The Gift of Family History Video

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.

video gift

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!

video gift dashboard

animoto-edit-video-gift

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
  • School Work
  • Sports
  • Graduation

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:

Learn More

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!)

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Evernote for Genealogists

In this installment of the Collaborative Genealogy blog post mini-series I’m going to share one of my favorite ways to organize and share family history data and source material: Evernote.

Evernote is a free software, website and app that can hold both research content and the source citation information that goes with it. You can pull data from websites and Evernote will often automatically capture information about the site you got it from. You can upload images, scanned  documents and other multimedia content. And of course you can use it to keep track of non-electronic sources, too.

Research teams using Dropbox put themselves on the same page–literally. It’s easier to be sure you’re looking at the same sources. It’s easy to add notes like data you’ve abstracted from the source (or that seems to be missing from the source). It’s easy to tag data: every source that cites an ancestor can be tagged with her name. That way, when you are ready to analyze or write up someone’s life story, every piece is there. No more hunting for sources you knew you had somewhere!

Evernote Quick Ref GuideMy recent post provides two tips for using Evernote and introduces my Evernote for Windows for Genealogists Quick Reference Guide “cheat sheet” (click here for U.S. and here for international shipping). It’s been so popular since its release that we sold out for a while, but it’s back in stock. This 4-page laminated guide offers at-a-glance training and reminders so you can be up to speed quickly using Evernote for genealogy.

Want to learn more about using Evernote? Click here for tips and complete resources on getting started in Evernote, like a complete video mini-series that walks you through the process of signing up for your free Evernote account, downloading the desktop app, getting and using the web clipper….There’s so much you can do with Evernote and I show you how! 

For more on collaborative research (including more on Evernote for genealogists), check out the December 2013 issue of Family Tree Magazine. It’s got an article I’ve co-written with Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton.

Check out my other blog posts in this series on collaboration:

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Research with a Partner

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Dropbox for Genealogists

Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Sharing Genealogy Files Online for Free

Big Updates at Ancestry for Canadian and German Vital Records

Big records updates at the Genealogy Giant website Ancestry.com! Brand new collections of birth, marriage, death, and census records for Canada were added this week, along with a Remembrance Book for the 100th anniversary of the Halifax explosion. Additionally, new vital records are now available for Germany.

ancestry records new and updated

Canada – Birth, Marriage, Death, and Census Records

This year, December 6th marks the 100th anniversary of the Halifax explosion, which was a devastating maritime disaster in Nova Scotia, Canada. Ancestry has recently made available the ‘Halifax Explosion Remembrance Book,’ an online searchable database with detailed information for 1,946 casualties – more than 300 of whom are recently-confirmed and identified victims.

Ancestry also had a huge update of vital and census records this week for Canada:

AncestryDNA for Canada is on sale for just $99! Reg. $129 CAD. Sale ends 12/24/17. Excludes tax & shipping.

Alberta. Explore the new Births Index, 1870-1896, the Deaths Index, 1870-1966, and the Marriages Index, 1898-1942. Note that the marriage index is slightly irregular, in that each image only includes either the bride or the groom and their marriage year.

Newfoundland. Search baptisms and marriage records in the new collection of Church Records, 1793-1899. You’ll also find records from various churches in Newfoundland in the Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1757-1901 collection, and the Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1850-1949 collection. Also available are the 1921 Census, the 1935 Census, and the 1945 Census. Those databases originate from the Newfoundland Department of Tourism, Culture, and Recreation.

New Brunswick. New vital records collections start with Births and Late Registrations, 1810-1906. Then you’ll find Marriages, 1789-1950, which include registers, certificates, delayed registrations, and returns. And Deaths, 1888-1938 is also now online.

Prince Edward Island. Baptisms, Marriages, Burials, 1780-1983 is comprised of church records for Prince Edward Island. The Marriage Registers, 1832-1888 collection was created from newspapers, church records, and other sources that may or may not be provided. The Death Card Index, 1810-1913 contains pictures of the index cards from the Prince Edward Island Provincial Archives.

Nova Scotia. Lastly, Antigonish Catholic Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1823-1905 are now available for Nova Scotia. The earlier registers are written in paragraph format, while later registers are typically pre-printed forms with information filled in by hand.

German Vital Records

Lots of new vital records collections for Germany recently became available, starting with Waldshut-Tiengen, Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1870-1945. This collection of civil registers includes records from 9 additional communities which are today boroughs of Waldhut-Tiengen.

Next are Erfurt, Germany, Births, 1874-1901 and Marriages, 1874-1900. Additional events from the life of the child or the couple were sometimes recorded later on in the margins, but have not been indexed.

You’ll also find Zschopau, Germany, Births, 1876-1914Marriages, 1876-1920, and Deaths, 1876-1958 now at Ancestry. It may be helpful to note that during the time period of these collections until 1918, Zschopau belonged to the Kingdom of Saxony.

Finally, Traunstein, Germany, Births, 1876-1905Marriages, 1876-1934, and Deaths, 1876-1978 are also online, where you’ll find names, dates of birth, dates of deaths, witnesses, informants, parents, signatures, and other information.

Get the most out of Ancestry!

getting started with AncestryGetting started on Ancestry.com can be a little daunting. As one of the world’s top genealogy websites, it’s packed with information about millions of people–perhaps including your ancestors. These step-by-step instructions will help you start building your family tree and learning more about your heritage. Click to read our recent article Getting Started on Ancestry.com.

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!

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