Inspiring Family History Video Ideas Sent In By YOU

These family history video ideas and comments/questions sent in by Genealogy Gems listeners can inspire your own short videos. See how they script their stories, find royalty-free music soundtracks and more. Then visualize yourself in the director’s chair—what kind of family history video do YOU want to make?

For a while now, I’ve been encouraging everyone to produce their own short family history videos. You don’t need a big budget, lots of fancy equipment or even a director’s chair (although I wouldn’t mind having one of those!). A few simple online tools, like Animoto’s do-it-yourself video platform, can help you create family history videos that are oh-so-shareable with relatives on social media. I’ve heard some great family history video ideas from you—along with an important question about finding royalty-free music.

Family history video ideas: Celebrate special birthdays

Muffy in Seattle, WA sent in the following email:

“Finally got around to listening to Episode #213 and the great story about the video y’all made to go with Tom’s poem [watch it below]. What a great idea to have him read his poem and then add pictures. Something to think about for my future videos!

This inspired me to share a video I created this past Christmas for my Dad. Trying to find out where our branch of Walkers comes from was my inspiration for starting into the very addicting world of genealogy. Unfortunately, it remains the only direct line I cannot trace across the pond. Gotta retire! Here is a link to my first video I wanted to share. Great hit with my Dad, uncle, and cousins. Maybe it will be inspiration for others to take the leap into the video world.”

Family history video question: What about music?

Melissa sent this important question about creating a soundtrack for your family history videos:

“Hello Lisa,

I have made a video using a basic subscription to Animoto and am very pleased with it. I do have a question about using music. While there are some choices on my basic subscription, I seem to have my own idea of the music I would like. In your video you mentioned to make sure the music we download is permissible.

I searched for public domain music and came up with nothing useful. Even looked on the Library of Congress Jukebox collection but it is only streamed and I think using that would not be permissible. How do I find more available and permissible music to use for the videos? My videos are just for family members and not for profit but I want to do the right thing.

I look forward to your podcasts and videos. You continue to educate me!”

Here are some tips for Melissa (and the rest of you) about finding music. First, I do use music that comes with two video-creating tools I use: Animoto (you can purchase personal subscription plans for 10% off with promocode PER10OFF) and Camtasia, which video software I use all the time (it’s a special favorite for screen-capturing my Google Earth Family History Tours).

Unfortunately, I have found free royalty-free music sites few and far between. You’re smart to be cautious because if you were to put your video on YouTube they have the technology to identify any song that is used that is a violation of copyright.

The good news is that YouTube does make free music available to you. Sign in to YouTube with your Google account, click on your picture in the upper right corner, and go to your Creator Studio. Upload your video (you can keep it private if you wish) and then on the video page click “Audio” (above the video title). There are many music tracks to choose from. Once you’ve added a track and saved it, you should be able to download the video with the music included.

An easy way to browse royalty-free music on YouTube is to filter your YouTube search results by those marked with a Creative Commons license, like this:

(Just be sure to read up on using Creative Commons material. There are still rules to follow about how to use it and how to properly credit it.)

Melissa sent this answer: “Thank you, Lisa, for your response. I did go to YouTube and found the music I wanted, “Keep on the Sunny Side,” with a Creative Commons license. My mother sang that when I was a child and she heard it from her aunt, who raised her when she was a child. It was the perfect song for the Animoto video of my mother’s memories of her mother and aunt. It was wonderful to find that song in public domain! I had no idea to look there before your response.”

Family history video ideas: Put your memories to music

Not long ago, I helped Genealogy Gems listener Tom Boyer put his own memories to music. He’d actually written his thoughts in poem form, inspired by the “Where I’m From” family history poetry initiative we shared with listeners in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 185. It took Tom a while to write his own poem, but he finally sent it in. I found it so inspiring I created a video with his pictures and an audio track of him reading it. You can listen to the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 213, mentioned above, to hear more about how that collaboration with Tom went. Watch the video here–I think it turned out beautifully:

More family history video ideas

The Genealogy Gems website is packed with resources for helping you create beautiful family history videos and books for sharing your family history with loved ones. Try these ones:

6 tips to create family history books they can’t put down

Step-by-step: Create a short family history video

A video interview: Remembering Dad

About the Author: Lisa Louise Cooke

About the Author: Lisa Louise Cooke

Lisa is the Producer and Host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show and app. She is the author of the books The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Mobile Genealogy, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, and the Google Earth for Genealogy video series, an international keynote speaker, and producer of the Family Tree Magazine Podcast.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

How to Find a Missing Webpage: Quick and Easy Video Tutorial

It’s important to know how to find a missing webpage when you’re a genealogy researcher. Clues to your family history are all over the Internet, and so are must-use research tools, directories, maps and how-tos. This free 2-minute video tutorial shows you an easy solution to those frustrating “page not found” messages.

How to find a missing webpage

Recently I went looking for my favorite (free!) downloadable genealogy forms at a particular webpage on Ancestry.com. I was not happy to discover that the webpage wasn’t there any more–at least under that name. So I used a little trick that often helps me find a missing webpage. This trick works when a webpage has been renamed or put into a different place on the website (which has the effect of changing the link). Here’s a short video demonstration of how it works.

Summary: 3 Google search strategies to try

  1. Go to Google and paste the URL you have in to the search box. Remove the tail end of the URL, back to the original folder name. Click Enter. The new page will likely appear at the top of the results.
  2. If this doesn’t work, try a Google search for the name of the original webpage. This would likely be the title that was across the top of the page, if you can recall what it was.
  3. Finally, try a Google site search by entering site: followed by the name of the website and the keywords you want to search within that website. For example: the search site:lisalouisecooke.com episode 154 will search for episodes 154 from the Genealogy Gems Podcast and Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast on my website.

How to find a missing webpage that’s not online anymore

If a webpage or an entire website has actually been removed (not just moved), you’ll need to use another free search tool: the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. For example, the free genealogy website RootsWeb recently had some security problems and site host Ancestry.com shut it down for repair. Click here to read instructions on how to use the Wayback Machine to search for RootsWeb or other absent webpages.

Watch more tech tip videos

It’s so essential to be able to find what you need online! Boost your everyday (and genealogy) web sleuthing skills with quick, free tech tip videos on the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel. While you’re there, check out my must-watch series of free videos on Google searching for your genealogy. Click here to visit my YouTube channel and start watching! Then hit ‘Subscribe’ at the top of the page so you can keep up with the newest tech tips for genealogy.

About the Author

About the Author

Lisa Louise Cooke is the Producer and Host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show and app. She is the author of the books The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Mobile Genealogy, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, and the Google Earth for Genealogy video series, an international keynote speaker, and producer of the Family Tree Magazine Podcast.

6 Tips to Create Family History Books They Can’t Put Down

I started creating family history books a decade ago. These 6 strategies helped me share my genealogy research findings in books that made fascinating, affordable and easy-to-mail gifts.

cant put down family history books

My dilemma: How to share my family history

Several years ago, I began sharing my family history research with my relatives. We don’t live close to them, so I had to mail whatever I shared. Initially, I sent CDs full of digitized photos and documents, but they just didn’t get looked at like I had hoped. Individual items on CDs didn’t easily or smoothly tell a story. Also, I think some of my relatives found the technology a bit intimidating back then. And many people just don’t care for viewing photos, documents or stories on a computer screen.

The solution

I found that the solution to sharing with all family members was a good old fashioned book! Books are still hard to beat for telling a story in words and pictures in an extremely easy to use way. Self-publishing little hardbound family history books helped me break up my research sharing into digestible chunks. And the best part? My family actually opened and read them them cover to cover.

But where to begin the family story, and where to end it? It’s tempting to tell the story of one generation in each book. But even this can become an overwhelming project, with an end product that is not as meaningful for your readers (lots of dates and names, without a lot of room for stories or photos). I wanted my family to get to know our ancestors intimately. For me, that meant focusing on one person or one event instead of entire generations or families.

Where to start

I started with my favorite ancestor: my grandmother. I’ve transcribed many years of her diaries, which are full of her stories about years spent in nurse’s training. Those journal entries taught me so much and led me to some great discoveries about her life. They also dovetail beautifully with my collection of photos from that period. So I decided that my starting point would be her graduation from high school and her decision to enter the nursing field. By the time I had pulled everything together from 1930 to 1933, I had more than enough for a nice size book: “A Nurse in Training.”

Tips to create family history books

It’s really important to create your book with your “customer” in mind: your family member who will be reading the book. So here are my top tips for making your book fascinating to your reader:

#1. Convey an overall theme. Review all the available material that you have. That will give you a sense of what stories you can tell and, hopefully, a sense of your ancestors’ goals, experiences and emotions.

In the case of “A Nurse In Training,” I wanted to communicate my grandmother as a young woman, taking on a new adventure away from home. Both funny times and deeply challenging times formed the foundation of this warm, caring woman’s successful career. And she just happened to meet her husband at the same time!

You don’t need every scrap of research and every photo to get this theme across. It’s your job to be a sharp editor to pick out the critical pieces.

#2. Make it readable in one sitting. Like it or not, if the book takes too long read, your relatives won’t. Strive to create a book that doesn’t look intimidating. I create books that are 20 double-sided pages. People will be willing to pick up a thinner book off the coffee table. And if it’s well done, they’ll find that they’ve suddenly finished the entire book without once thinking of putting it down! Hopefully they’ll walk away with a real sense of having gotten to know that ancestor.

#3. Fill it with the best of what you have. This goes back to conveying the theme and being a tough editor. My grandma had many funny stories, but there just wasn’t room for all of them. I picked only the best of the best. Anyone who reads the book should hopefully come away with the fact that my grandma had a sense of humor and could laugh at herself. I made sure some of the most compelling stories were at the beginning: if you can capture their interest in the first three pages, you’ll have them hooked for the entire book.

#4. Pack it with photos and graphics. A picture is definitely worth a thousand words. And since words in a small book will be limited, photographs will be your best friend. If you’re lacking in family photos, consult my podcast episodes for countless ideas for finding appropriate images. In A Nurse In Training, I included scanned images of skating rink tickets, programs and announcements from my grandma’s scrapbook and journal pages in my grandmother’s own hand. These types of items really add texture and interest to a book, and help the reader to see that you’ve really done your homework.

#5. Keep it in chronological order. This seems obvious, but it’s easy to get side-tracked and start going back and forth in time. Believe me, for the reader’s sake, use dates and keep things in chronological order. You as the researcher know this information backwards and forwards, but this is probably your reader’s first exposure to it. Be gentle with them and keep it straightforward and simple. Your reader will thank you.

#6. Choose quality! High-quality glossy pages, good image quality and a hard cover binding all shout to the reader, “I’m worth your time! Read me!” For example, I found a drawing of Dameron Hospital, which was part of my grandma’s story, but it was a low quality image and didn’t look good in the book. As much as I wanted to include it, I ended up leaving it out, and I’m glad I did. It wasn’t critical to my theme, and there were other ways to illustrate the hospital setting for the reader.

From book to movie: Create your own family history videos

My “Nurse in Training” book eventually became the basis for my very first family history videos. Watch them here–and see how I turned her own words into an illustrated narrative:

animoto how a genealogy society can grow membershipNext Step: Turn your family history book into a movie

I created these before do-it-yourself video services like Animoto made it so easy. (And I think that’s why I appreciate them so much!) If you’d like to put an ancestor’s story into video format but you’re not sure how, try writing it up as a short book first. By the time you’re finished, you’ll have an excellent start on your “screenplay.” You’ll also have a great little book to send loved ones as a gift. (If you do eventually turn that story into a short video, they’ll love it even more, because they’ll already know the story that they will see come alive on the screen.) Click here to learn step-by-step how to create your own family history video.

Find Old Film Footage Online: YouTube and Google Video Search

Old film footage can make your family stories truly unforgettable–even for those relatives who seem to forget every fact you tell them about your genealogy! Follow these tips to find old film footage and video online.

find old film footage tips for finding video online

If a picture’s worth a thousand words when you share your family history, how much more do you think a video is worth?

A while back, we told the gripping story of Betty McIntosh, a Honolulu reporter-turned-World War II spy. What fun it was to research and share on the blog! The post has multimedia sources threaded throughout: an image of a young Betty from the CIA’s website, news articles, oral histories with more memories of Pearl Harbor, a YouTube video interview with Betty, and even a dramatic radio broadcast clip from the day of the attack, when the media was trying to reach the mainland with news of the attack.

We found all those sources via Google searching. And while we could go into great depth on how to find each of those kinds of sources (and I do, in resources such as my book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox), in this article, I wanted to share some tips on finding old film footage online, using Betty as a case study. Think about how you might use these tips to look for old video or films related to your family history–and let me know what you find! I’d love to hear from you.

How to find old film footage online: 4 tips

1. Search for your topic on YouTube, the world’s largest video-sharing website. My book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox has an entire chapter devoted to YouTube searches for family history, so I won’t go into great depth here. I will tell you to think of search terms that pertain to the family history stories you want to share: a person’s name, a place, an event in history, or even an occupation or industry. Enter those search terms at YouTube.com.

Betty lived in the 20th century and was recognized publicly for her work during her own lifetime. So there was a good chance that old film or video would exist about her. And they do! A YouTube search brought up video interviews with her, such as this one:

2. Repeat the searches on Google. YouTube searches can only bring up what’s actually been put on YouTube. Google searches are much wider, across millions of websites, and you may find some other wonderful resources. When your Google search results come up, click Videos to narrow your results:

find old film footage online

You’ll have some duplication with results from YouTube. In the case of Betty McIntosh, I found two additional videos that didn’t come up on YouTube. One of them was at NBC News.com and the other was an hour-long interview on C-Span!

find old film footage

3. Run multiple searches on both Google and YouTube. Repeat your searches with various search parameters to broaden or narrow your results, or to capture different kinds of results. In Betty’s case, keywords such as spy and reporter were important to filter out unwanted results.

Remember that Google and YouTube aren’t specifically designed for searching for name variants like your favorite genealogy website is. So these sites may not recognize nicknames or other name variants, such as “Elizabeth” instead of “Betty.” Also search by surnames only, maiden and married names and even initials. Here’s a quick video tutorial I did on using asterisks to search for name variations on Google:

4. Pay attention to copyright restrictions if you want to share old film footage, such as if you’re making your own family history video. For example, I found these copyright restrictions for using C-Span video (noncommercial use is allowed and there’s even a handy video clipping tool right on the site if you want to clip part of it and save it).

More on YouTube for Family History: Get Inspired!

6 Tips for Using YouTube for Family Historyyoutube genealogy find old film footage

History documentaries online can help you understand your family’s story

My Most Amazing Family History Find Ever–and It’s On YouTube

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. 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 can you buy medication online 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, every day 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.

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