In this blog and video series I’m showing you how you can create captivating videos about your family history quickly and easily with Animoto.
In the First Episode
In episode 1 we laid a foundation for the family history video that you are going to create. Doing this will save you time and ensure a cohesive, well-told story. We also:
defined your audience
identified and outlined the story that you want to tell
collected the content that you will include in your video
If you missed episode 1, you can watch it below:
Get a Free Animoto.com Account
The first thing to do is to go to Animoto here and sign up for a free trial account, which gives you the full power of Animoto Pro. No credit card is required. This trial period is the perfect opportunity to test drive Animoto and see just how easy it is to use. As I’ve said before, if you can click, drag, and drop, you can make videos with Animoto.
The videos you create during the trial will be watermarked, but still downloadable and shareable. If you decide to use Animoto beyond the trial period, there are several pricing plan options. You can purchase as little as one month for around $16 (check their site for current pricing). If you’ve done your prep work like we did in episode 1, you can create several videos in that time period.
OK, I know you’re anxious to get going, so let’s create a video!
It’s super easy. Once you’re signed into your account, click the Create button.
First up, select a style that fits your story. Here are some of my favorites for family history:
You’ll notice that some styles have a Premium banner. Those require a Premium subscription. However, if you’ve opted for a Personal level subscription you still have lots of wonderful styles to choose from.
Click on a style that catches your fancy and watch a preview of what it will look like. When you find the one you want, click the Create Video button on that style page. This will load the Video Creator.
The style you chose will include a song, but you can change that if you want to. To select a new song, click Change Song, and you can pick a song from the Animoto library.
You can also upload your own music mp3 file from your computer. (Remember to keep copyright in mind, and make sure you have the rights to use the song.)
But wait, you can add more than music! You can also upload an audio file, such as a family history interview, or even an mp3 file that you created that includes both music and words.
Adding Pictures & Video
Now it’s time to add your photos, images, and video clips. Of course that’s easy because in episode 1 of this series you created an outline for your story, and you copied the files you wanted to use to illustrate that story into a folder on your computer. So you’re all set to go!
There are two ways to add files. From the menu, click AddPics & Vids, or on the timeline click the plus sign in the empty box. In the pop up window you’ll find lots of options for imagery, including stock photos from Animoto. But for now, let’s add the images you put in the folder on your drive (see episode 1).
Under Your Computer click Upload Pictures and Video. Navigate your way to your content folder on your computer’s hard drive. Click to select the first image, and then you can select them all by holding down the shift key on your keyboard, and clicking the last image in the folder. Press Enter on your keyboard to add them to your project.
You can rearrange the order of your images and videos by dragging and dropping them with your mouse. If you decide to eliminate an image, simply click to select it and from the menu click Delete.
Next, we’re going to add text to your videos, creating title cards. Again you can do this from the menu, or just click the plus sign in the empty box on the timeline, and then click Add Text.
In the pop up box you’ll type a title (or the main text) and then you have the option to add a subtitle. This is where the outline we created in Video 1 comes in so handy! When you’re done, click Save. And don’t worry because you can always go back and change any text at any time.
Title cards are great for the beginning and ending of your video and also for transitioning to different parts of the story.
Simply click and drag the cards into the order that you want them.
You can also add text captions to each of your images. Hover your mouse over the image and click Caption under the image. In the pop up window containing your image, click to place your cursor in the text area, type in the desired text, and then click Save.
Spotlighting an Item
You may have a few images or title cards that you want the “camera” to spend a little more time on, thereby spotlighting it. To create that effect, just click to the select the image or title card, and then click Spotlight in the menu. I particularly like to Spotlight title cards so that the viewer has plenty of time to read them.
So let’s see how this looks so far, and to do that we’re going to click PreviewVideo. You can preview your video at any time during the production process.
A low resolution version of your family history video will be created in about 15 seconds. Then you can watch and see what little tweaks and changes you want to make. Click Continue Editing to head back to the timeline and keep working.
I hope you’re getting excited about your video projects. Next time we get together, we’re going to bring our projects down the homestretch and produce them into glorious shareable videos.
As many American’s know, the state of West Virginia was formed in 1863 from the state of Virginia during the Civil War. Those researching their West Virginia roots prior to that year, may wonder which counties to search and what records are available. We have some tips to make your West Virginia research a little easier!
The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Boston Public Library collection, Wikipedia Commons.
County level research is important when trying to find the vital records of our ancestors. Birth, marriage, and death records typically are found on the county level. This means you will need to obtain a copy of these types of certificates from the local courthouse or other county repository, such as a county archives.
But what happens when the state or county wasn’t around when your ancestor lived there? Such is the case with this Genealogy Gems reader. Here is her question regarding West Virginia research:
I have a 3rd great-grandfather I am trying to find with his parents who may have been born in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. He was born in 1814. My question is that Greenbrier County was in Virginia at the time of his birth. Now it is in West Virginia which was made a state in the 1860s, so where do I look for his records? Finding his parents has been a brick wall! What would you suggest?
Birth Records in the 1800s
The first thing we want to address is the hope that this reader will find a birth record for 1814. Early birth records of this time-frame were typically kept by the churches in the form of christening or baptismal records. Civil registrations of births, which were created by the local or federal government, were not kept regularly for American states until much later. The earliest cities and states to require civil registration can be seen here, but a few examples include: New York in 1880, Virginia in 1853,and Florida in 1865. 
Because birth records can not always be located in church or civil registration for this early time period, we suggest using alternate records as your supporting evidence. Substitute birth records might be, but are not limited to: school records, censuses, pension records, marriage records, and biographical sketches. (Click these links to learn more about each type of record.)
West Virginia Genealogy Research: County Level
Next, let’s discuss the uniqueness of researching in West Virginia. West Virginia was created in 1863 out of the state of Virginia. Many of the counties that were once in Virginia, kept the same name and retained their records when they became part of West Virginia.
There is a wonderful resource in the book titled “Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources” which was edited by Alice Eichholz. This book has a chart for each U.S. state listing the year each county was formed and from what parent county. To find the chart, flip through to the West Virginia section. Each county is listed in alphabetical order. In this case, we would locate “Greenbrier” and take note that according to the chart, Greenbrier County, West Virginia was formed in 1778 by portions of both Montgomery and Botetourt County, Virginia. A chart like this is helpful for any genealogist in determining which counties should be researched.
Greenbrier County, West Virginia: A Timeline of Changing County Boundaries
I took the liberty of looking further into Greenbrier County, West Virginia by examining more closely the changing county boundaries of this county over time. I did this by using the chart I mentioned above found in the Red Book. First, I found Greenbrier county and it’s parent county, then, I searched the list for further instances when parts of Greenbrier county were used to form newer counties. You see, we want to see the changes of this county’s boundaries so that we know what possible places to look for records. Let me show you what I found. We are going to need a time line for this!
1778: Greenbrier county was originally formed in 1778 from two parent Virginia counties: Montgomery and Botetourt.
1788: part of Greenbrier County, Virginia became Kanawha County
1799: Greenbrier shrunk further when a portion of its boundaries became Monroe County, Virginia
1818: Nicholas County, Virginia formed from Greenbrier
1831: part of Greenbrier created the new county of Fayette, Virginia
1863: Greenbrier county, Virginia became part of the State of West Virginia
1871: Summers County, West Virginia was created by a small portion of Greenbrier
As you can see, our Genealogy Gems reader may need to visit and research several county repositories both within the state of Virginia and West Virginia.
Greenbrier county is rather unique, as it had boundary changes quite regularly. It may be difficult to visit each of these county courthouses, spanning many miles apart, in hopes of finding targeted records for their ancestor. For this reason, our reader may wish to begin at the West Virginia State Archives. At most state archive repositories, records for all the counties can be easily looked at via microfilm. This may save valuable travel time. (Note: Before visiting any state archives facility, call ahead to verify what information and records they have, so that you do not have a wasted trip.)
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The Genealogy Gems Podcast recently celebrated our 200th episode and 10th anniversary! Can you believe it? We couldn’t have made it without you, our Gems listeners and readers…thank you! We asked you to share with us how Genealogy Gems has helped you along...
Recently I heard from Jane, a Genealogy Gems Premium subscriber in Canada, who needs a genealogy research plan! She’s researched on Ancestry.ca,Scotland’s People, the Free English BMD Index, FamilySearch and joined her local society. But she’s not sure where to go next with her research–there just are SO many options! If this sounds familiar, check out her question and the advice I gave her:
“I often end up wandering around in circles and mazes as one thing leads to another, and another, and … I am sure you know what I am talking about. I seem to be jumping back and forth between my Dad’s family, my Mom’s family, their families, etc. until there are times that I find myself at a certain point, only to wonder ‘Where was I going with this?’ I’m now wondering if I would be best to take it one person at a time – to find out as much as I can about that person in that point of time, before going on to another. I have started trying to make notes…but find that I end up hopelessly out of order and lost. Any advice would be appreciated! Help!!!”
My Answer: A Genealogy Research Plan to Deal with the Chaos
“You are not along in this genealogical dilemma! It’s easy to let the records start to take over and lead you around. Set a goal or a genealogy research plan – define what it is you want to know. It might be something very specific about a particular ancestor, or it might just be to fill in the blanks on one particular family. Early in my research I focused on one grandparent, and working backwards, I would strive to fill in all the blanks on that person, then their parents, then their siblings. I wouldn’t “leave” that family until I felt that I had filled in as much of the family group sheet as possible. (We have sort of lost track of the “family group sheet“ in this technological age. But it is an excellent tool for keeping you on track and focused on the blanks that need to be filled.)
An additional strategy is to have a process for dealing with information that is a bit off your current track. Often we feel like we have to pursue it or we’ll lose it. I like to use Evernote (free at Evernote.com) to capture data that I’m not ready to deal with right now, but definitely want to pursue later. I create an Evernote “notebook” for that family surname, and a note book called “future research.” Drag and drop “Future Research” onto the family surname notebook which will create a “stack.” Now you can create notes and drop them into the “Future Research” notebook which is inside the applicable family. Add tags to your note like “newspaper,” “death record,” etc. and some good searchable keywords so that the note will be easy to find when you need it. Now you can capture the item, file it away, and stay focused on the task at hand. Whenever you’re ready to ask a new question, open that Future Research notebook. Use what’s there to inspire the next phase of your genealogy research plan.”
If you would like to learn more about using Evernote for genealogy, I have a quick reference guide in my store that will work wonders in keeping you organized. It’s available for both Windows and Mac, and in both PDF and laminated print format.
Your questions are always welcome! Contact me by email, or leave a voice mail at (925) 272-4021 and you may just hear yourself on the show.