By Kathy A. Schaeffer
Often parents and grandparents struggle to think of a perfect and meaningful "pass down through the generations" heirloom gift for their children or grandchildren. A gift of spending time with the younger generation is always a good choice, but consider taking it a step further and offering a gift of heritage. Even if "lineage" doesn't seem to excite them now, it will sometime in the future most likely.
To put this project into action, you will need a camera or video camcorder, preferably both, someone to operate the cameras, and lots of old photographs that you have collected throughout the years. What you will be doing is putting together a video scrapbook of sorts for future generations.
There has been a large increase in the interest in genealogy over the past decade or two. Suddenly many people of various generations are clamoring to know their roots and lineages but all too often, sufficient records were never kept to make this a possibility. Our ancestors rarely kept records that were inclusive enough to give future genealogists much needed information and unfortunately all too often photographs and family recipes were lost along the way as well.
The first step will be to do a bit of planning. Sift through pictures from the past and find as many photographs of extended and immediate family members as possible. Jot down notes that will serve to remind you of stories about Uncle Jim or Great Grandmother Sarah.
Gather up a few family recipes because these will be going onto your video scrapbook also. You will be going a step further than just copying them down because future generations will have a video of you telling new cooks how to make your infamous chocolate cake or your mother's chili recipe. You may want to consider a second video project solely for recipes. Most of us would adore having a video of grandma or mother showing step by step how to make the recipes we remember but can never quite duplicate to taste the same. Bring your photographer into the kitchen and share your cooking secrets.
For the "still pictures" part of your project, take photographs of family members and have some taken of you. These will be put into a traditional scrapbook as a companion to your video scrapbook. If there is a family homestead in the area, or former places of employment, get pictures of the sites. Include photographs of churches and schools that were important to the family. Keep in mind, however, that there will be just one copy of the traditional book, but the video will be able to have copies made from it, so get those sites of interest onto the video also.
For the video scrapbook, have some kind of an outline to follow when the filming is taking place. Include things such as birth and death dates of the family members whose photographs you will be sharing. Be sure that your photographer knows enough about filming so that he or she will be able to use zoom shots or macro zoom for things like pictures that you are showing.
Tell stories on your video. Reminisce about your own childhood and about the childhoods of your children or grandchildren. This project will turn out to be a true family treasure, so whatever you wish to share on it will be a good idea.
Listed here are some ideas of things to include in your video scrapbook. Be sure to pair any of these items with companion photographs you may have:
1. Tell stories of your parents and grandparents, mention names of siblings, aunts, and uncles. If you know special dates for these people, include them. (Birth dates, death dates if applicable, anniversary dates, etc.)
2. Talk about sad stories, happy stories, and family legends. No story is too small or insignificant to include. Take the time to record things that come to mind, no matter how small they may seem at the time.
3. Tell about your birthday parties and your wedding. What was your most memorable birthday party and what was your favorite age? Who came to your wedding? What songs were sung there? Be sure to include the location and description of the cake, decorations, food, and gifts - everything that you can recall.
4. What jobs did you have throughout your life? Do you remember how much you were paid for them? What were your chores at home?
5. What do you remember about prices of items that can be compared to prices today?
6. What are some of the poems and prayers you remember learning as a child? Reciting them for your video scrapbook will be a lovely idea.
7. Where did you attend school? What do you remember most about it? Who were your best friends, and your nemesis?
8. What advice do you remember your parents or grandparents giving to you? What advice would you like to give to your grandchildren?
9. What are the most important life lessons that you have learned? What are some life lessons that you missed your opportunity to learn with them?
10. How did your family celebrate holidays? Be sure to include the "smaller" holidays as well as the major ones. Did the family celebrate Memorial Day or Labor Day differently than we do today? What foods were served for special holiday meals?
11. Which songs were popular when you were a child or teenager? Do you still remember the lyrics and tunes? If so, sing some on your video.
12. What were your favorite foods when you were a child? A teenager? Now?
13. Mention your children and grandchildren. Tell things you remember about their births and childhoods. Share things such as what your children wanted to be when they grew up. Tell about what made each of your children special and what now makes each of your grandchildren special if you are a grandparent.
14. Tell about some of the fashions you or your mother wore in the past. For some reason, children get a big kick out of hearing those things that make them keep laughing! Don't be afraid to add some jokes that you remember.
15. Get some "remote shots" if possible, of those places that were special to you as a child or adult.
Your family history video scrapbook project will be "finished" only when you choose to stop. Your creativity will allow you to think of many ideas that were not listed here. The most important thing to remember is that you need to enjoy doing this project. It will be a special gift, so be relaxed while doing it.
One final essential thing to remember is that although you might feel that something you recall is "not important" or you feel that no one would be interested in hearing it, it's just not true. Whatever you can pass along to future generations will indeed be appreciated at some point in time.