Thursday, August 19, 2021

Experiment: Bite-Sized Family History Video


This week, my hubby and I experimented with videoing a bite-sized family history story from his childhood. Every Sunday, his Dad would take the kids (pre-school age) to church while Mom stayed home and cooked a big dinner. 

After church, it was still too early to bring the kids home. Mom needed another 30 or 60 minutes to finish cooking and set the table. So Dad took the kids to a nearby railroad yard, where they all watched trains being made up. When they returned home, Sunday dinner was on the table. 

Here's the three-step process we followed to get from "story" to "bite-sized video."

Step 1: Find visuals

Visuals are, of course, a big part of any video. We had a couple of good photos of the kids at the rail yard and in the car.

To add more to the story, I found (via free, somewhat generic photos of a railroad yard and a church. These would be good enough to convey the sense of childhood Sundays.

Step 2: Create a slide show

Next, I created a slide show (I use PowerPoint) with a simple colored background, making the photos the center of attention. 

I added headlines at the top of each slide, partly to guide the narration and partly for viewers to read. I used present tense for these headlines, to make the story feel "in the moment" rather than "in the past." Example: "After church, Dad drives to..."

Not visible in this illustration are the names superimposed on one of the photos, to clearly caption who's who even though one of the children is narrating the story. Also, I included an approximate date on one of the slides.

Step 3: Record the videoconference

Once my husband was happy with the four slides and had thought about what he would say as a voice-over, we began a videoconference (in this case, Zoom). He shared his screen with the slide show, and then I began the recording. He narrated the four slides in about eight minutes. I stopped recording, waited for it to be converted to mp4 video, and then we played the video. 

Our first try was pretty good. We did a second take, and that one was better, with my husband adding a few specific details he had not mentioned the first time. 

More ideas to try

Because the video was short, we were able to email it to recipients. (A longer video, too large for email, would have to be sent a different way.) Although we're still waiting for reaction, hubby and I enjoyed the process so much that we're already thinking about our next bite-sized video of family history.

Next time, we'll figure out how to have the narrator (my husband) visible on screen as he tells the story and advances the slides. Or we might include a recent photo of him next to a photo of him at the time of the family-history story he's telling.

Another plan is to have a sibling reminisce with him, via videoconference, with slides on the screen. The headlines could be a starting point for discussion as the photos stimulate memories from the past.

Also, I need to add my husband's name and the date of recording to one of these slides, so future viewers know who is narrating and when.

Have you tried videoing a family history story? How did it work? What did your family think?

--Post is part of the August Genealogy Blog Party


  1. Cool idea...wonder if I can convince my husband (retired broadcaster) to narrate a video for me :)

    1. Please ask him to narrate and then let us know how it turns out! Sounds like a fun idea for your family.

  2. This is a great idea! Will you post it anywhere for others to see how it worked out? :)

    1. Not posting video publicly, only sharing privately. Concerned about unauthorized sharing or use of photos/video. Family enjoyed it, and more are in the works!

  3. I've done 5 of these over the past few years, and I'm working on another one about my paternal great grandparents' immigration. I started by using Adobe Spark, and have also used your PowerPoint technique and Adobe Premier Elements. Spark is free and very easy to use. I've put these on a YouTube channel rather than emailing them. That gives them greater visibility which I'm hoping will unearth a few more cousins. Here's my Family Stories channel:

    1. TY for sharing some alternate ways of doing video family history! My preference is not to post publicly, but I hope your family stories serve as great cousin bait.

  4. What a fun idea to catch the interest of the younger generation. I love your arsenal of tips and tricks.