Think it’s too hard to create your own family history video? Think again! You may already have the foundation already poured!
Video is one of the best ways to tell your family’s story. Imagery, text and music comes together to quickly capture the attention of all ages. But whether it’s a blank computer screen or a blank page, getting started is often the hardest part of any creative project.
That’s why when I wanted to whip up a tribute video to my husband’s father’s Naval service, I didn’t start from scratch. Instead, I turned to small book I created over ten years ago for inspiration and content. My research of his military career has certainly evolved since I first put those pages together. Creating a new video on the subject gave it a nice facelift in a modern medium that everyone in our family loves!
Back in 2006 Kodak Gallery offered one of the first print-on-demand services to the public. It was a tantalizing idea to think of being able to create my own full color, hard cover book. And what would I write about? Family history, of course!
My husband’s father’s military service records had recently come into our possession, and one afternoon I sat down and scanned all of the photographs and documents at a fairly high resolution (about 600 dpi). I created my first book that day using that imagery, and added text where I had more details. The end result was a mighty nice coffee table styled book. Just 20 full color glossy pages double sided, for a total of 40 pages. This was just about all I could expect of the average attention span of my non-genealogist relatives. To my happy surprise, the book was devoured, with many exclamations of “I’ve never seen that!”, and “oh, isn’t that great!
Fast forward to today. Kodak Gallery is long gone, and today’s relatives rarely have the desire to sit and even flip through pages of a book. What are they willing to spend time on? Video! Brief video, albeit, but video is the book come to life. And so, when in search of a new project to get family history out in front of the clan, I decided to do just that: breathe life into that book I created 11 years ago.
First, I located the computer file folder containing all of the original scanned images, both photos and documents. I renamed the files to start with a two-digit number so that they would appear in chronological order in the folder on my hard drive. Before I knew it, the story began to emerge on my screen.
(Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. I appreciate you using these links because that compensation helps make the Genealogy Gems blog possible. Thank you!)
Then it was off to Animoto, the online video creation tool. Animoto doesn’t require any special skills to create professional looking videos. If you can click, drag and drop you can create fabulous family history videos.
I started by selecting choosing to create a “Slideshow Video” and selecting the video style called Old Glory. Being a patriotic theme it already included the perfect music called Presidential Welcome. If I had wanted something a little different, it would have been easy enough pick another tune out of their vast music library, or upload one of my own.
Next, I dragged and dropped the images into my new project. I already had about 25 images from my original folder, and I was able to add 5 newly discovered scanned documents and photos that really fleshed out the story. One click of the Preview button showed me that I already had an awesome video in the works. All that was left was to add a bit of text to the story
The Video Text
The text part of this project actually turned into a great way to pull my youngest daughter Hannah into family history a bit. She loves making videos on her phone, and during a recent visit she became intrigued by my project. I asked her if she would help me out and use the book as her guide and type captions onto the video images. She obliged, and the next thing I knew she was in the family room, computer in lap, talking with her Dad about his Dad. (This genealogist’s dream come true!) It was easy to add the text to tell the story by adding titles and captions to the video in Animoto.
Time to Produce Your Video
With all the content added, we hit the Preview button, and were amazed how Animoto timed everything to the music nearly perfectly. After a few final tweaks, we hit the Produce button. I must say, I’m really pleased with the results! Watch below, and then leave a comment and let me know what you think.
Make Your Own Video Project
What do you already have lying around the house that would make a terrific video? A scrapbook, or a drawer full of letters and photos? Click here to try out Animoto. I’ve been so thrilled with what I’ve been able to create for my family, that I proudly accepted Animoto as a sponsor of my free Genealogy Gems Podcast, and I happily recommend them. I think you’re going to love how quickly and easily you can bring your family history to life with video too.
These genealogy sleuths used Facebook for family history when they responded to a plea to help return a family Bible to its family.
Back on March 21, Donna Whitten posted a video on her church Facebook page. Her post says, “How far would you go to get back something you’ve lost?”
She was talking about a 150 year-old family Bible she’d come across while antiquing one day in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her post says, “We want to find this family and return it to them! Can you help?” (Click here to see that post and video.)
That video post got 34,000 views, thanks in part to more than 600 people who shared it! Family history fans immediately stepped up to the challenge. They looked for names on Ancestry.com and reached out to tree owners. Within two days, several descendants were aware of the Bible and asking for copies. The bible eventually went to a woman in California named Carrie Robinson, who has been researching her tree for several years. It contained obituaries clipped from newspapers and handwritten vital family events. (Wouldn’t you love to receive that kind of family treasure?) Click here to watch the follow-up video about when Donna took the bible to the new owner.
Hats off to Donna and her team of sleuths who took the time to find Carrie’s family and return their past to them! I find a few take-home messages in this story:
Social media is a great way to cast your net wide, not just when you’re sharing family history, but when you’re looking for information. Click here to read more about gathering memories through Facebook.
You can watch for orphaned heirlooms in your path and return them to descendants. Click here to read tips on how to do that.
The video Donna created got attention on Facebook! Video is powerful. Use it to share your family history. (Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. I appreciate you using these links because that compensation helps make the Genealogy Gems blog possible. Thank you!)Click here to read about Animoto, a DIY-video making service I love that lets you produce your own professional-quality videos. Below is one quick video I created. Can you say shareable?!
It’s a common phenomenon for the genealogist: the eye roll!
Relatives who have never had a desire to delve into genealogy often roll their eyes when an enthusiastic genealogist in the family shares a newly discovered census or other genealogical record. And who can blame either party? The genealogist is giddy having won a long fought battle to unearth another piece of the family tree puzzle, and the non-genealogist hasn’t a clue what difference it all makes.
Creating a short story slideshow video about your family history is an ideal way to bridge that gap. Here at Genealogy Gems (on my blog, podcast, and YouTube channel) I’ve shared not only examples of professional-quality videos, but also the step-by-step instructions for creating them with one of my favorite website tools called Animoto. It’s an online video creation tool that requires no special skills or software. You just drag and drop your content (digital images and even video files) and select from Animoto’s cache of professional video styles and music tracks. Within minutes you can whip together a video that generates not eye rolls, but instead, ooos and ahhhs!
(Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Thank you for supporting the Genealogy Gems blog!)
Simple slideshow videos aren’t the only eye-rolling defense weapon in Animoto’s arsenal. You can take your video creation to the next level with Animoto’s Marketing Video Builder. Don’t let the name fool you, because it’s rich with features that any genealogist can sink their teeth into.
One of the key features you get with the Marketing Video Builder, available with Professional and Business subscriptions, is the ability to add voice narration to your video. Your voice (or the voice of relatives that you interview) will bring an intimacy and personalization to your video project that will tug on your viewer’s heart strings.
Raymond age 13 (4th from left) and his father Harry Cooke (2nd from right), Tunbridge Wells, England circa 1909
Recently I took the Marketing Video Builder for a whirl on a project that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time: the story of my husband’s great grandfather. My husband’s grandfather, Raymond Cooke, wrote up a short autobiography just before his death in 1987. It’s a wonderful glimpse into the world of his youth and his memories of his father, Harry Cooke.
I used the portion of the autobiography that was focused on Raymond’s father Harry to create an outline for my video. I then set up a project folder on my hard drive, selected images that represented the story, and copied them into the folder. In the image below you can see how I laid out my plan in a simple Word document. This created a script that indicated which portion of the autobiography would be read for each image.
The video script indicates the image and the narration that accompanies it.
The next step was to head to Animoto.com, sign in to my account, click the “Create” button and select “Marketing Video.”. I selected a pre-built storyboard called Portfolio because I really liked the design, but changed the music to a lilting melody called A Thousand Years that I found in the vast music collection. It hadjust the right for the feel of the story!
The beauty of a marketing video is that you can personalize the storyboard with your choice of font and colors, and you can add and delete sections as you see fit. Animoto always gives you the ability to customize your storyboard so that it fits your imagery perfectly.
With my storyboard set up, I proceeded to upload all the content I had gathered in my project folder. It’s super simple to drag and drop them into the right order.
Bill recording his Grandfather’s words for the video
Next, I recruited Raymond’s grandson, my husband Bill, to narrate the video, using Animoto’s voice-over feature. He was a little hesitant at first, but once he saw my outline and script, his enthusiasm for the project grew and he agreed.
I kept the dialogue brief for each image, because the length of the narration dictates how long the image appears on the screen. I found that 2-3 sentences per image was plenty, and the recordings averaged about 14 seconds each. You will be able to see in the bottom left corner of the tile how many seconds you recorded. And rest assured, you can record as many takes as you like and play them back to ensure you love the final result!
The Preview button is your friend, and I encourage you to preview your project several times throughout the creation process. When you are happy with the final video, click the Produce button that appears in the Preview window. This part of the process is just like Animoto’s Slideshow Video Builder. Click here to read my blog post and watch my step-by-step tutorial video.
With a bit of planning out your story, collecting your content, and production time on the Animoto website, you can get results like this:
I love that Raymond’s grandsons voice shares his words with the viewer!
Videos like these are so simple to create, and will bring your family history to life in a way that every member of your family will enjoy. And the holidays are just around the corner. Why not share your family history video when your family gathers togethers? Then, get ready for the ooos and ahhhs!
Here’s a gem of a success story about using YouTube for family history. This woman found footage of her daddy racing his 1959 El Camino.
One of my favorite places to teach classes is at the Southern California Genealogical Society’s annual Jamboree, where they know how to have a great time AND pack in top-notch family history learning.
Are Your Ancestors on YouTube?
Just before one of my sessions at the 2016 Jamboree, Robyn came up to me and introduced herself. Then she proceeded to accuse me of keeping her up all night!
It turns out that she had attended my class the day before on the subject of finding your family history on YouTube. The tips and examples I shared in that lecture came from chapter 14 of my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, which is devoted to YouTube. The session inspired her to stay up late that night and try it herself.
It can seem so far-fetched buy medication canada legal when I first tell the audience that they might find amazing footage relating to their families on YouTube. But results don’t lie.
The Search on YouTube for Family History
Robyn reported a thrilling find! She searched YouTube for Cleves, Ohio:
“Up came a video that was Edgewater sports park, which was where my father drag-raced when I was a little girl,” she said. “There was a picture of him racing his 1959 El Camino! It was so exciting!”
It was a black and white video. She sent it to her brother to share–and came back to my class the next day to report her success and see what else she could try.
Thanks for sharing, Robyn! Here’s the video:
More Ideas for using YouTube for Family History
Want more inspiration and ideas for using YouTube for family history? Click the image below to read about 6 fantastic ways to use YouTube for family history!
Google Drive is giving some of their competitors a run for their money. This free google tool is just what genealogists are looking for to create, consolidate, and organize their files.
I have been using Google Drive for about a year now. I upload my family photos, GEDCOMs, and my family history notes to the drive. I love the ease in which I can save these things to the cloud and rest knowing my hard work is safely backed up. You can imagine my excitement when our Google expert, Lisa Louise Cooke, shared her new premium video: All About Google Drive. There is so much more I didn’t know Google Drive could do!
Lisa shares ten benefits to using Google Drive and how it packs a powerful punch. Used as a file hosting service, Google Drive can offer you more free storage than Dropbox. Further, Google Drive may be a viable competitor to Evernote for several reasons. You can store files, create files, and edit them all via Google Drive. What’s even better is that Google Drive works across all different computing devices like PC, Mac, Windows, Android, and Apple. This means that syncing and accessing it all has never been easier.
Getting More from Google Drive
But wait, there’s more! Just when you thought you have heard it all, Lisa shares the power of the companion tool, Google Docs, to create documents, drawings, forms, and more. Haven’t had the money to purchase Microsoft Office yet? Not a problem! Google Docs is free to use. Lisa walks you through how to create and save a document and other files by using Google Docs. It is so easy!
You will continue to be amazed at the Google Extensions that are available from the Google Store. I had no idea there were so many. I was particularly excited to hear how I could easily save and clip items from webpages. Imagine finding a digital image of your great-grandmother’s obituary you want to save. How do you do that without having to save the whole page? There’s a Google Extension for that!
Google Drive, Google Docs, and the many extensions available really pack a powerful punch. Watch All About Google Drive to learn more about these knock-out features!