November 24, 2017

You have more families and stories to tell than you think

You probably have more families than you think. I know I do.

I’m a pretty lucky lady. My business is a family business. All three of my daughters and my husband work with me to create Genealogy Gems. But our company family also includes Sunny Morton, our Editor and Book Club Guru, and Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard. As we capture memories throughout the year for generations to come, it makes sense to capture all the families we a part of: businesses, teams, churches, and yes, even genealogy societies.

tell your family stories

This year has been an important one for the Genealogy Gems family. It’s our 10th year serving people around the world who yearn to learn more about their family history. So, I temporarily set aside my workload this last weekend and devoted some important time to recording our history.

I turned to my favorite video tool, Animoto, to pull it all together. It took some time to sift through all the photos and notes I’ve collected over the years, but I loved the nostalgia of seeing it all again and looking back on how far we’ve come. It still blows me away how much easier it is to make a video these days with this new technology. A video like this would have taken me 8-10 hours just ten years ago. But Animoto literally took minutes, and automatically applies the transitions, music, background, and makes sure it all times out together perfectly.

Here’s what I came up with:

There’s no better use of your time than telling the story of the families that mean most to you. Every single one has a story, and I can’t think of a better person to tell that story than you! You can get a free trial of Animoto here, and get started right away. As a bonus, you can use coupon code YEAR15 to save 15% on annual subscriptions! *Valid through 12/31/17.

There doesn’t even have to be a reason or an occasion – these videos can be treasured and enjoyed anytime. Show your families how much you care. And when you do, share the link in the comments, won’t you?

(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 free Genealogy Gems blog and podcast!)

 

Celebrate Your History! Create a Family History Video

Celebrate your stories with video–whether it’s your family history, the story of your business, or an event or pastime you want to share. Check out 5 weeks of great video ideas from Animoto, including my own family history video on an ancestor’s immigration story.

This year marks a big milestone for Genealogy Gems: we turned 10 years old! My favorite video creation tool, Animoto, also marks a decade this summer. We’re celebrating with them–and what better way than with video?

Last week Animoto celebrated relationships with Facebook expert and author of Relationship Marketing, Mari Smith. She inspired everyone to create a video celebrating relationships — whether it’s a video about your family or friends, a video showing appreciation for a client, or a video celebrating another bond that’s important to you.

This week, I’m honored to have been invited by the good folks at Animoto to share why our histories are so important and offer up the video I created that I hope will inspire others. Click here to watch that short video (it’s the first one). Of course they also asked me to share a celebratory video of my own! On the same page, check out a short video I created about the Cooke family coming to Canada. You’ll also find other videos celebrating the story of a business, birth of a child, history of a product and a photographer’s love of his craft. It’s amazing how many topics we can celebrate powerfully with a short video!

Click here to get inspired with five weeks of great video celebration ideas, whether you want to use video for family history storytelling, work, everyday life, or all of the above.

Show off your family history video!

Which family history story will you tell with video and Animoto? Join the party and show your Genealogy Gems pride by sharing them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter using the hashtags #CelebrateWithVideo and #GenealogyGemsPodcast.

Let us help you make a family history video with these detailed how-tos:

How to video record a fantastic family history interview

How to create a family history video with Animoto

animoto how a genealogy society can grow membershipThanks for clicking here to check out Animoto’s subscription service for creating professional-quality videos. When you use this affiliate link and make a purchase, I will be compensated. I appreciate you using these links because that compensation helps make the Genealogy Gems blog possible.

Remembering Dad with a Family History Interview Video

Here’s how to make a family history interview video. We’ll walk you through an easy and quick process that will result in a professional quality video that you’ll be proud to share with your family and generations to come. 

My husband Bill does not  enjoy being on camera, and if I add an interview to the scenario, I have an even bigger challenge on my hands. Does that sound like anyone in your family?

Getting a family member to sit down and answer questions about their life or an ancestor they remember can be an uphill battle, but the climb is worth it. Each one of us has a very unique view of the world. Even though we may remember the same person, our memories and feelings will be distinctly individual, and therefore are worth capturing.

Father’s Day is just around the corner, and we  have a new granddaughter joining our family next month. Now seemed like the perfect time to quickly cobble together an interview video with Bill sharing his memories about his dad. I shared some old photos with him and captured his memories. Take a look:

Maybe you’ve been thinking to yourself, ‘Right now just isn’t a good time.’ But guess what! ‘Right now’ is always the ideal time to capture the memories of living relatives. Don’t wait for the opportune moment to present itself, because it might never come. Right now is the perfect time for you to ask questions and record memories that might otherwise have been lost forever.

If you’ve got a few extra minutes to prep for a more polished interview, follow my recipe for creating a video your family will savor for generations to come.

Even though we may remember the same person, our memories and feelings will be distinctly individual, and therefore are worth capturing.

Ingredients for a Family History Interview Video

ingredients for interview video(Note: I only endorse products that I love and that’s why I’ve accepted Animoto as a sponsor. That means I was compensated for this post. This post also contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Thank you, because they help support the free Genealogy Gems Podcast.)

To create a video like mine, which in total took me about 1 hour from start to finish to create, you’ll need:

  • a smart phone or tablet (I used my iPhone 7 Plus to capture video of Bill answering my questions. The iPhone has a terrific camera built in, but any mobile device with a camera will do.)
  • old family photos (I saved mine to a Dropbox folder that I could access on my iPad)
  • an Animoto slideshow subscription (test drive Animoto with a free trial if you want to get the feel of it before subscribing.)
  • a short list of questions pertaining to the photos
  • a willing interviewee (that was my hubby, although I use the term “willing” loosely here)

Pull together everything before you bring in your interviewee. That way, they won’t start off the interview bored or frustrated while you get things ready. We definitely want to get this off on the right foot!

Setting the Stage

Find a comfortable chair for your interviewee and then place it in front of an attractive background in the room. To get a feeling of depth and a nice focus on my subject, I placed my chair in the center of the room so that the background was in the distance. This setup puts the focus on the person you are interviewing and not the items right behind him.

Lighting can make a big difference in the feel of your video, but it doesn’t have to be fancy. Notice that I kept the background fairly unlit, and then turned on a nice soft lamp on one side of Bill. On the other side, out of camera view, I brought in a second light so that both sides of his face would be lit.

Set up a small, portable tripod on our coffee table in front of my subject and mounted my smartphone (I like this one, which was less than $12). If you don’t have a tripod, just stack up a couple of books on the table to get to the right height, and then use a book on either side of the camera to keep it stable.

family history interview video smartphone setup

The video viewer side facing you as the interviewer

family history interview video smartphone setup 02

The lens side facing your interviewee

Position a chair for yourself behind the camera, and off to one side. Stay within reaching distance of your camera so that you can turn it on and off between questions. You will want to be off to one side so that your subject is looking at you and not the camera when they answer your questions during filming.

‘Right now’ is always the ideal time
to capture the memories of living relatives.

Start the Interview

Bring your subject in, and get them comfortable in their chair. Have a glass of water nearby for them. Chat with them for a moment about how they are doing, the weather, or whatever else comes to mind (except family history – save that for the video) to sort of warm them up. Explain that they don’t need to worry about the camera, but instead should just focus on talking to you.

To ensure an easy to understand video, encourage them to repeat back the question in their answer because your audio won’t be part of the interview. For example:

You:  “What was your mom like when you were a child?” (showing a photo of them and their mom)

Them (OK) : “She took great pride in her home, and she insisted we take our shoes off before entering.”

Them (BETTER) : “When I was young, my mom took great pride in her home, and she insisted that we take our shoes off before entering.”

Folks usually get the hang of it after a couple of tries. Finally, ask them to wait just a beat before they begin talking and to avoid talking over you. Again, the goal is to only capture the audio of the interviewee.

Armed with your list of questions, bring out the first family photo (I did this on an iPad where I had the photos saved in my Dropbox app). On your phone, tap the Camera app to open it, set it to Video, and pressed the big round record button. Move back to your off camera position, and show the first photo and ask your question. Don’t worry about the beginning or the end of the Q&A being messy with getting situated because you will trim that off later in Animoto. After they complete their answer, press the button on the screen to stop recording. It is much easier to work with short video clips rather than one long continuous recording for a number of reasons:

  • It’s easier to move small video clips from your phone to your computer
  • Video clips up to 450 MB can be uploaded to Animoto (that’s typically just a little over 4 continuous minutes of video)
  • One question per clip makes it much easier to move them around in your project to get the exact order you want
  • It’s easier to interject photos between clips when the questions are individual video clips

Pull up the next photo, press Record, and ask your second question. Repeat for each question and answer. If you go longer than about 20 minutes total, it’s a good idea to stop and ask them how they are doing. Ask if they are agreeable to continuing. Be sensitive to their time and comfort. Remember, people before genealogy.

Post Production of Your Family History Interview Video

share to dropbox

Step 1: In the Camera app, tap Share and Save to Dropbox

As a podcaster, pre- and post-production takes up much more of my time than recording. But with Animoto, your post-production time will be really quick. Here are the steps to creating your finished video:

Step 1: In the Camera app, Share your videos to your computer via a cloud sharing service.

Step 2: On your computer go here to Animoto, sign in and click the Create button to start a new Slideshow video project. (For 10 seconds or shorter video clips you can create your video right on your phone in the Animoto app. But in the case of this type of interview, answers will be longer and you’ll want to use the website.)

Step 3: Select a Style and the Song that will play in the background.

Step 4:  On the project page, click Add pics & videos, and upload the video clips and photos. Adjust the length of each video clip as desired, eliminating unwanted portions.

Step 5: Arrange the content in the desired order. I chose to show the answer first, and follow it up with the photo.

Step 6: Add Text if desired. You can add text to photos, or individual ‘title cards’ at the beginning, middle, and end of your video.

Step 7: Click Preview to review your video and make any needed adjustments.

Step 7: Preview one last time and click Produce to render your finished video.

Step 8: Download a copy of the video to your computer, and make sure your computer is backed up! (I use Backblaze.) The ability to download HD quality videos from Animoto for archiving is a HUGE reason why I love it so much.

I’ve got three quick tutorial videos here for you to watch if you feel like you need some help with your first project.

Remember, people before genealogy.

Need more inspiration?

I’ve been having a blast creating Animoto videos about my husband’s family. It’s been a great way to get my non-genealogist husband involved and really interested in family history. Here are two more videos I created about his family:

You May Already Have the Makings of a Family History VideoWilliam H. Cooke’s Navy Years Video

Avoid the Eye Roll with New Video Creation Tool From the Journal of Raymond H. Cooke Video

Please share this post with your genie friends, thanks!

 

 

April 8, 1913…Who Inspires You?

When I got up this morning, my mind was on getting up and out the door to my grandson Davy’s baseball game. But I couldn’t help but entertain this nagging feeling that there was something else special about this day.

In the car after the game, wind-swept  and with a bit of powdered sugar on my blouse from the funnel cake Davy’s younger brother Joey and I shared, it dawned on me: today is Grandma’s birthday.

Grandma Burkett passed away over 31 years ago, and yet she’s always close with me. I feel her cheering me on in my genealogical searches, and reminding me that there is no contest between sleeping in and attending a grandchild’s baseball game. She was my role model for what a Grandma should be. Even though my grandchildren call me Sha Sha, I hope my grandkids feel my efforts and know that they are loved, as I was loved by her.

As Bill drove us back out to our home in the country, I pulled my phone out of my purse, and decided to create a video birthday card to Grandma.

(Full disclosure: I’m going to share with you my go-to tool of choice. Animoto is a sponsor of The Genealogy Gems Podcast, however, I personally use it because I think it’s fantastic.)

Animoto is my go-to tool of choice. With a tap of the app, I selected a theme and music that I thought would suit it nicely, (that’s the part that takes me the longest because I love their varied selection of tunes!).

Animoto App pick theme and music

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next I tapped to select about 14 photos  sitting in my Dropbox account.

Animoto app pick photos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I added a title card at the beginning and the end, and tapped Preview. In about 30 seconds I had a finished video, complete with transitions perfectly timed to the music. One more tap of Save  & Produce Video and my HD quality video was rendered so I could upload it to Facebook to share with my family and the world.

Then I quickly downloaded an HD copy for myself. The ability to download your HD quality video is one of the really unique features of Animoto, and one you should wholeheartedly take advantage of. Unless you have that copy saved to your own computer, (and OF COURSE your computer is backed up, right? If not, click here) you can never be sure that it won’t be lost over time.

There’s always enough to pay tribute to those who inspire us, particularly when creating videos like these is so fast and easy. Who inspires you? I would love to hear! Please leave your comment below.

And if you want to give Animoto a try (prepare to fall in love) then click here and sign up for a free 7 day trial. Then use the coupon code PER10OFF to get 10% off a Personal account and start making your own Slideshow videos.

Thank you Grandma!
Lisa

P.S. Mother’s Day is coming up. And that brings to mind another woman who inspires me, my daughter and mother-to-be, Vienna. I feel another video coming on! 😉

 

Your Adventures are the Family History of Your Descendants

Family History isn’t just about looking at the past – it’s also celebrating and preserving the present for generations to come. Your adventures today are the family history of your descendants tomorrow!

road trip video adventures 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!)

The mammoth RootsTech family history conference in Salt Lake City was a true family affair for me this year. I’ve been speaking at the conference since its launch in 2011, but this was the first year that my husband Bill and daughter Hannah joined the Genealogy Gems team at our exhibit booth. Running the booth is a huge undertaking, and Hannah captured the heart of it with her GoPro camera in this stunning 1 minute video:

What fascinates me about this video is how she captured so much and was able to share it in such a quick and entertaining way. The GoPro did the time-lapse and photography legwork, but our favorite video creation app, (and sponsor of The Genealogy Gems Podcast) Animoto, turned it into something special, and shareable.

It’s Nice, but Sometimes Difficult, to Share

Shareable! Ah, my mind wanders back to the closet in the spare bedroom of my Grandma’s house. As a kid, I would open that door and see boxes of super 8 home movies and envelopes of photographs stacked on her cedar chest. In her youth, she meticulously assembled scrapbooks. But as the years passed and she got busy raising a family and working as a maternity nurse, her passion for documenting her family’s life turned into a pile of media and good intentions.

Fast forward to today: sharing thoughtfully assembled photos and videos can still be a challenge. Do you have “stacks” of videos and photos on your smart phone or computer waiting for some TLC? Finding the time is as much of a challenge today as it was in my Grandma’s day. And that’s where Animoto makes a monumental difference. This powerful web and mobile app not only dramatically reduces the time it takes to assemble a video; it also eliminates major roadblocks like:

  • Not possessing technical know-how,
  • Struggling with creativity and design elements,
  • Time-consuming massaging of transitions to fit the music,
  • and finding the right music that doesn’t infringe on someone else’s copyright.

The Road to RootsTech

I flew out to Salt Lake City for meetings just prior to the RootsTech conference. Bill and Hannah loaded up the booth into a trailer and drove the 2400 miles round trip. Here’s how Hannah described the trip:

When I was young, Dad and I travelled with my softball team often, but it’s a rare occurrence these days. On the start of my drive with my dad from Dallas to Salt Lake City, I thought to myself “if I’m going to record footage and images of our experience at Rootstech, then I should document how we got there!” Stories of major events always gets told, but life is a journey and that story deserves telling too.

Knowing that I planned on creating a video actually encouraged us to have fun, and Dad and I made an effort to find interesting stops along the way like the iconic Cadillac Ranch along Route 66. The end result was a spectacular father-daughter travel adventure, and a video that preserves the fun forever. Check it out:

Here are some of Hannah’s tips for easily creating a professional quality video of the history you are making today:

  • When working on your computer, create a folder dedicated to your project. That way you can just copy the images and videos into it and leave the original archived. When working on mobile, I organize my media into an Album in my iPhone’s Photos.
  • I love that you can just drag and drop your photos and video clips directly into Animoto and rearrange them to suit your story. The beauty of working on your mobile device is that images and video already appear chronologically making that process even easier.
  • Animoto makes it easy by offering up music that is suited to the video style you choose. But you can exert your creativity by selecting new different song from their music library. In your project, click Change Song > Browse Full Library, and then check the boxes for the type of music you have in mind such as the event, mood, or whether you want instrumental or vocal music.

Get Started Creating Your First Video

Whether you want to create an animated slideshow video of your Grandfather’s World War II Naval years or document this year’s father-daughter road trip, Animoto makes it super quick and easy. Simply start by signing up for a free Animoto account  here and click the Create button. Learn more about creating your videos here on our resource page. And use coupon code gems25 to get 25% off an Animoto subscription now through 3/15/17.

(Disclaimer: When I fell in love with Animoto, I welcomed them as a sponsor of The Genealogy Gems Podcast. However, any opinions expressed about this product, or any other, are my own.)

You May Already Have the Makings of a Family History Video

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!

The Foundation

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!

books videofamily history

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.

The Process

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 storyvideo project in Animoto

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.

 

How Facebook Users Reunited a Bible with its Family: Facebook for Family History

family-bible-cover-2These 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.)

family-bible-marriagesThat 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?!

The Gift of Family History Video

Are you having a hard time coming up with the perfect gift for someone special on your list? The gift of video gives all year round, and doesn’t require you to buy the correct size. Make your video about family history, or the memories of the recipient, and get ready for hugs and smiles of appreciation for your thoughtfulness.

Do you remember the first Christmas that you realized it was better to give than to receive?  It’s an amazing feeling when your heart swells at the thought of snagging the perfect present for the people you love the most. But if you’re like me, there are always one or two relatives who present daunting challenges. Perhaps it’s the elder members of your tribe who seem to want for nothing; or a Aunt who quietly returns everything.

video gift

My challenge this year is my Dad. He seems to want for nothing, and having an Amazon Wish List isn’t even on his radar. Last year Dad passed his high school scrapbook on to me. It’s brimming with some of his fondest memories: his Boy Scout membership card, newspaper clippings of his football prowess, and the cardboard glasses he wore to his very first 3D movie. I’m pretty sure his heart was swelling when he handed this treasure chest of beloved memories to his daughter, the family historian.

And that’s when I was struck with an inspiration: give it back to him in the form of a video.

Video: Gift Perfection

Here’s why video makes a perfect gift:

  • It doesn’t take up precious space on the shelf
  • It can be enjoyed from any computing or mobile device again and again
  • It can be shared easily with others

If you have been in search of the perfect holiday gift, follow along with me, and give the gift of video.

Creating a Video Gift

If you’re short on time, consider making a video of an old family scrapbook. All you will need  is a smartphone and 30-60 minutes.  Pull a scrapbook off the shelf, and dust it off because it’s about to get a new life!

Step 1 – Photograph the album

You could use a flatbed scanner to scan each page and the individual items you want to highlight. But you can save a ton of time by putting your smartphone or tablet to use. For me, this was the  ideal solution also because so many of the items in the scrapbook had become loose, and I wanted to be able to show the pages as they were originally laid out. By setting the book on a table I could just snap photos rather than turning it upside down on the scanner glass. And don’t worry about snapping the perfect pics because we’ll get them all snazzy in step 3.

Save the images to a free cloud service like Dropbox so that you can easily retrieve them on your home computer.

Step 2 – Head to Animoto.com

(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!)

Although Animoto does have an mobile app, I like using the web version on my computer which provides the advantage of a bigger screen. Click here to go to Animoto, and sign in to your account.  Then, just click the Create button to start a new video project.

Choose a Video Style, which will include a music soundtrack. If the music isn’t quite what you had in mind, click Change Song and pick from a robust list of tunes. Animoto’s secret sauce optimizes and paces your slides to jive with the music. If the music is faster, the slides are faster, and if it’s slower, yep, the slides are slower. In the end though, you always have the final choice in the pacing of your slides and your entire video. Need a little extra time? Then just add a second music sound track.

Step 3 – Add Your Photos

Now it’s time to add your photos. Click Add Image, select Dropbox, and navigate your way to the folder where you saved your photos. Click the first one in the list, and then holding down the Shift key on your keyboard, click the last photo in the list, and click the Choose button. There you go: you’ve added all your images in one fell swoop! Imagine the time you saved over adding one item at a time.

I snapped all the full page photos first, and then I went back and snapped some of particular items I wanted to highlight with closeup images. That meant that when I added my photos they weren’t in exactly the right order. Thankfully, all I had to do was drag and drop them in the desired order. Easy peasy!

video gift dashboard

animoto-edit-video-gift

Edit your photos within Animoto.

Another reason I adore using Animoto is that I can do all my editing right there in the dashboard. With a few clicks you can apply a quick crop, slight rotation, and image enhancement with a great result. (Image right)

You even have the option to add video clips with Animoto. So if I had a fancy to add my original video of turning the pages of the scrapbook (above) I would just drag and drop it onto the timeline. And  it is that ability to drag images and video from your hard drive straight into Animoto that makes it so quick and easy to use.

Step 4 – Add Title Slides

Although my Dad’s scrapbook really speaks for itself, I decided to add a few title cards to help guide the viewer like:

  • The Picture Show
  • School Work
  • Sports
  • Graduation

And title cards are great for “The End” and any other message or credits you want to add.

If you want to add text within your project, click to select the item that your text will follow, then click Add Text from the menu, and it will appear immediately after the previous item. To add text at the end, just click the plus sign in the last box and again type your text. And remember, nothing is set in stone. If you change your mind you can drag the text to a new location, edit it, or delete it all together.

Step  5 – Preview & Publish Your Video

At any time during the process you can click the Preview Video button to see your work. If you like what you see, then click the Produce button in the Preview window to create the final product. And speaking of final products, here’s mine:

Learn More

Are you ready to start creating memorable videos for the loved ones on your list? Click here to learn even more and give Animoto a whirl. (And just think: no wrapping required. You’re welcome!)

Avoid the Eye Roll with New Video Creation Tool

It’s a common phenomenon for the genealogist: the eye roll!

image_1Relatives 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 and Harry

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. 

video script

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 had just 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.

record video narration

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!

How One Genealogist Used YouTube for Family History with Astonishing Results!

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.

youtube genealogyOne 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?

youtube for family historyJust 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!

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 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:

cleves-oh-youtube-for-family-history

The Results

“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!

YouTube for family history