March 23, 2017

YouTube for Family History: Documentaries You’ll Love

family history documentaryAre you using YouTube for family history to watch documentaries about your ancestors’ lives and times? It’s instant family history movie time. Just add popcorn!

After learning last year that my great-grandfather survived the horrific Johnstown flood of 1889, I wanted to learn all I could about it. The flood claimed the lives of thousands of people within hours. It was considered the worst man-made disaster to date in the U.S.

My first stop was YouTube. In her book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Lisa taught me to use YouTube to find historical footage that might include my ancestors (click here to watch my first amazing find). So why not look for a documentary there?

As it turns out, leading biographer David McCullough narrated an award-winning documentary on the Johnstown flood. It’s an older film, based on his book The Johnstown Flood (which I also read). And yes, it’s on YouTube. I watched the whole thing.

True, I didn’t find my 16-year old great-grandfather’s name or face popping up on the screen. But I learned more than words could ever convey–and more than words ever DID convey in my family. Apparently, my relatives who survived it would never talk about the flood. Now I know why.

You can find free documentaries on YouTube for all kinds of family history-related topics:

Looking for something different? Enter search terms in your YouTube browser like “documentary” and the name of a place, ethnic group or immigrant group.

Of course, YouTube isn’t the only place to find documentaries. The ones below are made by nonprofit organizations like public television stations. Click to order them or ask your local library if they can order them through inter-library loan.

More YouTube for Family History Gems

website in screenMy Most Amazing Family History Find Ever–and It’s On YouTube (No Kidding!)

Find Your Family History in the 1950s (Historical Film Footage Tips)

6 Tips for Using YouTube for Family History

 

About Sunny

Sunny Morton is a genealogy writer whose work is read by thousands in magazines and online. As a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems, she frequently posts on the news, but also loves to share quick research tips, reveal little-known resources or take genealogists for an exhilarating dive into deeper research topics and techniques. She's also the author of My Life & Times: A Guided Journal for Collecting Your Stories.