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.
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!
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
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:
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!)
DNA testing for kids is a great way to spark their interest in their heritage, while teaching science, math, geography, and more. Consider these reasons and start with the budget-friendly option of an autosomal test.
According to a 2010 study out of Emory University, if we want to encourage kids toward an activity that will positively impact them, we should steer them toward family history. The researchers reported, “Children who know stories about relatives who came before them show higher levels of emotional well-being.”
Now, I know I don’t need to convince you of this. You are already sold on genealogy. But let’s explore how DNA testing might be able to help you share your love of family history with your children and grandchildren.
Why Try DNA Testing for Kids
Since you know this is me, the genetic genealogist talking, you can probably guess what I’ll suggest for getting kids interested in family history. DNA testing is a great way to personally and physically involve them. There is the tangible process of taking the sample at home, and the marvel at how such a simple act can produce the amazing display of our ethnicity results. Since each of us is unique, it will be fun for them to compare with you and other relatives to see who-got-what-from-who. This will naturally lead to questions about which ancestor provided that bit of Italian or Irish, and wham! You’ll be right there to tell them about how their 5th great-grandfather crossed the ocean with only the clothes on his back, determined to make a new start in a new land.
If there are parts of the ethnicity report you can’t explain, use that as a hook to encourage them to start digging and to find out why you have that smattering of eastern European or Southeast Asian. Taking them for a tour of the DNA match page, you can show them how they share 50% of their DNA with their sister (whether they like it or not!) and how they share 25% with their grandparent!
DNA test results give kids a totally unique look at their personal identity with technology that is cutting edge. Looking at their DNA test results can turn into a math lesson, a science lesson, a geography lesson, a lesson on heredity or biology, or a discussion on identity. DNA is the perfect introduction to the wonders that genealogy can hold, especially for children.
A Warning and Caution
As with all DNA testing pursuits, this one should not be taken lightly, even with all of its benefits.
An important word to parents: Be sure to keep unintentional consequences in the forefront of your mind. This includes the possibility of revealing family secrets. Talk with your spouse and make sure you are both on the same page. In the end, this is your decision.
An important word to grandparents and other relatives: DNA testing is a parent’s decision. Even though you’re passionate about preserving the family’s history and the benefits of including children are numerous, you must obtain parental consent if you are not the parent.
More About Autosomal DNA Testing for Kids
Click here to learn more about my series of how-to videos (available to Gems fans for a special price) or start your kids’ or grandkids’ DNA journey with two of my genetic genealogy quick guides. The first is a great overview and the second talks about autosomal testing which is a good test for genetic genealogy beginners.
Here’s the latest DNA update quoted from Ancestry®:
Ancestry® Expands Reference Panel to Deliver More Precise Results and New Regions
“Today, Ancestry® announced their latest update to AncestryDNA® ethnicity estimates.
This update was made possible thanks to an increase in the AncestryDNA reference panel.
The reference panel is now more than double its previous size with samples from more places around the world, allowing Ancestry to determine ethnic breakdowns with a higher degree of precision.
New ethnicity estimates will roll out to new and existing customers over several months, resulting in these potential developments for customers.”
New Ethnicity Regions
From their blog post:
“For example, previously we had North and South America as two large regions: Native American–Andean and Native American–North, Central, South.
With this new update, we are able to refine the areas into 11 smaller ones.
If you received one of the older regions before, your new report will most likely have one of the newer, more precise regions instead like Indigenous Eastern South America, Indigenous Cuba, and Indigenous Americas–Mexico, among others.”
More Global Regions
“This advancement will enable AncestryDNA to deliver even more regions globally to enhance the experience across diverse populations including improvements and region realignment in West Africa, northwestern Europe, the Americas, Oceania, and South Asia.”
When You Will See the Update
“It’s important to note that we are phasing the update over time to ensure individual attention is given to delivering each result; therefore, some may see results earlier or later than others.”
“More than 1,000 global regions make up the ethnicities displayed in our DNA test. As DNA science improves, the number of regions we test for (and the countries covered in each region) may change.
This article lists each region, butto see which areas of the globe are included in the regions, you’ll need to view the list from your DNA Story page (which will highlight an area of the map when you click a region).
To see all the regions, click See other regions tested at the bottom of your ethnicity estimate and click on a region on the next page.
If you’ve taken a DNA test, you may have received different ethnicity results than you expected and different from your family members. DNA expert Diahan Southard explains why this happens in the Genealogy Gems article “Results May Vary:” One Family’s DNA Ethnicity Percentages. Click here to start reading now.
A new Welsh genealogy resource has been launched by the National Library of Wales! Other new genealogy records online: Canadian military bounty applications, English and Scottish newspapers, Peru civil registration, Swiss census, a WWI online exhibit, Massachusetts probate records, and Minnesota Methodist records.
(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!)
Featured: Welsh Genealogy
Article hosted at Welsh Journals Online. Click to view.
The National Library of Wales has launched Welsh Journals Online, a new website with its largest online research resource to date. It contains over 1.2 million digitized pages of over 450 Welsh journals. “Providing free remote access to a variety of Welsh and English language journals published between 1735 and 2007, the website allows users to search the content as well as browse through titles and editions,” states an article at Business News Wales. “The website also enables users to browse by year and decades and provides a link to the catalog entry for each journal.”
The collection is described as containing the nation’s “intellectual history,” valuable whether you want to learn about attitudes of the day, find old recipes, or explore popular products and fashions. According to the above article, “Welsh Journals Online is a sister-site to Welsh Newspapers Online, which was launched in 2013 and which last year received almost half a million visits.”
Canada military bounty applications
A new database at Ancestry.com contains the names of Canadian militiamen who served between 1866-71 against the Irish nationalist raids of the Fenian Brotherhood and survived long enough to apply for bounty rewards beginning in 1912. Raids took place in New Brunswick, Ontario, the Quebec border, and Manitoba; members of the Canadian Militia in Ontario, Quebec and even Nova Scotia were called up in defense. The database includes both successful and disallowed applications and some pension-related records for those who were killed or disabled while on active duty.
The British Newspaper Archive recently celebrated putting its 20 millionth newspaper page online! They’re running a flash sale: 20% off 1-month subscriptions until 6/20/17 with promocode BNAJUN20. New content there includes historical news coverage of:
Norwich, Norfolk: over 7,000 pages from the Eastern Evening News for several years between 1884 and 1891 (total coverage for this paper planned to span 1882-1910).
Findmypast also recently announced 11 brand new titles and over 1.3 million new articles in its collection of historical British newspapers. New titles now available to search include Dudley Herald, Warrington Guardian, Willesden Chronicle, Goole Times, Weston Mercury, Annandale Observer and Advertiser, Bridgnorth Journal and South Shropshire Advertiser, Pateley Bridge & Nidderdale Herald, Fraserburgh Herald and Northern Counties’ Advertiser, Isle of Wight County Press and South of England Reporter, and Eastern Morning News.
Peru civil registration
Over a million indexed names have been added to FamilySearch’s existing collection of Peruvian civil registration records, which span over a century (1874-1996). According to the collection descriptions, these records include “births, marriages, deaths, indexes and other records created by civil registration offices in the department of Lima, Peru.”
The British Newspaper Archive has added more newspaper coverage from Arbroath, Angus in eastern Scotland. Issues from 1873-1875 from the Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin Review have been added, bringing the total coverage to 1849-1919.
Swiss census records
A new collection of indexed images of the 1880 census for Fribourg, Switzerland is now searchable at the free FamilySearch.org website. According to the collection description, “Each entry includes name, birthplace, year of birth, gender, marital status, religion, occupation.”
This 1880 census entry image courtesy of the FamilySearch wiki. Click to view.
U.S.: WWI Online Exhibit
The Veterans History Project has launched a web exhibit complementing the Library of Congress’s exhibition “Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I. ” The three-part web exhibit will help tell the larger story of the war from the perspective of those who served in it,” states an announcement. “The first part is now available at loc.gov/vets/. Part II and Part III will be available in July and September 2017.”
The Veterans History Project has on file nearly 400 personal narratives from World War I veterans. Watch some of these narratives in the video below.
U.S.: Massachusetts probate records
The New England Historic Genealogical Society has added a new database: Berkshire County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1791-1900. “Drawn from digital images and an index contributed to NEHGS by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Archives, this database makes available 21,143 Berkshire County probate cases filed between 1761 and 1900.” Watch this short video for tips on navigating this collection:
U.S.: Minnesota Methodists
The cover of an original Methodist membership register from the Minnesota conference archive. Registers often include members’ names, family relationship clues, baptisms, marriages and more.
Now it’s easier to locate records relating to your Methodist ancestors in Minnesota. The archive of the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church now has an online catalog of its holdings. The catalog contains about 700 items, according to a Conference press release, and continues to be updated regularly.
A Methodist conference is a regional geographic unit of government, similar to but often larger than Catholic dioceses. Each conference has an archive, to which congregations may send their original records. The online catalog has collections of photographs, archival material such as records of closed churches, and library material such as books about Methodism in Minnesota. Currently the catalog shows 42 collections of original church records, which are often the most useful for genealogists.
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When the recent press release from the Unclaimed Persons project crossed my desk, it jumped out at me in a very personal way. I majored in Forensic Anthropology (the study of human remains) in college, and was no stranger to coroner’s offices. I’ve witnessed first-hand what happens when a decedent enters a morgue, and it’s a very cold (literally!) and lonely experience. My passion for forensics stemmed from a desire to ensure that families wouldn’t be left wondering what happened to their loved ones. The Unclaimed Persons project focuses on the other side of that mission: ensuring that the loved one is reunited with their family and laid to rest with dignity.
From an Unclaimed Persons project press release:
Alone in death and tucked away on dark shelves or cold gurneys in morgues across the country, thousands of deceased individuals whose names are known to coroners, medical examiners, and a handful of friends have no known family members to claim their remains. Homelessness, mental illness, long-term estrangement, deaths of all apparent next of kin, and other circumstances have severed familial connections. Ever-increasing caseloads and shrinking budgets make it nearly impossible for medical examiners, coroners, and investigators who cannot quickly identify family to find deceased individuals’ relatives without help.
Unclaimed Persons project uses genealogy skills
Many people are aware that it can be a real challenge when a coroner obtains a John or Jane Doe, an unidentified person. It presents the difficult task of identifying the person. But few people know that in fact the even bigger problem consuming morgues today is unclaimed persons, rather than unidentified ones: individuals who have passed but with no trace of living relatives to come and claim them. Thus, the Unclaimed Persons project was born! In 2008, genealogy author, speaker, consultant, and on-air expert Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak started this organization online. She shares how she got started working with these cases in this video:
“My first time that I worked with a coroner’s office was actually sort of an accident. I was just reading the newspaper and I tripped across this article about the situation of these people who are essentially unclaimed people, people whose next-of-kin just can’t be found. And I was reading about a couple of the actual examples they gave, and one of them made a fleeting reference to a particular case where they actually had the fellow’s family bible. And that’s what made the connection for me that ‘Aha! Maybe I can use the genealogical sleuthing skills to find these families as well.” -Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak
After assisting two coroners with unclaimed persons cases, Megan founded a Facebook group with the goal of solving even more unclaimed persons cases. The online community of volunteer researchers joined forces with medical examiners, forensic investigators, and coroners to help reunite families and bring closure so that the dead can finally be laid to rest.
Unclaimed Persons is now celebrating their 9th anniversary with the launch of their new website, and to date have solved 471 cases with a 70% solve rate! But the unclaimed epidemic in morgues persists, and Unclaimed Persons is always recruiting more volunteers. As it turns out, family history enthusiasts make some of the best detectives in these cases! Genealogists combine classic sleuthing skills with their knowledge of family record keeping to track down even the most elusive relatives. This is a wonderful opportunity for genealogists to use their specialized training for an even greater good.
500+ veterans escorted the unclaimed remains of seven Iowa veterans to their final resting place at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery, Van Meter, Iowa, in 2009. U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Gary Ward
How you can help the Unclaimed Person project
You don’t have to be a seasoned genealogist to be a volunteer! Anyone with an interest is welcome to join. Visit https://unclaimed-persons.org/ to register as a member. You will need to complete a member profile with your basic information, and agree to Unclaimed Persons Forum Rules. Unclaimed Persons encourages researchers to have access to tools such as Ancestry.com, GenealogyBank.com, historical newspaper archives, and other online subscriptions related to genealogical research. However, there are many publicly available online databases that can also help with your research.
As an Unclaimed Persons volunteer, one of the most important things to know and adhere to is that researchers should not contact identified family members, nor should they contact coroners directly. Each case is assigned a case manager, and all discoveries should be sent directly to them. This may seem like an unnecessary step, but in fact it ensures that coroners, medical examiners, and investigators are not inundated or hindered with duplicate information and can continue to manage their daily workloads.
And Unclaimed Persons feels very strongly that contacting even one family in error would jeopardize the high standards and reputation of the organization. While the ultimate goal is bring closure for family members, the primary focus of Unclaimed Persons is to assist these agencies with the difficult task of locating them, rather than to be the ones delivering the news directly. But for your own sense of closure, Unclaimed Persons will announce on their Facebook group page and their online forum when a case has been solved so you and the other volunteers can celebrate together!
If you don’t have time or resources to help with research, you can still help Unclaimed Persons by ‘Liking’ their Facebook page and sharing the cases among the genealogy community. You can also follow Unclaimed Persons on social media for announcements of new cases where you may have information or experience that can help (specific locations, surnames, etc.).
Click here to learn more about how to become a volunteer member.