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.
Companies often create instructional and promotional films.
Video tours. Filmed at historical locations, churches, and other places where your ancestors may have lived.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Get the book: The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 3rd ed., by Lisa Louise Cooke. Available exclusively at www.shopgenealogygems.com.
Here’s an inspiring example of a quick and easy way to tell your story. Every one of us is deeply connected to history through our family stories. In fact, exploring your family history story can help you learn more about your place in history and what makes you, you.
Tell Your Family History Story with Animoto
Were you one of those kids sitting in history class bored to tears? Was the common teenage mantra “what’s this got to do with me?” running through your brain? While the teacher’s lecture may have seemed disconnected, nothing could have been further from the truth. Every one of us is deeply connected to history through our family stories. In fact, exploring your family history story can help you learn more about your place in history and what makes you, you.
(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!)
We all have a story to tell about our place in history and Animoto is an easy and powerful way to tell that family history story. I’ve been sharing my thoughts on creating family history stories on my Genealogy Gems Podcast and in videos on my Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. One of my listeners and viewers, Doug Shirton, has enthusiastically embraced the idea of video storytelling and recently shared his video with me.
I love the elements that Doug wove into his video. Not only did he include individual photographs of himself and his ancestors, but he also dragged and dropped into his Animoto timeline a full page family tree chart. Doug used the “Rustic” video style (one of my favorites) which is perfectly suited for his old-timey photos.
He also used music in an innovative way to tell his family history story. Rather than settling on just one song, he used portions of multiple tracks. This technique moves the viewer through the emotional levels he was striving to convey.
Adding Music to Your Family History Story
All great movies have a soundtrack! Animoto allows you to choose from their music library or add your own. Adding music to your family history video is very simple. To add additional songs, simply click the plus sign under the timeline. Animoto’s “edit song and pacing” feature makes it easy to get everything to fit perfectly.
MUSIC SEARCH TIP: In addition to being able to upload your own songs, Animoto’s robust music library is brimming with songs that will help you hit just the right note. In addition to the filter boxes, don’t miss the handy search field at the very bottom of the list of filters. Enter a keyword to suit your mood and then scroll back up to the top of the page to pick from the results.
Choosing the Focus of Your Family History Story
Family trees are very far-reaching indeed. So many direct line and collateral lines, often spanning the globe. Doug was wise to select one family history story within his tree: his Ontario, Canada pioneer ancestors.
Focusing on a particular line of your family, or a single story makes creating your video more manageable for you and, frankly, more enjoyable to watch for your viewer. Keeping your video fairly short is also a good idea. Doug’s is just 4 minutes and I recommend going no longer than five. This is particularly important when you plan to share it on social media where attention-spans are short.
Family History Story Ideas
Here are a few ideas of stories you could explore:
The story of your most recent immigrant ancestor
A family history story that runs through your family tree, such as three generations of musicians
How one of your ancestral families survived a natural disaster like the Johnston Flood or the Great San Francisco Earthquake
The history of a first name that was used over multiple generations in your family
The idea here is to select a family history story that is short, thematic, and compelling to watch.
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!
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 30: Immigration and Naturalization Records for Family History, Part 2
This episode continues last episode’s conversationabout immigration and naturalization records. With me again is Stephen Danko, PhD, a genealogy lecturer and a very popular blogger. In today’s show Steve and I talk more about passenger lists, and some of the ramifications of an immigrant being detained or deported. We cover the multi-step naturalization process and you’ll hear about a fantastic find in naturalization papers–so fantastic that other researchers at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City wanted a copy!
Here are my favorite take-away points from this episode:
There were no requirements to keep passenger lists in the U.S. before 1820, or in Canada before 1867. (Many people originally arrived in one or the other of these countries, then migrated across the border, which was essentially unregulated before the 1890s.) There may have been records kept, but you’re not going to find them easily.
The passenger lists we’re most familiar with were filled out in the port of departure, then surrendered to U.S. government officials upon arrival. But other records were maintained at the port of departure. Departure information from European ports is often available on microfilm at the Family History Library, on Ancestry.com or other websites. Some of the passenger steamship lines themselves kept departure lists, like the White Star Line or the Red Star Line, and these are on microfilm. Here’s an excellent article on Passenger Departure Lists of German Emigrants, 1709-1914. Look for resources specific to other countries in genealogical guides under the headings “emigration” or “departure lists.”
Immigrants who were deported or even detained for further investigation, the steamship line had to pay the bill. If they were detained or they went back, the date and ship of deportation may be indicated on the passenger manifests.
Naturalization was a multistep process. The “first paper” is the declaration of intent. After a certain period of time, they applied for their petition for naturalization (“second papers”). Eventually they received their certificate of naturalization. After 1926, there may also be a certificate of arrival. (See Episode 29.)
Naturalization records may be at the county level or may be in federal court. Increasingly these are coming online. Meanwhile, some are easier to track down than others. Most Massachusetts naturalizations are available on microfilm and at the Massachusetts State Library. Some books
Many 20th-century naturalizations are packed with family information. Steve shared an example for one of his relatives. Her naturalization had her name, birthdate and birthplace, name of her husband and date of her marriage, her husband’s birthplace and date, the names of all her children, her date of arrival and the ship she came on! Some later naturalizations also have photographs. Microfilmed files may also have the certificate of arrival.
Updates and Links
About 70 million immigration and naturalization records have been indexed in recent years through an enormous community indexing project led by FamilySearch. Check out their site (below) to see what records are searchable now.
Show Notes: Discover more than 100,000 old family photos on Dead Fred. Founder Joe Bott explains how to find photos of your relatives on this free website.
Video Premiere and live chat
Watch the Video Premiere with Live Chat
Would you like to find more old family photos? One of the secrets is to search places where other distant relatives (and even people not related to you) are uploading old photos – hundreds of thousands of photos!
In this video, Dead Fred founder Joe Bott explains how to find photos of your relatives on his free website. Joe will also provide some of the back story on how he ended up devoting his life to helping families find their photos, and how in the world he decided on this most unusual name for his website!
From Joe: “I’m sitting down here in my little niche, scanning photos and putting them on my website so people can find them. That’s what I do for retirement now. I post photos, put them on the internet and wait for somebody to come knock on my door and say, “Hey, I know who that is! That’s my great, great whatever!” It’s happened already about 3000 times since I’ve started. Actually 3,157 times, just to be specific.”
What Does the DeadFred Website do?
“You take your photographs taken before 1965, and the people in the photographs have passed on. You can put them on there. It’s free to use. There are instructions on how to post your photos. Where it says Post Your Photos, click on that and just go ahead and do it.
When you post your first photo, you’ll receive a password in your email. You use that to manage your postings.
You can post as many photos as you’d like. Now, I might take a day or two to get it up on the website because I check every photo that comes in to make sure there’s nothing untoward. Because they do pop up every once in a while.”
After you post the photo, other DeadFred users will search the website, and that’s how old family photos can get reunited with descendants.
It’s also useful if you want to learn more about a photo. When you post your photo, include additional comments and questions. When you’re logged in you can post a sticky note.
Why was the website named DeadFred?
“People often ask me why it is called DeadFred, and that gives me the opportunity to tell them that Dead Fred is a photo.”
The photo Joe is referring to is of Frederick the Great, who died in Germany. “The young man had cancer of the throat and died. My great great grandfather was living during that time in Germany, so that’s sort of the genealogy connection to it.”
The reason behind the name DeadFred
Joe and his family were sitting around a table trying to figure out what to call the website. He had purchased the photo of Frederick the Great on ebay and it came in the mail. “We opened it up and one of my sons, I have four boys, one of them said, ‘Well, we’ll just call it that, Fred.’ Everybody seems to like it. That’s the story.
“That photo of Fred is on my website…Just scroll down on the right-hand side and you’ll see him.”
Has Joe always been fascinated with old photos?
“Not always. In fact, I didn’t know I was fascinated with photographs until 1965 while I was in the Navy. I was in Newport Rhode Island, and I was walking down the street and it started to pour, I mean really pour, and I didn’t want to get my suit wet, my sailor outfit. So, I ran into this antique store. I hadn’t looked like I was going to buy something, but I found something. I found this photo album, and it just totally amazed me. And it most likely said, “buy me!” and I had to. I didn’t have a lot of money back then. I don’t have a lot of money now, but I didn’t have a lot of money back then either. And I bought it for $18. Now $18 in ’65 was a lot of money, especially for a sailor that has just joined the Navy. So, I bought it. And that was my first album. I have it sitting up here on my cabinet. But that’s how it started. I just said, wow, look at this. I couldn’t get my eyes off it!”
Reuniting Photos with Families: A Success Story from Joe
“When I was working. I was driving up to Iowa. And I stopped in store at the antique store. I found some photos in a box – a whole family – and I bought it. I worked out a deal. I learned how to do that over the years. I got a good deal on it. I went home and I scanned the photos. They were from Saskatchewan, Canada.
I got a phone call, or I actually got an email. I eventually got a phone call from a woman from South Saskatchewan who says “that’s my whole family. My grandparents, their aunts and uncles, the cousins, the whole shebang!” And apparently, now this is in the 1980s, late ‘80s, early ‘90s, and those pictures were taken 100 years before. The family left Saskatchewan and they moved to Iowa and farmed there until they all died out. There wasn’t anybody to take the photographs. So, there were the boxes, so I bought them, and I put them up on the website. Somebody from Saskatchewan said they knew who they were. And they sure did. Then I sent them home. That was an exciting moment for me right there.
Now there’s a lot of stories like that. There are stories where people cry when they find their photographs. There are cases when somebody is dying, and there’s a picture of a wife or a mother and their family wants to show them a picture before they die. So, there’s a lot of stories to be told. I could write a book about people that have found photographs. I sent out a couple every week now. Matter of fact, I just sent one of a baby, which was great. The baby has died now, got old and died at the age of 88, and I sent it out to his grandson. Yeah. My mind’s getting older, so I can’t remember as much as I would like to as far as names and places. But these kinds of things, they stick in your head.”
How to Post Photos on DeadFred
The first step in submitting a photo to DeadFred is to make sure it meets the guidelines. Currently, they accept photos that are earlier than 1965 and that, for privacy reasons, the people in the photo are deceased. Make sure to identify the photo in some way. This could mean including a country, date, state, etc.
Scan your photo in JPG format. Per the website, for best results, scan at 150 dpi resolution or higher and save at 72 dpi.
On the home page, under the Tools column on the right-side, click Post Photos in the menu. Under Step One, read the directions, check the box for the Terms of Service, and click the Choose File button to locate the photo file on your computer. Then click on the “Upload Image” button.
Your photo will receive a unique record number. Follow the prompts on the page, type in the identification information in the proper fields, and then submit.
You can expect your photos to appear on the DeadFred website typically within 3-5 days of being uploaded.
4 Ways to Search for Photos at Dead Fred
Every photograph on DeadFred website is unique, as is the information associated with the photo. That’s why there are 5 ways to search for them. Here’s how:
1 Surname Search
There are two options for searching Dead Fred for photos by surname. Option 1: Quick Search Field and Option 2: Linked first letter of the surname.
2 Detailed Search
On the home page, click the link for the Detailed Search. This will take you to a form that you can complete. The more information you can enter into the Detailed Search form, the better your chances of finding a match.
3 Search by Photographers
Of important note on the Detailed Search form is the Photographer field. Many old photos, particularly cabinet cards from the late 19th and early 20th centuries include the stamp of the photographer. Sometimes you’ll find a tremendous amount of detail about the photographer on the backside too. Use this information to conduct a photographer search.
Searching by a photographer is a great way to find other photos potentially related to your family’s history. Take a look at the photos you already have for the family you want to search for and make note of the photographers. Then, conduct a search by entering the surname of the photographer in the Photographer field. This will retrieve all photos listing that photographer’s name.
4 Keyword Search
Many DeadFred users include surnames that are related or associated with the photograph in the Comments field if they are not certain of the subject’s identity. You can take advantage of this in your search by using the Keyword search field on the home page of the website. For example, search on the word baby and you’ll get all the photos where that word is mentioned in the Comments.
Keyword Search results for baby
Accessing DeadFred Photos
When you click a photo on the search results page, it will take you to that photo hosted on the Dead Fred website. Notice that the page URL ends in .jpg indicating this is the image file itself. You can right-click on the image for usage options.