How to Find Your Family History on YouTube

how to find family history on youtube

Pieces of your family history are on video on YouTube, and in this episode I’m showing you how to find them! Here’s what you’re going to learn:

  • Why you can almost be sure that there are videos on YouTube pertaining to your family’s history.
  • The best strategies for finding videos about your family history.
  • 7 things to do when you find a video about some part of your family history.

How to find family history related videos on YouTube

Can you really find family history related videos on YouTube? You bet you can! Thanks to the tremendous growth in online video, your chances are better than ever. Here’s how much online video has grown in recent years:

  • YouTube is now the second most popular search engine next to Google.com.
  • Cisco reports: 2014 64% of all Internet traffic was video. The prediction for 2021 is 85%.
  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month to watch and upload video.
  • Digitizing video is easier and more affordable than ever.

So, what kind of videos can be found that have to do with your family history? Here are just a few examples:

Old home movies.
Perhaps uploaded by a close or distance family member, or a friend of the family who happened to capture your family in their home movies.

Vintage news reels and TV news broadcasts.
Your family members don’t have to be famous to show up in local news reports.

Corporate videos.
Companies often create instructional and promotional films.

Video tours.
Filmed at historical locations, churches, and other places where your ancestors may have lived.

Historical documentaries.
These can provide great background information about the times and places where your ancestors lived.

How to start finding family history videos on YouTube

The easiest way to get started is by selecting a person in your family tree. If you’re looking for actual  film footage of the person, you’ll want to focus on more recent people in your family. However, there’s a treasure trove of videos available on YouTube so don’t worry if you’re trying to learn more about an ancestor born in 1800. You can still find all kinds of videos that can shed more life on your ancestor’s world and the life they may have led.

Once you’ve selected an ancestor, make a list of things you know about them. Here are some examples of what you could look for:

  • Names of associate ancestors
  • Places where they lived
  • Where they went to school
  • Where they worked
  • Events they were involved in
  • Hobbies / Groups / Clubs
  • Friends / Associates
  • etc.

 

Search your ancestor’s name at YouTube

Start by searching for your ancestor’s name in the search field at YouTube. Example search: Will Ivy Baldwin

Review the results. Keep an eye out for film footage that looks older. Hover your mouse over the results to see if words appear that further explain why you received that video as result. You may see an indication that what you searched for appears in the text of the video description (found just below the video) or the captions. If they appear in the captions, that means that someone in the video said the name you searched for! Automated closed captions are fairly new so you will find that not all videos have captions.

Next add more keywords relevant to their life. Example: Will Ivy Baldwin tightrope

Use quotation marks to get exact matches on the important words. Example: Will Ivy “Baldwin” “tightrope”. (Learn more about search operators such as quotation marks in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.)

Try variations and search multiple times. Examples:

  • Will Ivy “Baldwin” “tightrope”
  • Will “Ivy Baldwin” “tightrope”
  • “Will Ivy Baldwin” “tightrope”
  • Will Ivy “Baldwin” “Colorado”

You can also search for the phrase Home Movie and a family surname. Example search: “Home movie” “Burkett”

What to do when you find a family history video on YouTube

#1 Add to your “Watch Later” YouTube playlist.
Click the plus sign under the video and check the box for Watch Later.”

#2 Create a new playlist and add the video.
Click the plus sign and then Create New Playlist. Consider creating a playlist for each surname you research.

Save video to Watchlist YouTube

Click the plus sign to save to your Watch List or create a new genealogy playlist.

#3 Share to Social Media, your website, etc.
Click Share under the video.

#4 Comment to collaborate.
Comments can be found below the video description. You’ll need to be signed into YouTube with a free Google account.

#5 Subscribe to get new uploaded videos.
The red SUBSCRIBE button can be found on every video and channel. After clicking it, click the bell icon to receive notifications of new videos from that channel.

#6 Search the YouTube Channel for more related videos.
There’s a good chance if the channel has one relevant video it will have another! Click the name of the channel below the video and then on the channel page click the magnifying glass search icon.

#7 Read the video description to learn more.
The channel “Creator” who uploaded the video probably added some additional information to the video description. Click SHOW MORE to see everything. Look for recommended related videos and playlists. You may also see more details on the content of the video which you can then use to expand your search.

Expanding Your Search to Find More Family History Videos

Now it’s time to dig back into our list and continue the search. Here are some examples of how to find videos.

Search for Ancestral Locations

Search for locations associate with your family history such as cities, counties, regions, states, countries. Even if your ancestors is not in the video, it could be very enlightening to see film footage from a place they talked about or wrote about. Watching a video about the place can help bring your family history to life.

Search examples:

Search for Events

Review old newspapers, journals, family interviews and more to come up with a list of events your family was involved with. It doesn’t have to be a big event. It could be as simple as a school talent show. It’s possible that someone else who attended took home movies.

Here are a few examples of events searched:

1946 roses parade

Today’s YouTube results for 1946 Rose Parade

Search for Occupations

Try search for the names of business where your ancestors worked. Add in locations such as town names. Try adding the word history to help YouTube find older film footage.

In this episode of Elevenses with Lisa I shared the example of searching for Olyphant PA fire history and finding Andrew O’Hotnicky and his son in an old newsreel film about the fire stations amazing dog.

Andrew O’Hotnicky on film on YouTube.

Post Your Own Family History Videos Online

Another great way to find old videos and home movies on YouTube is to upload your own. That may sound funny at first, but the truth is that if you’re looking for family history other people are too. When you upload a video, whether it’s an old home movie or a short video you made to tell the story of one of your ancestors, it’s great “cousin bait.” When someone else searches for the same family, your video will appear. This opens the door to them posting a comment and potentially sharing information.

If you don’t have old home movies to post, don’t worry. It’s easier and more affordable than ever to make your own videos. I’ve created several instructional videos to help you create exactly the kind of video you want Both are available exclusively for Genealogy Gems Premium Members (Learn more here about becoming a Premium Member):

  • Video Magic – a 3-part video series that walk you through crafting your story and getting it on video.
  • Elevenses with Lisa episode 16 How to Make a Family History Video with Adobe Spark walks you step-by-step through how to use a free app to make professionally looking videos.

Recording your own videos is faster, easier and less expensive than ever! You can have your own free YouTube channel with your free Google Account.

Resources

 

Questions and Comments

Please leave your questions and comments below. 

 

Solving Family History Mysteries in Roswell, NM: Genealogy Seminar with Lisa Louise Cooke

You’re invited to join Lisa Louise Cooke for a Roswell, NM genealogy seminar. “Solving Family History Mysteries with Lisa Louise Cooke” will be held on Saturday, October 21, 2017 as the Wilson-Cobb History and Genealogy Library Annual Workshop. Please come! 

roswell NM genealogy Seminar

Roswell, NM Genealogy Seminar with Lisa Louise Cooke

The Wilson-Cobb Library in Roswell, New Mexico is hosting Lisa Louise Cooke for an exciting, informative all-day workshop that will help you solve your family history mysteries! Here’s what’s happening:

What: Solving Family History Mysteries with Lisa Louise Cooke
Where: Roswell Civic and Convention Center, 912 N Main St, Roswell, NM 88201
When: Saturday, October 21, 2017, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm (On-site registration opens at 8:30 am)
Hosted by: Wilson-Cobb History and Genealogy Library
Registration: Click here for more information and to register
Bonus: Snacks, beverages and a catered lunch will be served. (Donations gratefully accepted for lunch.)

If you haven’t registered ahead of time, plan to be there at 8:30 am for onsite registration. At 9:00, Lisa will start teaching the day’s class lineup:

Google Tools & Procedures for Solving Family History Mysteries. In this session, we will walk through the process, provide you with the tools, and wow your socks off with real-life examples of Googling success. You will leave this class inspired to revisit using Google for your online searches, and armed with the latest strategies to do so successfully. Not everything is online by any stretch, but even offline sources are more efficiently discovered and accessed when you start online. And the fastest and most effective way to locate online data, whether it resides on a university website or the blog of a distant cousin you’ve never met, is Google!

Update: Google! Everything New That You Need to Know for Genealogy. Google continues to evolve and change every day. In this session, Google Guru Lisa Louise Cooke will give you an update on the most recent Google changes. Then she will unleash advanced search strategies for genealogy that you probably aren’t using, but are ‘must-haves’ in order to get the best results possible. Here are tips and tricks you can put into practice right away.

How to Reopen and Work a Genealogical Cold Case. Become a genealogical detective in this vital session. You’ll learn to track ancestors like a criminal cold case detective, sniffing out holes in your research and getting missing information on the record with cutting edge technology.

Google Search Strategies for Common Surnames. Discover tips and tricks to find your ancestors with common surnames and surnames that double as common words in the English language with Google.  Learn how to weed out irrelevant search results to save time and get to what you want faster.  Then save and automate your searches to run for you! You’ll not only improve your searches, but also improve the chances that the information you post online will be found by other genealogists facilitating collaboration!

Don’t miss Lisa’s Google tips!

Solve more family history mysteries with Lisa Louise Cooke’s top-selling book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (2nd edition). This “Google bible” for the genealogist tells you everything you need to know to master Google’s many powerful tools. Step-by-step instructions, clear illustrations and inspiring examples will teach you how to get the most out of Google searching (even for common surnames), Google Earth, Google Books, Google Scholar, Google Alerts, Google Translate and even YouTube.

Read these Google genealogy success stories:

An ancestor’s pen name identified–and 69 of his articles found–with Google Books

Two ancestors’ homes found on the National Historic Register with Google Searching

The Colored Farmers Alliance: Social history revealed with Google and Google Books

How to Find and Decipher Ellis Island Passenger Lists

Passenger Lists Records:
Elevenses with Lisa Episode 34

Video & Show Notes
Original air date: 11/19/20

If you’ve ever struggled to find a passenger list or figure out what it’s telling you about your family history, you’re in the right place. In this episode I’ll show you where to look, and how to interpret what you find. Click to watch the video and follow along with the notes below:

A Question About Passenger Lists

Genealogy Gems Premium Member and Elevenses with Lisa viewer Deborah Huber wrote in about some challenges she was having with passenger lists. 

“Hi  Lisa,  I have a few questions about the passenger records I have found for my mother and grandparents.  They are all from Ancestry.com.” Let’s go through Deborah’s questions  step-by-step.

Deborah is looking for the Felberg Family:

  • Otto age 33 (Grandfather) b. 1894
  • Marta age 23 (Grandmother) b. 1904
  • Ruth age 3 (Mother) b. 1924
  • They Sailed March 25, 1927 from Hamburg Germany to New York

“My mother was born in Heinrichshoff on “Stork Day,”  a day celebrating the return of the storks in the spring and welcoming them to their nests on top of the chimneys.”   

Passenger List records to look for:

  • German Passenger list (the outbound record)
  • New York Passenger lists (the incoming record)

Searching for the New York Passenger List

How to search for passenger lists at Ancestry: Search > Immigration & Travel > Search by name and birthdate. If you don’t see both expected passenger lists (ex. Hamburg and New York) check the Card Catalog. Example search: Hamburg passenger or Germany passenger. From the results page you might have the opportunity to click through and see a photo of the ship. You may also find a link to additional passenger lists (in this case, the Hamburg Passenger List).

passenger list results page

Results page for Otto Felberg

Question: “Also, my mother always said that they didn’t go through Ellis Island but did land in NY City.  I think Castle Gardens was already closed in 1927 so I’m trying to figure out where they did land.”
Answer: The record collection title alerts us to what is included in the passenger list collection: New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

A quick Google search will tell us the dates that Castle Garden was in operation: “From August 3, 1855 to April 18, 1890, Castle Garden was America’s first official immigration center, a pioneering collaboration of New York State and New York City.”

Tip: Search Multiple Sources for Passenger Lists
You may find the quality of the digitized image varies from one genealogy website to the next.

Top Free Resources for searching for Ellis Island passenger lists:

Tip: Finding Passengers When Names are Hard to Read
When names are difficult to read, focus on other information that is easier to spot such as the person’s age. In the Felberg family’s case, Ruth was 3 years old. Looking for a “3” in the age column proved much easier than reading the names.

Identifying the Location Named in a Passenger List

Question: On the screenshot from the Hamburg list is says the destination was “Greenlake”.  Is that a port?  All I could find on the internet about Greenlake is that it is a NY state park.  
Answer: The “Greenlake” mentioned in the indexed passenger list record refers to the final destination, not the port of arrival. Carefully review both original passenger list records.

Tip: Don’t Miss Page 2
Like many genealogical records, passenger lists records may be more than one page. If the index refers to something that you do not see when you click through to the original record, it is a strong indication that there is another page. Always look at the pages before and after any digitized record. In this case, we find Greenlake, WI on page 2!

  • 1820 – 1907: Ship manifests are 1 page in length
  • After 1907: Manifests are 2 pages with additional information provided.

Source: The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.

Now that we know that Greenlake is Greenlake, Wisconsin, we can run a quick Google search to find the correct name and county: Green Lake, Wisconsin. Then continue your googling to find more historical information such as old maps and postcards. Click “Images” on the results page to quickly review the results.

Here are a few of the resources we found for Green Lake, WI:

 

Deciphering the Passenger List

There is a wealth of information on the Felberg’s passenger list, starting with the name of Otto’s father and the town where he lived: 

Nearest relative listed on a passenger list

Nearest relative listed on a passenger list

 

how to decipher a passenger list form

How to decipher an Ellis Island passenger list form.

Hamburg Passenger Lists

Question: “I can’t read the actual document which is the Hamburg Passenger List.”
Answer: The Hamburg passenger list can be found in the Card Catalog. Card Catalog > Search Title (Hamburg Passenger Lists)
2 results: the passenger lists and the index.

We discovered that not only was the passenger list extremely difficult to read due to the ink copying over the page, but also the link did not go to the correct page. This is where the Index, found through the Card Catalog, because indispensable.

Index: Hamburg Passenger Lists, Handwritten Indexes, 1855-1934

  • 1925-1934 (The Felberg’s arrived in 1927)
  • Band 161 (1927 F-J) (The year of their arrival and “F” for Felberg)
  • F (for Felberg)

Search the Index to locate the page number for the passenger’s record. Then go back to the original record and find the handwritten page number in the upper corner.

Tip: Quickly Navigate the Ancestry Record

Simply press the appropriate key on your computer keyboard to quickly navigate the pages.
“N” = Next page
“P” = Previous page
Visit Elevenses with Lisa Episode 17 for more Ancestry search tips and tricks.

We found the Felberg family on page 117, exactly where the index said they would be. It’s a good idea to search all the passengers for others with the same last name. In this case, Otto’s brother Rudolph Felberg was also on the ship. This aligned with the family lore that Rudolph may have sponsored the family’s move.

Resources:

Premium Member Bonus Downloads (Membership required – learn more here):

Google Keep versus Evernote for Your Note-Taking Needs

organize app Evernote google keepGoogle Keep, Google’s note-taking app, is getting better. According to a post on an unofficial Google blog, “Google Keep now lets you add labels to your notes. Just click the 3-dot icon below the note and select ‘add label.’ There are 3 default labels (inspiration, personal, work), but you can add your own labels.” The post goes on to describe the navigation menu, show how to export notes to Google docs and create recurring reminders.

According to the post, “The new features are available in Google Keep’s web app, Chrome app and Android app (Google Keep 3.1).”

Google Keep Versus Evernote

How does Google Keep compare to Evernote? Well, I’m a longtime Evernote user who wrote a genealogist’s quick guide to using Evernote (see below) and provides the Ultimate Evernote Education to my Genealogy Gems Premium members. I might be just a bit biased when I say I still whole-heartedly prefer Evernote–but that’s because of what I do with Evernote, which is full-scale organization of my life and genealogy research across all my devices.

One tech writer’s post on Google Keep v Evernote indicates that she likes the simple functionality of Google Keep for quick notes. Yet, she writes, “I’m a big fan of Evernote as well, because of its strong organizing options–tags and saved searches, notebooks and stacked notes–but it can be overwhelming for simple note-taking. It is, however, cross-platform and, unlike Google Keep, more likely to stick around (former Google Reader users might be afraid to sign up for a new Google app that could be pulled suddenly).” I have to agree with this last comment. Actions speak louder than words, and they are evidence worth pondering.

Another post, though it’s a little older, sings a similar tune: “While there is some overlap [with Google Keep], Evernote is still a much more robust product with a bigger feature set and far greater device compatibility. Google Keep has an attractive user interface and is being met with a pretty positive response—an average rating of 4.4/5 stars in the Google Play store so far, but it’s presently nowhere near Evernote’s capabilities.”

Still a third writer has figured out how to use both apps, just for different tasks. For my part, reading through all these opinions reminded me how fortunate we are that technology gives us so many options to help us meet our needs. The challenge is figuring out how to use the powerful tools we have at our fingertips. That’s what we specialize in here at Genealogy Gems.

For me, I’m sticking with Evernote. One of the most compelling reasons in addition to many (cross-platform functionality, synchronization to all devices, OCR…) is that note-taking is Evernote’s primary focus. It’s not one of dozens of products (which is the boat that Google Keep and OneNote are aboard.) Instead, it is the singular purpose of Evernote’s research, development and execution. I like that kind of dedication when it comes to something as precious as my genealogy research notes.

Resources

Evernote for Genealogy Quick Reference GuideMy Evernote for Genealogy laminated quick guides for Windows or Mac will get you started right away and keep you going as an everyday quick reference guide.

How to Get Started in Evernote, and the Ultimate Evernote Education

How to Add Text to a Web Clipping in Evernote

Should Evernote be my Digital Archive?

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