If you’ve spent some time researching your family history, your discoveries probably include old documents like census records and death certificates – not exactly exciting stuff to your kids and grandkids. And yet they are the ones you hope to pass your family’s history on to.
The truth is that the non-genealogists in your family aren’t captivated by the same things you may be. But we’re going to change all that with a tech tool that will help you create fabulous captivating videos about your family history. For perhaps the first time, your kids and grandkids will want to watch and share your family history wrapped up in these quick and professional looking videos. (Disclosure: This article does contain affiliate links which means we will receive compensation if you make a purchase, and that helps support the free Genealogy Gems Podcast. Thank you!)
Folks often ask me about which video editing software I use. My desktop video editing software is Camtasia, which is made by Techsmith (the maker’s of SnagIt.) It’s excellent, does every thing I need, and I’ve been using it for years! Click here to get your own copy.
If you plan on making several videos now and in the future, Camtasia is well worth the investment. It will pay for itself in about two years compared to other subscription based services. It also has an extensive array of features allowing you the greatest creative flexibility.
The Easy Video Tools
If you’re not ready to plunge into a software program, then I recommend creating your family history videos with a web and app based tool. Currently, Smilebox offers a good collection of ready-made slideshow templates that add lot so of design with little effort. You can sign up for a free account here and start making free videos. Subscribing to the Premium plan gives you loads of additional options and tools that will really make your videos shine.
Animoto is fast, offers a free trial, and shockingly easy to use! No special skills required. Animoto is a tool I’ve used for several years. The company has gone through some changes, which includes doing away with many of the slideshow templates I demonstrate in the instructional videos below. However, they have moved to a new offering which is free forever with unlimited downloads and a small watermark. I expect we will see new templates being added. It’s still an excellent and very easy video creation tool! A paid subscription eliminates the water mark and provide a much wider range of tools and HD downloads.
Adobe Spark Video is a free app (with small watermark on the video) and also offers a subscription version. Downloads are sized for online sharing (720px) Watch my step-by-step tutorial on creating videos with Adobe Spark Video in episode 16 of Elevenses with Lisa.
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Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 31: Immigration and Naturalization Records for Family History, Part 3
Did you know that all those annotations and scribbles on passenger lists may hold important clues to your family history? In this episode, we continue our discussion with Stephen Danko about immigration and naturalization records. (If you missed them, they are Episodes 29 and 30.) Specifically,we’ll listen in on a presentation he gave on passenger list annotations and what the immigrant’s experience was like at Ellis Island.
So we’ve talked already about ship passenger arrival lists. Now let’s get out the magnifying glass, so to speak. We’ll look closely at the little notes on this records.
Annotations on passenger lists could have made upon departure, arrival or later when that immigrant applied for citizenship. One of the common misconceptions about passenger lists is that they were not filled out at Ellis Island, as many people believe. Rather they were completed at the port of departure. So notes could have been made at a variety of different times.
Here are three examples of annotations that were made upon a person’s arrival in the United States:
D=detained for inquiry
SI or DSI=Special Inquiry or Detained for Special Inquiry—this was really bad! (listen to the podcast to hear why)
USC=Was born in the U.S. or was a U.S. citizen
For a more thorough list of annotations on passenger records, read Stephen’s handout he graciously shared with us: A New Look at Immigrant Passenger Manifests. His companion blog posts (see Updates and Links below) show you real-life examples.
Here are some more great tips from that conversation:
Check at the end of the manifest for pages called Record of Detained Alien Passengers, and Records of Release of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry.
Our ancestors could have traveled back and forth from their homeland several times before they became citizens. Those passenger lists are just as valuable as their original immigration. If they hadn’t completed the naturalization process yet, then you may find an indication of that re-entry number or their citizenship status.
As Stephen mentioned in a previous podcast, depending on the timeframe, your ancestor may have had to request a certificate of arrival when applying for citizenship. And if you haven’t found their naturalization records yet, and are lucky enough to find a certificate of arrival annotation on the passenger list, then you will have a really good chance for tracking them down.
Certificates of arrival were required for anyone who applied for citizenship beginning in 1926 who had arrived after 1906. Annotations on the passenger list about the certificate of arrival (C/A) can lead you to where and when they applied for citizenship. A number like 1X-151953 indicates a request for a certificate of arrival was made after 1926 to help with the naturalization process. The first number “1” is the naturalization district, if there is an “X” it means the person didn’t have to pay for the Certificate of Arrival and the numbers after the dash are the certificate of arrival number or the application number. The date of the certificate of arrival may appear after this number sequence.
Another code, VL, is the verification of landing, often seen for arrivals before 1906, before certificates of arrival were issued.
Numbers like 432731 / 435765 = the passenger was a permanent resident of the U.S. and was returning home with a re-entry permit.
If someone’s name was crossed out on the passenger list but the rest of the line was not, it probably means their name was amended. It was likely misspelled.
Look through every page of the ship’s manifest for your ancestor’s voyage. You may find record of stops the ship made along the way, recording of friends or relatives, or even a second entry for your ancestor as Stephen mentioned in the case of changing class of ticket.
The more recent the passenger list, the more information we’ll find and possibly the more annotations we may find. In my case my great-grandparents made the journey from Antwerp Belgium in 1910. In looking back over their passenger lists (they each have their own because they traveled three months apart) I found numbers and markings on their record that I hadn’t really paid much attention to. So when I heard Stephen’s talk I was very excited to figure out their meaning!
Listen to the podcast itself for more details on:
Head taxes charged;
Names entered at port of departure for people who may not have sailed;
Why a person might appear twice on a passenger list;
Notations that they were hospitalized upon arrival—or that they died there;
Do you have a family reunion, wedding or another special family gathering coming up soon? I’ve been busy helping plan my youngest daughter’s wedding, and we are looking for ways to capture memories from our loved ones while they are all together.
Hannah and I aren’t the only ones looking to make the most of this exciting event. Genealogy Gems podcast listener Kirsty recently asked me how she could incorporate family history gathering at her upcoming wedding (Congratulations, Kirsty!) and here’s what I told her:
My Board: Incorporating Family History into Your Wedding
2. If you have your guests seated at tables, that’s a great opportunity to provide an icebreaker that can double as a family history gathering opportunity. You could have a form at each place setting for them to fill out. If you are having a videographer, you could have a short list of questions at each table, and when he comes to their table he records them answering the questions. (What’s your earliest childhood memory? Who’s the earliest ancestor you have a photograph of? What are three things you remember about great-grandmother? etc) Can you imagine howthis Martha Stewart placecard on Pinterest (which I found by searching “family reunion history” at Pinterest) might be adapted this way?
3. If you they won’t be at tables, you could have a family history table (next to another table they are likely to visit such as guest book table) and have your activity there. Let them know that this is their gift to you. You could even have some sort of treat or little sticker they can wear that says “I shared the family history, have you?” (In the U.S. when you vote they often give you a little lapel sticker that says “I voted.”) Or you could create the “Sweet Memories Candy Bars” that feature family history that I write about in my book Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies.
I hope these ideas help inspire Kirsty and anyone who wants to gather their loved ones’ memories at their next family event!