Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Emotion and Family History

The latest in a series of bite-sized family history videos are in progress. As I wrote recently, we're using old photos and headlines as visual cues in a slide show while my husband or another family member narrates the story for a brief video. 

The stories are family history for the younger generation, but we, the narrators, actually lived through these experiences. Then and now, the experiences evoked emotions that we want to share.

The first story my Sis and I are going to video is about going to dancing school and performing in recitals. The story was inspired by one of our favorite family photos--this adorable little dancing tomato girl.

Narrating the video combines facts and memories, sometimes with a bit of research to support (or disprove) parts of the story. I was able to research the location of the dancing school, among other facts. I also remembered how my parents complained about the extra cost for costumes, at a time when the household budget was increasingly stretched.

Adding emotion to family history

Emotion plays a role in our choice of topics for these videos, and in our enthusiasm for telling the stories we want future generations to hear. Enhanced by our positive or negative feelings, if the overall story can touch the heart in some way, it will be remembered. 

If we merely recited names, dates, places, and relationships as old photos appear on the screen, our audience members would probably not respond as strongly. Not every story will be "fun" but we hope that the next generation will remember at least one or two points from each video.

Family history foundation beyond emotion

There has to be a solid family history foundation to any story, beyond nostalgia or reminiscences. For instance, the "history" part of the dancing school story is that it was a tradition in my mother's family to send children for lessons, often music or dance (or both). 

Our first cousins all took lessons of some sort, I know from family tree letters and documents (and from personal memories of the past). The athletic cousins took up sports. Some cousins had piano teachers come to the house or went to photography camp, etc. 

Other "history" elements in the dancing school story: how our parents managed to pay for these lessons...and their pride in our performances and sharing our (fairly slow) progress with the wider family. 

We didn't grow up to be dancers or musicians, but our parents gave us an opportunity to widen our horizons. And we have photos that remind us of that history and of how we felt about it, photos that help tell a family history story for future generations.


  1. So true! The research is important, as is the family story — but it can be dry indeed without an emotional connection. Great idea to do videos!

  2. What a wonderful project you have taken on!

  3. I love this, and it's so true that the "emotional stories" is what makes the family history much more interesting; without them our genealogy is bland! :)