I recently taught a RootsMagic 6 workshop that covered the basics of the software and I explained why it was a good idea to have genealogy software on our hard drive and not just have family trees online, i.e. Ancestry.com.
During the workshop a question was asked about tape recording family members and whether it was a good idea. My answer was a definite “YES”. However, I felt I had an even better suggestion – VIDEO.
I got my first webcam in 2002 to stay in touch with close friends moving to Europe. I never did think of it then to use it for genealogical purposes.
In 2006, my Nana [Dad’s mother] needed to have an operation and would be in the hospital for a week. I volunteered to spend the week with my 91-year-old grandfather to alleviate any worries the rest of the family had. I also saw this as a great opportunity to do an in-depth genealogical interview with him.
The second day I was there I pulled out my interview questions and tape recorder and sat in front of him at breakfast. I was surprised to learn my grandfather could answer open-ended questions with just one word. The only new thing I learned was that he had seen every Charlie Chaplin movie.
On the third day, I woke up early and my grandfather walked in on me making a video diary of my trip with my webcam. He looked like he had seen a ghost – I didn’t know what was wrong. Then he smiled – then he frowned. Just then I realized my grandfather had never seen himself on TV before just by the expression on his face.
At this point the doorbell rang so I was gone about ten minutes while Grandpa was left alone with my computer. Later, I discovered ten minutes of hysterical video as he tried to figure out how the technology worked.
That afternoon I brought my computer and webcam with me when we went to visit my Nana in the hospital. To my surprise I filmed two minutes of a humorous video clip of my Nana, Grandpa, and myself. Before I left Boston I decided to do a walking video tour of the home they had lived in since before I was born. I took all three clips, made a CD, and sent copies to my immediate family. I hoped they would cherish it as much as I do.
Although it was off topic, I decided to share the short clip of my grandparent’s interaction. The class roared with laughter as it played. When it was over I showed them how to link the file into RootsMagic 6. Since I shared it with the class, I thought I’d share it will all of you.
My grandfather would pass May 2007, the day after his great-granddaughter was born [my niece]. I was so lucky that I had made that video. Every May when I miss my Grandpa, I watch the CD and it always makes me laugh.
This year, I decided it was my goal to interview my parents on video. My mother was very reluctant at first but she agreed. After asking just one question about her childhood, she spoke for 45 minutes about her life all the way up until she met my father. I’m still working on getting my father to sit down with me but I still have to the end of the year.
I know you are probably wondering what the point might be. Now that video is so readily available there is no excuse not to use it via digital cameras, cell phones, etc. It can be used not just for your ancestors that are still alive, but for yourself as well for future generations. Sit down and tell your story and put it away. Your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will appreciate it someday – I’m sure of it.
Someday when my niece is older I will share the video of her great-grandparents with her. And someday far far far into the future when my parents are gone, I will show her the DVD I’m making of them.
If one day you were lucky enough to find video of your great-grandparents and grandparents wouldn’t you cherish it? So stop procrastinating, and do it. I promise it will be worth it in the end!!