More and more families are realizing the benefits of video family histories. By combining those old photos and some simple interview techniques, you can make family keepsakes for future generations.
They stare at me glumly from under the brims of their straw skimmers, as if to say, "We trusted Cousin Willie's Kodak to keep our memory green, but you don't even know our names;" and as I page through Grandma's withered photo book, I must admit my ancestors are right.
Which is frustrating because I blew my only chance to find out who they were. Some years ago I sat with my mother as she turned through this ancient album while delivering funny and libelous comments (like the one about "Auntie Sparkle," who won her nickname because she killed a jug a day of hundred-proof "nerve tonic" from a teetotal teaspoon instead of a shot glass).
I'd struggled to write notes as Mom put names to those monochrome faces, but I can't find them anymore, and now she too stands silently with Auntie Sparkle and Cousin Willie in that great snapshot album up above.
If I had known, I would've grabbed a camcorder and preserved my mother's priceless guided tour. To help you avoid my mistake, here's a lightning-fast survey of video family histories, plus a closer look at just one of the many possible projects of this type.
People, Places and Things
For most of us, our strongest links to the past are people linked through family genealogy. And that's where the camcorder and the home computer make a perfect couple. A genealogy program/database is the first truly practical way to cope with family generations that branch like maple trees. Many newer computers will output NTSC video directly through a simple S- or composite video jack. If your model lacks this feature, you can buy a VGA/NTSC signal converter for as little as $100.
Though family history is still often synonymous with people, past places can be equally resounding. The old home or farm, the family's shop, public school 92, the cabin on Lake Wannabee--these live in our memories and we want to know if they are still there and if they have changed.
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