working on for the upcoming months. Listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 156 to hear the details.
After all I struggled with and all I learned from it last week, I found myself being much more open to the Ancestry changes. I was more focused on spotting the benefits to the genealogist, and I found myself admiring their commitment to continuous improvement. See the thing is, whether you are an individual genealogist or a big company like Ancestry, if you aren’t striving for continuous improvement you will fall behind, and the work will become more difficult because you are working harder than you have to.
I gave a presentation at RootsTech on using YouTube for family history. I got tons of excited feedback from people who didn’t realize a) how much internet users rely on YouTube as a source of information and b) how creatively we can share our family history there.
Katelyn Guderian, a reporter with the Deseret News (Utah), sent me an email afterward: “I genuinely enjoyed your presentation and the suggestions you offered. YouTube can seem overwhelming to users who aren’t familiar with how it works, and I think you did a nice job at making it seem manageable.” Even better, she shared a lot of my comments on using YouTube inthis news article. Here are my 6 tips for using YouTube for family history as she shared them in her article:
1. Identify your target audience: Who are you trying to reach? What do they specifically want to know?
2.Create usable content: Create videos that answer questions and bring insight to families.
3. Be authentic: Don’t try to be someone you aren’t. Let your personality guide your posts, and people who like it will keep coming back.
4. Keep it short: Limit most videos to 3–5 minutes, with the longest posts being around 10. Leave your audience wanting more.
5. Keep it simple: Make your content direct and easy to understand. Leave your audience with a call to action.
6. Use proper lighting: If you are filming a new video, make sure to have light on your face to eliminate shadows. Audiences won’t watch something they can’t see. Try not to combine natural light with artificial light while on camera.
Thanks for the coverage and the positive comments, Katelyn!
Everyone can learn more about using YouTube for family history in a full chapter dedicated to the topic in my book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, fully revised and updated for 2015. There’s an entire chapter on YouTube, not just on using it to share your family history, but on researching your family history. Yep, that’s right–it’s possible to find some real gems on your family on YouTube, like historical video footage that tells you their story and may even include your relative.
YouTube for Family History! More Genealogy Gems for Making and Sharing Your Own Videos Online