Saturday, August 23, 2014

Grandchildren, Ancestors and YouTube

Sterile facts and dates doesn’t elicit much interest in genealogy in the hearts andship minds of our digital world grandchildren.   They live in a world of always on digital eyes into almost anywhere or anything.  Static pages of names, dates and places not only make their eyes cross, but they put them to sleep.

I’ve told ancestral stories to our grandchildren all of their lives.  Their ancestors come to life in their minds based on the words in my stores.  When I show them the same information on my website, the dreaded eyelid closer syndrome launches and its lights out.

It is important for them to have a sense of their place in history both of the world but especially in their ancestral tree.  They love the stories but relating them to historical events didn’t happen in the process.

What tools could I use to bridge the gap between facts and the scenes that the stories evoked in their minds and turn them into long lasting loved memories?

The answer was actually simple.  Turn the stories into movies on YouTube.  The solution captures the facts, stories, technology and long lasting scenes in one.

My wife and I invite sets of our grandchildren to spend time with us every summer based on ages and sex.  By the end of the summer, all of them have spent time with us and with their cousins in the same age range.  We add couple of gatherings a year that includes everyone, even busy parents, to keep familial relationships, giggles, food and fun functioning as it should in a family.

When our older granddaughters were with us, I scheduled a ‘grandpa’ day for one day of their visit.  I told them that I wanted to work with them to create a video for YouTube about one of their favorite ancestral stories. 

It was the right way to further engage them in our family history.

  • We wrote the script on a shared Google Doc using a laptop and their tablets.
  • We chose speaking parts for everyone and created another Google Doc listing the color coded voice actors names and changed the corresponding lines in the script to the correct color.
  • We found many of the photos, document images and graphics that we wanted to use.
  • Late in the evening, we recorded the voice files using the free app, Audacity.
  • We used the free app, Irfanview to crop images and put names and dates on them.
  • We stored our audio digital files on Google Drive, DropBox and OneDrive accounts along with the backup copy of the Windows Movie Maker template we created..
  • After the young folks completed their stay, I assembled the parts using Windows Movie Maker and posted the video on YouTube.  

Along the way but still based on a ‘free’ solution for tools used to create the project, we learned some lessons. 

  1. We needed a better microphone
  2. The voice lines for the narrator needed to be broken down into shorter lines both for editing and for voice inflection work.
  3. It takes a lot of time to find Public Domain images and to gather the pertinent genealogy documents that you want to use in the video.
  4. Editing shared Google Docs is easy and our young ladies quickly polished their script working on it together.
  5. The free software tools we selected worked pretty well.  The kids could use them in the future for all kinds of projects in school and in their online social lives.  Even starving students will be able to create good digital products with them.
  6. You can’t assemble a video out of images, audio files and video files using the Video Manager on YouTube.  You have to build it first and then upload it.  The Video Manager gives you a full set of tools to add tags, ratings, balloons and other enhancements to your video.
  7. We laughed too much while writing the lines and recording them.  No, wait.  That wasn’t a problem!  That was a big part of the fun and the reason for the project in the first place.
  8. The most important discovery.  Making a video about your ancestors with grandchildren is a joy, especially when they do most of the work!  Trust me on this.  Give them concept of the desired output, the story(ies), reserved time, snacks, and love and they’ll turn your sterile facts and images into magic. 

The video about some of the adventures in the lives of our ancestors, Charles Joseph Gordon Logie and Rosa Clara Friedlander has been published on YouTube. If you want to entice your young folks into the wonderful world of Family History, consider a similar solution.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

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